2013 Profiles

December 2013’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Jolynna Sinanan

I am currently doing fieldwork in Trinidad as part of my post-doctoral research position in Anthropology at University College London (UCL), which is part of a larger project on social networking. The research is funded by the European Research Council, and the core to the study is the tightly integrated comparative work of seven simultaneous ethnographies, each taking place in a small town environment in their respective countries. I have recently completed co-authoring a book ‘Webcam,’ as part of a joint project between the Anthropology department of UCL and the School of Media and Communication at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) with Professor Daniel Miller (who has previously written several books on digital media and material culture in Trinidad). The aim of the study is to provide the first in-depth, systematic research on webcams and to understand the extent of their use in transnational and other relationships.

Prior to these projects, I had a short career in Melbourne as a comedic performer, producer and writer and I recently completed a PhD in Development Studies at the University of Melbourne. My thesis examined the nature of engagement with development by ‘beneficiaries’, drawing on different case studies: clients of microfinance, the rehabilitation of women who are victims of trafficking and other abuses and development at the level of the state (government officials) in Cambodia.


ANSA speaks to… Jolynna Sinanan

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I was studying film, writing and photography and ended up doing my honours in film studies on representations of conflict. Through this, I was drawn to studying development with grand ideas of becoming a consultant for the UN. After my initial fieldwork in Cambodia, I realised I might be happier working in a bank, but I really enjoyed speaking with and spending lots of time with people. I drew on an anthropology of development approach for my PhD instead and loved it. I’ve found anthropology more satisfying in explaining life when it goes ‘clunk’ than religion, philosophy and psychology combined.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

I’m a bit of a foster child of anthropology who has spent a lot of time in different homes. My first mentor, my PhD supervisor Dr Violeta Schubert first introduced me to the nuances of thinking about kinship and post-conflict societies and to reading David Mosse and James Ferguson. I now work for Daniel Miller and my work is in digital anthropology and digital ethnography, both from the approach of material culture which I’m enjoying delving into. My favourite ethnography would be Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ Death Without Weeping. It’s epic. I’m waiting until I’m more experienced so I can pull off doing epic anthropology.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

For work: Doing Visual Ethnography – Sarah Pink
For fun: World War Z – Max Brooks

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.” – Wendell Berry

“Human kind cannot bear very much reality” – T.S. Eliot.

“This is all a moo point. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” Joey Tribbiani (I have wanted to use this in seminars many, many times. Especially when Deleuze comes up.)

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Nightclub bartender in Canberra.

ANSA: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside of uni?

I get cold easily because I have low surface area to volume ratio.

 


NOVEMBER 2013’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH:  ANU CAP ANTHROPOLOGY POSTGRADS

          

There are approximately 32 graduate students currently based in Anthropology at the College of Asia and Pacific at the ANU. We come from a diverse range of countries and our PhD project locations include Australia, Japan, China, West Timor, the Thai-Cambodian Border, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Germany, South India, and Burma. Topics currently being explored include self-cultivation and religious practice, morality and discipline, consumer desire, transnationalism, emotion, healthcare reform, Islamic identities, livelihood, migration, power and hierarchy, rationalist movements, performance and minority and majority relations. People are all at varying stages in their projects; some are preparing to leave for the field, some have just returned and are shifting their focus to writing, some are halfway through completing a first draft and others are putting on the finishing touches.

We tend to see each other most often at one of three weekly events; either at the Wednesday Departmental seminars where visiting academics and post- doctoral fellows make presentations; the Friday Postgraduate Seminars where students give pre-field and post-field seminars; and the Postgraduate Thesis Writing Group where we share our chapters and get advice and support from each other during the writing phase. There are monthly Anthropology department morning teas with staff, and every now and then we have a morning tea for students in Anthropology, and sometimes meet up with students from History and Linguistics. Outside of the department people often meet up for Friday drinks at graduate house and for dinners and coffees. Others cook together, attend film screenings, exhibitions, and concerts or play sport. We now have a Thesis Writing Group network on Facebook, and many of us are part of Reading Groups that also have Facebook networks. This has proven to be a popular way to share photos, ideas, links, concerns and readings and of course it’s a great way to stay connected to people when they may be overseas, in the field, off-campus or have moved on to other things.


ANSA speaks to… ANU CAP ANthropology postgrads

What piece(s) of advice would you give to someone doing fieldwork for the first time?

As a group, the main advice we would give related to fieldwork is – essentially – don’t panic if things don’t start off how you’d expect. Remain open, flexible and be patient. You are often achieving more than you think simply by being there so let things just flow from there. One student described how they turned up to their field site and all of his informants had ‘gone home for the holidays.’ In that instance he had to re-jig his plans and find some other productive things to do with the time. Another student had to change field sites after confronting manypragmatic difficulties (no clean water, no accommodation). As she said, “Everybody feels anxious! Not knowing what to do – it’s very normal to feel this way, it’s normal not to be on top of everything.” Another student suggested to read as much literature as possible before going and while in the field sometimes it was useful to write something according to a specific topic to see what material you had and what you still might need to gather. This exercise helped to focus your thinking.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing that’s happened in your department?

One student mentioned the occasional encounter with possums in the Coombs building (hanging out in the roofs of some offices), and several others spoke of their curiosity and surprise when a seemingly ‘sleeping’ professor woke up at the end of a seminar and asked an insightful question – not really ‘sleeping’ after all!

Describe the last thing you did together as a group?

The last thing we did together as a group was getting together to get a group photo! We actually ended up making a little short film together which was spontaneous and fun! But before that, probably attending a Friday seminar and going for dinner afterwards.


October 2013’s Profile of the Month:  Rachael burke

Earlier this year, I graduated with my PhD in Social Anthropology from Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand.  My thesis focused on implicit cultural practice in early childhood education in New Zealand and Japan. In both countries, I used film to present comparative views of New Zealand and Japanese centres through the eyes of teachers empowered to speak as anthropologists.

My choice of topic was influenced by the six years I spent living and working in the education sector in rural Hokkaido, Japan. My three sons were born while we were living in small, mountainous Japanese villages, and this experience profoundly influenced my research.


ANSA speaks to… rachael burke

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I had travelled extensively and lived overseas for several years before deciding to go to university in my mid-20s. Anthropology seemed to provide a way to make sense of all that I had seen and experienced. I was also drawn to the idea of fieldwork to avoid returning to suburban life!

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

When I was an undergraduate, I did several papers in visual anthropology and I was really inspired by the early ethnographic films made by anthropologists such as Tim Asch, Dennis O’Rourke, David and Judith MacDougall, and Robert Gardner.   These films led me to my own film project in my Honours year, and to use video for my PhD thesis (which draws on the work of Joseph Tobin).  With the advent of cheap digital video, smart phones and social media, the world is increasingly being documented at an unprecedented rate. I’m both excited and apprehensive about the way forward for visual anthropology. I’ve found the work of Sarah Pink to be especially useful in unpacking what it means to be visual anthropologist.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

In terms of fiction, “For the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. It’s a wonderfully mystical mix of contemporary issues with a dose of quantum physics and Japanese spirits thrown in for good measure. As for non-fiction, I’ve just ordered “Precarious Japan” by Anne Allison. It promises to be a fascinating examination of Japanese daily life in an era of recession, irregular labour, nuclear contamination and a shrinking population.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans – John Lennon.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Collating in my father’s printing factory when I was a school student. Putting one sheet of paper on top of another for eight hours straight can numb a mind quicker than ice.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

That travel (and fieldwork!) with small children can be exhausting, frustrating and downright messy, but you’ll learn a huge amount about yourself, the kids and the country you’re in. Tomorrow is another day, so don’t sweat the squashed fruit in the bottom of the backpack or the nine hour border crossing!


September 2013’s Profile of the Month:  Hannah Bulloch

I’m currently a postdoc in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU.  I’m in my second year of an ARC DECRA project which looks at intimate relationships and personhood from the perspective of young women in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines.  I finished my PhD at the ANU in 2009.  My thesis focused on metanarratives of development, and their influence of on people’s sense of themselves, in the same area of the Philippines.


ANSA speaks to… Hannah Bulloch

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I had a fabulous undergraduate lecturer, who communicated his passion for anthropology through his lectures.  He sought to turn our existing understandings of the world up-side-down (actually, I think he went out of his way to shock us) and this opened my eyes to new, intriguing, exciting and at times disturbing views of the world.  I also loved the broadness of anthropology – the freedom it seemed to promise to explore so many questions concerning humanity, our relationships with one another and the world around us.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

I’m inspired by the sheer diversity of the world out there; by the fact that our worldviews are not natural but cultural and the same things can be viewed in totally different ways.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

In terms of fiction, Meltdown, by Ben Elton.  In non-fiction, I’m reading Filipino Crosscurrents by Kale Bantigue Fajardo, and Bewitching Development by James Howard Smith.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

‘There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be’ by John Lennon.  It reminds me to live in the here and now, and it reminds me that we can always learn and grow from experiences even if they’re not that much fun at the time.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I worked part-time at a garden centre for years while I was in highschool and an undergraduate at uni.  For the first few seasons, I worked eight hours a day on a kind of an assembly line, planting seedlings into punnets.  Other staff members referred to us as ‘The Girls’, because they only ever hired teenage girls to do this job (‘The Boys’ had other, more varied tasks).  We had to stand, not sit, and we weren’t allowed to move from our station, even to put the finished punnets on a trolley or get the plant labels which were right behind us (we had to put up our hand and ask someone else to do it).  We had to ask permission to use the toilet and our twice daily ‘smoko’ breaks were timed at exactly 10 minutes.  We breathed in dust all day as the warehouse in which we worked was the same place that the potting mix was combined using a bulldozer.  The radio was always up loud and we were discouraged from talking to one another.  I was paid $4.60 an hour.  I feel like I have some sense of what it might be like to work in a sweatshop.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

I’ve learnt from my family that work need not be a standard 9-5 job where someone tells you what to do. There are so many other avenues to finding productive, interesting and satisfying things to do in life.


August 2013’s Profile of the Month: Rebecca Teale-sinclair

Rebecca grew up in the land of the unexpected – Papua New Guinea.  As a child she visited remote villages, explored the jungles and waterfalls from the mountains to the sea and met many fascinating people along the way. Learning about people and their culture has since become a way of life, leading her to travel to all the inhabited continents, and to do a degree in Anthropology at Macquarie University.  Her experiences have also created the desire to alleviate poverty and inequality in the world, with a particular focus on children.

 


ANSA speaks to… rebecca teale-sinclair

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I’ve had an interest in travelling the world, and learning about other cultures, as well as my own since primary school, so Anthropology was a natural choice for me.  This reflection on what is ‘my culture’ or what is not ‘my culture’ has been a challenging one through my life. I grew up in Papua New Guinea, in a culture that’s not the same as my parents (who are Australian), so PNG is my homeland, and yet separate from ‘my culture.’ When returning to Australia (my ‘home’ country), I felt like it was not my culture there either. Therefore, I’ve taken on the identity of ‘Third Culture Kid’ – which also has led me to be fascinated by the space where cultures intersect, how we define who we (and others) are, and where we see ourselves belonging, an arena where Anthropology obviously flourishes.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

Anthropologists like Chris Lyttleton (Macquarie University), Kirsten Bell (University of British Columbia – formerly Macquarie Uni), Greg Downey (Macquarie University) and Paul Farmer (PIH) have inspired me to apply my anthropology background towards working in the aid and development sector, volunteering for various charities, as well as working cross culturally with children in Australia and in Chile. I really want to make a positive impact on the world, to relieve inequality, and help others have a great quality of life, and anthropology has helped provide a core theoretical and practical framework within which to try accomplish this.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

Haiti after the Earthquake  by Paul Farmer.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?
“After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.  But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.” – Nelson Mandela.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Working as a waitress in a restaurant with a bad manager – all waitstaff except one left within a month or so!

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

Exploring the world travelling and working does amazing things to open the mind!


July 2013’s Profile of the Month: Morgan Harrington

Morgan Harrington is in the third year of his PhD. candidature in anthropology at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. Prior to pursuing a higher degree Morgan worked for The Jakarta Post in Indonesia and Tehelka Magazinein New Delhi, India.

My thesis is about the interaction between the Dayak Siang and modernity. I look at how the relationship between the Siang and broader social, economic and political networks is changing in the context of neoliberal ‘development’. My research was conducted in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.


ANSA speaks to… Morgan Harrington

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I was a Navy brat, so growing up I was constantly moving, meeting new groups of people and having to adjust to different environments. That was pretty good preparation for field work. I’ve always been interested in people.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

No one shapes my work as an anthropologist more than my two excellent advisers. I find the work of Roy Rappaport, Gregory Bateson and Wade Davis particularly inspiring.  I think it is important to ask big questions.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

‘The Pale King’ by the late David Foster Wallace, which I am really enjoying.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

‘I know one thing: That I know nothing’ (The Socratic Paradox)

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Glassy in a trashy pub in Manly. I worked from 11pm-5am on Friday and Saturday nights. I was not surprised to recently read that it’s been added to a list of the most violent pubs in NSW.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift

 


June 2013’s Profile of the Month: Crystal Abidin

 

Hello stranger! I am a Malay-Chinese Christian Singaporean woman pursuing my Ph.D. in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia, Perth. I am excessively passionate about everything to do with Internet, gender, and race. I am also secretly obsessed with percussive music, and penguins. PS: I am also the current ANSA Web Officer and University Representative for Western Australia.

In my thesis, I explore why people are volunteering personal information on social media and how this public life is managed. In a nutshell, I use case studies from Singapore to study why we would publicize our private thoughts, commercialize our personal identities, and make a spectacle of the everyday mundane. At present (2013), I am carrying out fieldwork around South East Asia. Come and say hi. Drop me a note. Or five. Or better still, send me .gifs of penguins.

https://twitter.com/wishcrys 
www.crystalabidin.blogspot.com.au


ANSA speaks to… Crystal Abidin

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

Anthropology (and Sociology) will equip you with lenses for life. The way I’ve learnt to interpret and digest even the most banal and mundane details of the everyday, and draw conceptual leaps across seemingly antithetic objects and realms is so captivating.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

I really enjoy the work of anthropologist Heather Horst. She has an amazing ability to theorize just about any thing for an intellectual audience while simultaneously presenting her work as accessibly as possible for a generic public mass. I also admire Tom Boellstorff for his alluring ability to put abstract concepts and intriguing thoughts into words; you can just feel his enthusiasm and passion leaping off the pages. I would love to fall in love with the anthropology I do like this.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

I usually have my head in seven places at once and I am a master multi-tasker (or maybe just have a short attention span). On my morning commute I presently read Work’s Intimacy  (2011) by Melissa Gregg;  in the pockets of time throughout the day I catch up on The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach (2001) by Daniel Miller and Don Slater; in the evenings to un-wind from a mad day, I am finishing up Generation Kill (2004) by Evan Wright.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

Depending on my mood, either
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Le Petit Prince (1943), Antoine de Saint Exupéry
or
“THE PLANE HAS NO LEFT PHALANGE” – Phoebe Buffay in FRIENDS.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I could tell you that the most adorable babies have the smelliest poop, or vividly describe the hundred and one coping mechanisms that undergrads conjure past midnight in the school library, but I actually loved being surrounded by toddlers and musty books (not together – that wouldn’t be hygienic).

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

On my first day of grad school I learnt to fry an egg. Also, never attempt to feed an angry duck.


 May 2013’s Profile of the Month: Malita Allan

 

Malita is a researcher in the Research and Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. She completed her PhD in Anthropology at La Trobe University in 2010. Her research interests include poverty and disadvantage, hard rubbish and consumption, and ethnic tourism/development in Southeast Asia. Malita is the current co-editor of the AAS newsletter.

 

 

 


ANSA speaks to… Malita Allan

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

The subject description in the uni subject guide. I chose all other subjects to fit around ‘Anthropology 101’ in my timetable. Previous travel had opened my eyes to the ‘other’ and I wanted to learn more. I quickly picked up the tenet that by learning about others means learning about ourselves.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

A detest of inequality and a drive to understand why and how it occurs, how people live with it, and what can be done to reduce it. A passion for environmental sustainability with a focus on ethical consumption. And finally, a general interest in people in everyday life, with all their similarities and differences.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke and What To Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff. I wonder why?? I’m also dabbling in Asian Mothers, Western Birthedited by Pranee Liamputtong Rice.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

A summer job at SPC which involved plucking tins of tomatoes and peaches from off the production lines and weighing them to make sure they were correct weight. The tins whizzed past and I had to try to pick them up and put them back on the belt without knocking them over. I stopped production a couple of times and felt SO bad.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

That squeezing lemon juice on a half-eaten avocado makes it last longer.


 April 2013’s Profile of the Month: Linda Rylands

Ba Occupational Therapy, UQ 2002
Current student, Ba Arts
(Anthropology / Peace & Conflict studies), UQ

Occupational therapists are specialists in enabling function for people to create purposeful and meaningful lives within their cultural, social and political context.

Linda has had over 10 years international experience as an occupational therapist in diverse settings including public, private and community mental health as well as ‘complex case’ refugee settlement & employment support. She currently works part-time as the Transcultural Clinical Specialist in the Early Psychosis service in Queensland Mental Health & as Occupational Therapist at World Wellness Group.

She is especially skilled in supporting life skills development for refugee communities. She is passionate about social justice principles and advocacy work to support people who are without a voice to effectively meet their needs in current legal & social systems.

She is passionate to enable people from culturally diverse groups to achieve their aspirations, feel connected, build a healthy lifestyle and facilitate their vocational pathways to live a full life. Having supervised several occupational therapy student projects & individuals in the area of refugee settlement, she is experienced to support the skill development of workers in this specialty area.

She is currently a student of anthropology and political science to build conceptual frameworks to consider cultural and the political context of occupational dysfunction.

Linda has been a core founder of the occupational therapy network, Occupational Opportunities for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (OOFRAS) Inc. She is currently part of a network of health professionals to build a grass roots social enterprise targeting health equity needs of refugee’s and asylum seekers in Brisbane.  The World Wellness Group is unique in that it brings together traditional and western medical frameworks to address health & wellbeing outcomes.


ANSA speaks to… Linda Rylands

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

After travelling in different places since being a teenager I have always been interested in language & cultures.

More recently I worked for 3 years in a lead refugee settlement agency in Brisbane.  Working with people from diverse cultural & language backgrounds, I came to realize that to truly assist people with their settlement goals or health care is it important to firstly have a deep understanding of their world view, beliefs, values, habits & family system.  I realized that having come from a Western-trained health care background that my frameworks in being able to assess and intervene from a cultural and political perspective were limited.  Especially when the aim of our intervention is to build ‘meaningful & purposeful’ lives.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

I was firstly inspired to study anthropology as my supervisor at the refugee settlement agency was an anthropologist & social worker, and I realized the value in combining both perspectives when working to build understanding & trusting relationships across cultural & language differences to empower people to transform their own lives. So I am mostly interested in medical anthropology and understanding perspectives of health & illness from differing cultural perspectives.  I am also inspired by political concepts of health care such as Occupational Therapy Without Borders & cultural concepts of health care such as Michael Iwama’s KAWA model (kawamodel.com) & Arthur Kleinman’s well-known research on models of illness.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

Sjaak van der Geest & Ria Reis (2005) “Ethnocentrism : Reflections on Medical Anthropology”, Amsterdam : Het Spinhuis Publishers.

Interesting for further reflection on the elements of Western trained health professionals narrow thinking in terms of assessment & interventions and privileging the patient & families story.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

Two favourites –
<span “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>
<span “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – <span “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Margaret Mead

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you <span “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Nelson Mandela

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

In between hospital jobs when I was living in Dublin, I agreed to work for a marketing company to interview people late at night outside pubs about their smoking & drinking habits.  Not only did the ethical issues & and approaching people with an agenda get to me, but after my feet and hands became frozen and a pub-goer took pity on me, I gave up on the second night to socialize instead!

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

Travel.  It is beyond words the value of spending an extended time in a foreign country and language and to build relationships and understandings from completely different perspectives, and then to reflect on my own.  I have experienced first hand people’s strong connection with food, nature and the metaphysical world that is has opened my mind to consider concepts of wellbeing & happiness beyond a society suffocating in consumerism, individual ownership & accumulation of material goods. I still have a lot to learn and experience.


March 2013’s Profile of the Month: Bill Skinner

I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. My research examines regional identity, sense of place and rural/urban dynamics in McLaren Vale, a coastal wine region abutting Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

Right now I’m finishing up my fieldwork, which involves a lot of hanging around in the sun with winemakers and farmers, and preparing to lock myself away in a dark room for a year or so to write my thesis. But I’ll bring the wine with me.


ANSA speaks to… Bill Skinner

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

B: Anthropology is something I sort of fell into. I have always been really curious about the diversity of peoples’ beliefs and behaviour – what makes us tick. During my undergraduate degree I took subjects across the humanities, but ultimately anthropology seemed to have the greatest emphasis on life as it’s actually lived, where all of the disciplines converge and their boundaries break down.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

B: The people that inspire me are those that are able to treat the world with the sense of enthusiasm and astonishment that it deserves in whatever it is they do, whether that’s anthropology, science, art, building bridges, growing lettuces, whatever. My partner is a geophysicist and it’s great to be able to get a completely different perspective on things from her.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

B: “The Perception of the Environment” by Tim Ingold – brilliant! I’m also reading “Inverting the Pyramid” by Jonathan Wilson. It’s a history of the evolution of football tactics, which is actually pretty anthropological in its own right.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

B: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” – Woody Allen

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

B: Working in a newsagency when I was 17. It wasn’t actually a bad job, I just wasn’t very good at it – I got sacked after about 3 weeks for my spectacular failure to master the lotto machine.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

B: That nobody really has all their shit together in life; some have just learned to fake it better than others!


February 2013’s Profile of the Month: Fiona McKeague

Fiona is not an Anthropologist, but for a long time she did harbour a secret ambition to become an Astronaut. She liked the idea because they get to float around without gravity, wear really cool suits, and watch the Earth through the space shuttle window. Although she has long since abandoned this aspiration she remains enchanted by the image of a planet outside a window. The romantic in her uses this as an analogy for understanding life: It is difficult it is to see a thing clearly when we are standing on it.

Once upon a time Fiona was also an avid bushwalker, but nowadays she spends too much time in dusty libraries and not enough time in the bush. She is currently trying to write her honours dissertation. It has been slow progress, mostly because she spends too much time reading and talking and not enough time putting words on a page. When it is finished she hopes it will tell a story about ‘nature’, and how we go about conserving it.


ANSA speaks to… Fiona McKeague

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

F: To be perfectly honest I didn’t study Anthropology. I didn’t even know what Anthropology was until I was in my final year of my Bachelor of Arts (I majored in Historical Studies, Indigenous Studies and Human Behaviour).

Some fellow students and I were giving a presentation which an audience member later described as ‘ethnography’. I didn’t want to admit that I had no idea what she was talking about, so I stored it in my head for later. When I went home and looked it up the Wikipedia trail led me to discover ‘anthropology’. So I suppose it was an accident.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do? My accidental discovery of anthropology was something of a defining moment. 

F: I still wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew I wanted to do it. Eventually I joined the AAS and started reading TAJA. I find the discipline’s collegiality very inspiring. The first conference I went to felt like coming home. I find most things pretty interesting, but people are just about the most interesting thing around. And there I was, surrounded by a group of interesting people who were also interested in people! It was like a big family reunion only infinitely better. In every family there are disagreements and spirited debates. But here, if your weird uncle makes a weird uncle comment you still have a thousand things to talk about because you are joined together in sharing the same kind of weirdness: a curiosity in the kinds of things that most people take for granted.

In terms of influences, I’m very curious about how people define and interact with ‘nature’. My honours project revolves around this same question in relation to the history of bushwalking and conservation. I don’t really know if it is anthropology and I describe it differently depending on whom I am talking to. I usually call it ‘cultural history’. My supervisor, who is a most excellent historian, has called it ‘history viewed through an ethnographical eye’. She would know – she usually knows what she is talking about.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

F: In my backpack I carry around Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post- Wild World by Emma Marris. On my desk is a collection of beautiful hiking and bushwalking guide books from 1959-1986 that are part of my current research. They smell like canvas and pine cones. In the bathroom I have a copy of The Daring Book for Girls, so I can read about galaxies and lady spies while I’m on the toilet. If reading on the loo is good enough for Ernest Hemmingway then it’s good enough for me.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

F: I have many. One of my least favourite (but one I say the most often) is ‘long black no sugar’ or ‘yes please I would like a cup of tea’. If I were to answer this question idealistically then I would probably waffle on about the connections between ‘nature’, ‘wilderness’, literature and the romantic poets. Most pre-1975 bushwalking and hiking guides contain a surprising number of poems, quotes and song lyrics.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

F: Cleaning composting toilets at a festival. I pulled the double shift from 7pm to 7am on New Year ’s Eve. And yes, I did it voluntarily.

I was actually inside a cubical at the stroke of midnight, armoured with enormous red rubber gloves – the kind that go right up past your elbows – cleaning all manner of things from all manner of places, when outside I hear ‘…three, two, one….happy new year’. It was certainly a memorable experience.

It really wasn’t so bad; I met a bunch of great people, saw some terrific performances and we managed to raise some funds for charity.

ANSA: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

F: Sometimes, no matter how reasonable my excuses and justifications might be, keeping my word and finishing whatever I’ve started really is the most important thing.


January 2013’s Profile of the Month: Lara McKenzie

 

Lara is a PhD candidate at The University of Western Australia. She recently submitted her thesis, and is now nervously waiting for her results. Her research examines people in age-dissimilar, romantic relationships living in Perth, Western Australia. In addition to her thesis, Lara is also engaged in ongoing collaborative research in the areas of tertiary education, neoliberalism, secondary education, e-learning, and inequality. Lara is the current ANSA Secretary.

 


 ANSA speaks to… Lara McKenzie

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

L: The way that we’re taught to think in anthropology was so different to anything I’d encountered before. I found it challenging to begin with, especially early on in my undergrad degree, but that also made me want to get better at it.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

L: Lots and lots of people. The other postgrads in my discipline, my supervisors, and the social scientists and anthropologists whose work I love to read (Bent Flyvbjerg, Naomi Quinn, etc). Strangely enough, I’m also inspired by the sort of people who are very critical of anthropology (and of qualitative research in general).

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

L: For fiction I’m reading ‘The Master and Margarita’, by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s one of the most hilarious (and bizarre) books I’ve ever read. For non-fiction I’m reading ‘Great books’ (2nd edition), by David Denby. And for anthropology I’ve just started reading ‘Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis’, (eds) Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram. So, obviously, I like reading books.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

L: I always have trouble with these sorts of questions, because I have a terrible memory for quotes. That’s probably not a very good quality in someone who hopes to do social research for a living, but I guess that’s why they invented voice recorders!

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

L: In my experience, the worst jobs I’ve had have also been the best: you enjoy them and get a lot out of them, but you also take them home with you and spend too much time thinking about them. I’ve had lots of casual jobs while I’ve been studying, but I didn’t go home and worry about how I’d be making smoothies the next day.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

L: I was going to say something like ‘listening to people’, but I realised Kay said that last month, so I’ll have to think of something else. That you should walk everywhere while on a holiday, so you don’t feel sick after eating enormous amounts of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!