2014 Profiles

December 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Pam Mcgrath

Pam is a Research Fellow with the Native Title Research Unit at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. She is an anthropologist and historian and has had an ongoing involvement with native title research since 2000. She has previously worked as a researcher for native title representative bodies in both Victoria and Western Australia, and has authored expert reports for a number of native title claims and Aboriginal cultural heritage projects. In 2010 she helped established the Centre for Native Title Anthropology at the Australian National University, where she worked as a Research Fellow until 2012. Her current research projects include Indigenous cultural heritage management regimes and the socio-economic impacts of native title policies.

Pam undertook her doctoral research at the ANU’s Centre for Cross-cultural Research and graduated in 2011. Her thesis, Hard Looking, examined the social relations of settler photography in the Western Desert in the 1950s, and the social value of historical films and photographs in contemporary Ngaanyatjarra society. Pam has held the office of Treasurer for the Australian Anthropological Society since 2009.

Email Pam at: pamela.mcgrath@aiatsis.gov.au    


ANSA speaks to… Pam Mcgrath

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I first studied anthropology straight out of high school as part of my BA. It wasn’t a very considered decision and I wasn’t an outstanding student. I did many different things during my 20s that had nothing to do with anthropology, and it wasn’t until I spent time working as an intern for a community-based natural resource management project in southern Africa in the late 1990s that my interest in it was reignited. I went on to work as a researcher in an Aboriginal land council, and decided at that point that I really wanted to do post-graduate studies so I could consolidate and deepen my learning and have some influence on public debate.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

Courtesy of one of my supervisors, Professor Nicolas Peterson: Great fieldwork combines both qualitative and quantitative data. So when all else fails, count something.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Start writing-up early, and don’t stop.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

Helen Garner’s new book, This House of Grief and Noel Pearson’s Quarterly Essay, A Rightful Place: Race, recognition and a more complete commonwealth

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

In the face of crisis: “No worries, we’ll make a plan.”

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Cooking for friends and family, and swimming in the ocean.


November 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Marcus Barber

Marcus Barber works at The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

I’m an environmental anthropologist who primarily works with Aboriginal Australians living in northern Australia. To this point I have focused on Aboriginal conceptions of coastal territory, the way in which water is understood and expressed within indigenous cosmologies generally, and on the values, rights and interests in the natural environment that flow from such conceptions. I originally trained as a marine scientist (with a side interest in the history and philosophy of science), moving into anthropology at the start of my PhD.

Email Marcus at: Marcus.Barber@csiro.au    


ANSA speaks to… MARCUS BARBER

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

An interesting question. It would be wrong to say I found it by accident, but after my minor thesis I was looking for a discipline that would allow me to investigate human interactions with the marine environment in a broad and holistic way. I found my way to anthropology through looking at underwater archaeology programs, and realised it was somewhere I wanted to be.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

Early in my PhD I was told it can be good to have at least one component of an ethnographic research project that involves relatively structured data gathering over time and/or space. In my case it was a hunting and fishing survey, but it can be anything that suits the vision for the research. The advice meshed with my natural science roots and I also realised how much this kind of low-key but structured fieldwork component assisted me as a new ethnographer in feeling like I had a place to start. That work subsequently yielded some patterns that turned out to be good to write up later, but even if it had not, I think undertaking it was helpful in a range of ways.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Be open to the history of the discipline rather than wary of it – many very wise and clever people have come before us, and human nature, for want of a better term, has not changed so much that past insights cease to be relevant, even if the way that they are expressed now differs sometimes.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

I must admit to being buried in journal papers about indigenous land management at present for a review I am writing. But I am looking forward to receiving my copy of Emma Kowal’s ‘Trapped in the gap’ sometime soon.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

Hmm. Not sure I have one. I’ll put that on the ‘to do’ list…

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Ocean swimming and bodysurfing.


October 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Ruth Fitzgerald

I’m a medical anthropologist and I enjoy researching in clinical anthropology, embodiment, care, human reproduction and moral reasoning, and the cultural significance of innovative medical technologies.  Currently I have been working with colleagues to write up material from a recent shared grant that explored everyday ethical reasoning about selective reproductive technologies. At the moment, I have been writing about patient advocacy and activist groups in New Zealand in an attempt to create a biopower analytic of moral reasoning.  I teach at the University of Otago in the graduate programme in the field of medical anthropology.  I also teach theoretically informed ethnographic methods and visual ethnographic methods.  I’m chair of the Sites Editorial Board and the Otago Rep for the ASAANZ and one of the organisers for the upcoming ASAANZ/AAS Conference in Queenstown 10 -13 November – so see you there!

Email Ruth at: ruth.fitzgerald@otago.ac.nz


ANSA speaks to… RUTH FITZGERALD

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I found its breadth of scope exhilarating  – I still do.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

That about 90% of research projects actually fail and thank heavens for that because what people want to talk to US about is always a lot more interesting than some dusty old idea we dreamed up to go and ask THEM.  (from Peter J Wilson)

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

While it might seem that writing is a lonely task and something best undertaken in seclusion, it often turns out to be something that works best in conversation with others.  So my advice would be don’t be too worried to show your writing to someone else. And when you do that, pay attention to how they treat your writing.  Return to readers who are interested in YOUR story, avoid readers who can only cut and slice your work into their own storyline.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

For non-fiction I am reading a really good ethnography on women and men’s experience of mining for coal in the US by Jessica Smith Ralston.  It’s called ‘Mining Coal and Undermining Gender’, I was captivated by the title initially – I was wondering how long it took her to think that one up –  but the whole book is a very good read and I recommend it!

In terms of fiction, I have just finished reading the first two novels of a series by Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City. It’s in the fantasy /supernatural/young adult fiction genre and has a poignant but quite compelling storyline. What a great new writer!

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

“Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.”  Walter Benjamin

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

I like working in my garden – especially landscaping – digging steps and laying pathways.  After a day at work I enjoy the materiality of dirt, the smell of tomato vines, and the unexpected little plants that lasted somehow through the winter. I also go walking with my dog by the harbor each day. Brindy is part Great Dane and part Bull Mastiff so she likes a long walk – about 7 kms.


September 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: James Barry

My research is on language, religion and ethnicity in the Middle East. My PhD thesis (Monash University, 2013) examined identity among the religious minorities in Iran, looking at the case study of Armenian Christians, and to what extent this was shaped by the official Shi’a ideology of the state.  I am currently an Associate Research Fellow at Deakin University in the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, researching the place of Islam in Iranian foreign policy (with regard to Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics). I am also working on a project alongside colleagues at Monash, Uni NSW and Padjadjaran (Indonesia) examining decision making among Afghan and Iranian irregular migrants currently living in Indonesia.

Email James at: James.barry@deakin.edu.au


ANSA speaks to… James Barry 

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I was drawn to anthropology by the opportunities it offered, especially the ways it integrates other disciplines. I was always enthusiastic about learning new languages and the prospects of fieldwork. Finally, since anthropology confronts issues past and present, and seeks to engage with diversity on a personal level, it was always highly suitable to someone as social as myself.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

When I was preparing to go into the field, my supervisor told me to buy a street map of Tehran as soon as I could after arriving. I was able to map out the key areas of my research such as important community centres and places where people met socially. Later on it became an invaluable visual prompt that helped me better understand the community with whom I was working.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Be aware that you do not return from the field as the same person who left, and you should expect some culture shock when you return home. It took me a long time to get used to Australia again as the perspectives I encountered in Iran have shaped my own worldview, and exposed me to some very confronting realities regarding identity and prejudice. I don’t vote along party lines any more, for example, and many other Australians cannot fathom why.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes, a memoir by Dan Everett, a missionary turned linguist/ anthropologist, who studied with the Pirahã in the Brazilian Amazon for three decades.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

The Armenian proverb: ‘kani lezoo kides, aynkan mart es’ (how many languages you know equals how many people you are). On one hand, languages shape your thinking and personality, while on another, a new language opens you up to whole new circle of friends you would not have otherwise have had.

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Cooking. I like nothing more than having a few people over on a Sunday and cooking a big meal.


 August 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Rochelle Bailey

In April I submitted my PhD titled “Working the Vines: seasonal migration, money, and development in New Zealand and Ambrym, Vanuatu” through The University of Otago. This research was an extension of my Masters thesis titled “Unfree labour?: Ni-Vanuatu workers in New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme”. I have been privileged to follow the lives of 22 ni-Vanuatu labour migrants, their families, employers  and communities in New Zealand and Vanuatu and document, changes, developments and outcomes of participating in New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme from 2007-2014.

Email Rochelle at: celty69@yahoo.com


ANSA speaks to… rochelle bailey

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I was attracted to the diversity and richness of available research topics.  As a discipline it is challenging and rarely has any dull moments.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

To be open to changes in research directions and make the most of the opportunities available.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

This is a difficult question as I often find myself “winging it” in the field. However, I do advise to make the most of your colleagues and discuss your findings with your participants. They are your most valuable resources.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

Welcome to Our World? Immigration and the Reshaping of New Zealand. By Paul Spoonley and Richard Bedford

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

Although I have been informed it is now outdated in anthropology, I like Caroline Brettell (2003:xix), “While the political scientist focuses primarily on the state, the economist primary on labor markets, and the sociologist on institutions, anthropologists generally acknowledge the significance of each of these units or levels of analysis and try to attend to all of them in their studies of migration. This comprehensive approach is, after all, the crux of holism”

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Spending time outdoors with my six-year-old daughter.


 July 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Molly George

This is a photo I took while visiting a photo exhibit on being Chiwi (Chinese Kiwi) as a part of my PhD fieldwork in Auckland.

I am a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.  My research looks at ageing in an increasingly diverse Aoteara New Zealand and so considers the topics of ageing, migration, ‘home’, and multiculturalism.  I also have a strong interest in the anthropology of health.   For the last 3 years I worked as a teaching fellow in our social anthropology program, helping with papers on health and methods.  I currently work as a research fellow on a small qualitative study about children and playgrounds based in the Human Nutrition department.

I am originally from the USA – I’ve lived in 11 states and mostly called Alaska my home.  But New Zealand is also home to me now; I have been here for about 6 years, am married to a Kiwi and have a 15 month old son.

Email Molly at: molly.george@otago.ac.nz


ANSA speaks to… Molly George

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

As an undergraduate, I earned a BA in Sociology and Studio Art.  I was originally attracted to sociology by a great professor in my first weeks at uni and the idea, novel to me at the time, that we are not in total control of our destinies, but are largely the product of our surroundings!  I suppose it was the nature vs nurture debate, and I was fascinated by the differences in the human experience from the “nurture” side of things.  I transitioned to anthropology when I came to University of Otago in 2004, to spend a year earning a Diploma for Graduates in anthropology.  Anthropology began to feel like the right field to me, with its emphasis on micro, individual experiences in light of macro influences and the valuing of small, in-depth qualitative research.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

It’s certainly not unique to anthropology or ethnography, but a very practical tip has stuck with me – the idea of 2 Golden Hours.  The gist is to pick a task, most often it should be some writing, and dedicate your best two hours of each day to that task.  For most people, including me, this is typically the first two hours at work each day.  I try to dedicate myself to my Two Golden Hours before even checking email.  I seem to trick myself into being productive – even if the rest of the day goes to hell, 2 good hours of productivity is incredible effective.  This isn’t about the fieldwork side of things, but since so much of what we do is translation and writing, it seems relevant!

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

I spent a year working for the Alaska State Legislature in 2009-2010.  I took minutes at Senate Committee meetings and transcribed audio recordings of committee meetings.  The job alternated between being totally fascinating to incredibly tedious, largely depending on the topic being debated.  The minutes were expected to be neutral and succinct (and dry!).  At the time, I thought this type of writing experience was not helpful for creative writing or academic writing.  I was wrong.  Learning to have authority in my “voice” and get to the point has turned out to be a skill I have transferred to other writing.  A simple example is avoiding the use of “there is” and “there are.”  Instead of saying, “There are several interesting books on that topic,” you can say “Several interesting books address the topic.”

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel: Flight Behaviour.  For academic purposes, I’m just about to begin a new book I was asked to review:  Refuge New Zealand: a nation’s response to refugees and asylum seekers, by Ann Beaglehole (Otago U Press, 2013).

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

This changes, but at the moment it is: “Everyone you encounter is going through something you know nothing about.  Be kind.”

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

I do like to bake and cook, and do a reasonable amount of that.  I also like to sew!  I try to get lots of exercise and do a bit of meditation, which I really enjoy.  But since having a baby 15 months ago, I find I spend a lot of evenings with a glass of wine and a jigsaw puzzle these days, just trying to wind down!! And going for a lot of toddler friendly walks.


June 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Gerhard HOFFSTAEDTER

 

I am a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Queensland and am currently working on an introductory anthropology MOOC (check it out on edX). My research has focussed on identity politics in Malaysia and processes of othering, i.e. classifying and categorising others). I have looked at the role of the state, ethnicity, religion in particular and have expanded this research to look at how asylum seekers and refugees live and work in Malaysia.

g.hoffstaedter@uq.edu.au

 


ANSA speaks to… Gerhard HOFFSTAEDTER

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I always wanted to travel and thought the foreign service would be interesting. In Germany they fast track lawyers, so I started out studying economics and law, but it soon became obvious to me that I was more interested in why and how laws existed and what their social impact was than just applying it (correctly). Thus I left for the UK to pursue a BA in social anthropology and politics/IR at the University of Kent. I was tempted by political science, but ultimately I identified more with my teachers in anthropology, their ways of collecting data and more laid back attitude to imbibing and sharing knowledge.ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?
Follow your passion and interests, not the supposed job market trends.ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Start using referencing software as soon as possible, it’ll save time later. I had to learn the hard way.Fieldwork is 50% luck, 20% preparation and 30% patience…ok I made that up, but always be ready to jump at an opportunity (to meet someone, interview them, see something etc.) and take it.Use social media like facebook and twitter to connect to teachers, researchers and other fellow travellers to discuss theory, practice and everyday being an anthropologist stuff.ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

Life within limits by Michael Jackson, The City & the City by China Miéville along with a bunch of others, always concurrently.ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

‘It’s more complex than that.’ – to everyone, always…especially in interviews with journalists…ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

There is nowhere outside of academia…everything I do is or becomes connected to some aspect of my work…I have written an (unpublished) essay on the film ‘The last samurai’ and I continue to be interested in martial arts (I am a terrible aikido practitioner). I also enjoy surfing, although I am also not good at it, I enjoy it for the meditative aspects of being out at sea.

 MAY 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: Ack Mercer

Ack Mercer is a recent graduate from the anthropology program at the University of Queensland.  In 2012 she wrote her honours thesis under the supervision of Dr Kim de Rijke and Dr Wolfram Dressler*, exploring the role of some key neoliberalising ideas in the debate about new coal seam gas (CSG) projects in Southern Queensland.

Ack is interested in: the Australian bush (its ecology, its social history, its social geography), rural and regional development, the cultural and structural stuff of contemporary capitalism, and the political economy of resource extraction and resource management.

At the moment she is teaching herself to drive GIS software and indulging a lay / ?possibly anthropological? interest in ecosystem mapping and conservation planning in Australia.

You can email Ack at alexemercer@gmail.com

(* Many thanks to Wolfram who continued to offer support and supervision despite leaving UQ for the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group at Wageningen University mid year!)


ANSA speaks to… ACK MERCER

ANSA: What first attracted you to anthropology?

I think I just felt strongly that there was more to “culture” and “cultural difference” than song and dance and food and dress. I felt frustrated and sometimes uncomfortable when I saw cultural difference being reduced to these things. But I didn’t feel I had the words or concepts I needed to talk clearly about that, and I thought taking some anthropology courses might help!

It turns out taking some anthropology courses was exactly the right idea. One of the first classes I enrolled in was the class now called “Power, Position & Knowledge in Anthropology” at UQ. The then co-ordinator, Dr Helen Johnson, suggested I read Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins’ “Reading National Geographic” and lo! suddenly I had some of the kinds of words and concepts I had been looking for.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

Don’t sweat about whether what you’re doing is strictly anthropology. And especially don’t restrict your reading to ‘anthropologists’.

But also – read whole ethnographies. I only started to do this when I went on exchange to McGill University (partly on the advice of Dr Annie Ross from UQ, and partly because there were courses there that were geared around reading whole ethnographies) and it really helped me get a better grasp of what this anthropology beast is, how different people approach it, and I guess – when you read older work as well – how it has been ‘done’ in the past.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

I’m going to soapbox for a sec here and say – make sure you know a bit about the history of the discipline you’re entering, and think critically about the politics of ethnography, the politics of representation, and the kind of anthropological work you think is defensible.

You’re probably getting a lot of that in your courses, but I found it wasn’t until third year that I was being asked to be really reflexive. And I found it was different when I really tried to apply it, rather than just approaching it as an intellectual exercise.

(For example, if you’re non-indigenous, think about the extent to which non-Indigenous people control representations of Indigenous people in Australia – through the law, through government policy, through public comments, through schools, research, news media, magazines and books, arts funding, funding for services – and what that means for you. Even if you don’t want to do “Aboriginal Anthropology” – I find often other white people expect me to be some kind of expert on indigenous Australia because I’ve studied anthropology when in fact I am anything but.)

In terms of resources – I found Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins’ “Rethinking collaboration”, and also Melinda Hinkson and Ben Smith’s introduction to the Oceania special issue on “Figuring the Intercultural” really helpful.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

I’ve been carrying Elizabeth Povinelli’s Economies of Abandonment around, on and off, for over a year now. I love how much conceptual structure there is in her work (I mean, mostly I love it…), and her whole thing about potentiality and the endurance or extinguishment of alternative forms of life really strikes a chord with me. I read a lot of Ursula Le Guinn as a kid, and I love that Povinelli builds her introduction to this book around Le Guinn’s The Ones Who Ran Away From Omelas. 

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Swimming in the sea, riding my bike across town, trying to help on my friends’ cattle property but invariably stuffing things up – basically anything that reminds me I have a body, and there is geography and landscape and planet.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

Ohh so many. I’m a big poetry dag. How about a line of Marge Piercy’s – “The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.”


APRIL 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: ANDY CONNELLY

I’m finishing up my PhD thesis on colonial and Indigenous histories in the Trobriand Islands, PNG. I’m interested in the intersections of archival historiography and fieldwork-based ethnography, and how people relate to the past in everyday life.

I spent about 10 months doing fieldwork in the Trobriands, and while listening to and recording people’s recollections in formal interviews was fascinating, equally fascinating were the many different ways people reacted upon meeting or hearing about someone who said they were interested in the past. Some people apologised for not knowing ‘facts’ about ‘Trobriand history’, others wanted to me to write down every word of a story important to them. One guy took me to see the wreckage of a WWII bomber, and another took me straight to the old Methodist church to check out the altar. Many people invited me to see dances, sagali (exchange ceremonies or ‘feasts’), newly-harvested yams stacked in the gardens, etc; showing that for them, like myself, there is no hard distinction between ‘culture’ and ‘history’.


ANSA speaks to… ANDY CONNELLY

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

Anthropology classes were the most interesting during my undergraduate years. After a long time away from academia, I went back for an MA. I intended to do international relations, but fell under the influence of a couple of anthropology professors who talked me into writing ‘historical anthropology’. This was a lot of fun (believe it or not), and I ended up with more questions than answers, so decided to keep going. I’ve fallen in with Pacific historians who have changed my outlook somewhat, so I’m now writing ‘ethnographic history’ (at least I think I am).

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing or saying, just focus on your own work.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

1. Always be ready to write something down. People will sneak up on you and drop gems in your lap when you least expect it. If something interesting is on your mind, take twenty minutes and write yourself a little report. You will not likely remember your brilliant thoughts a year later.
2. Respect yourself and others, but don’t take things too seriously.
3. Follow your interests. This sounds banal but it’s often left behind.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

The War Diaries of Eddie Allan Stanton: Papua 1942-45, New Guinea 1945-45. Edited by Hank Nelson.
Identity through History: living stories in a Solomon Islands society, by Geoff White.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

‘It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission’ (within bounds of respect and good taste).

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

I like doing almost anything outdoors- walking, skiing, yardwork, etc; but am also a tragic TV documentary addict.


MARCH 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH: DANAU TANU

Danau Tanu has just finished her PhD, and is now in a post-PhD limbo (of course). Her doctoral studies were on people who spend time overseas or move from country to country… to country while they are growing up (e.g. expat, diplomat, military, missionary kids and the like). They are popularly known as ‘Third Culture Kids (TCKs)’ and often attend international schools that are found across the globe. Danau’s fieldwork was at an international school in Indonesia where she hung out with high school students and learnt how to do the ‘respect knuckles’. Danau grew up moving around a lot herself.

You can email Danau at: danau.tanu2@gmail.com


 ANSA speaks to… DANAU TANU

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I first found a supervisor, then found anthropology (corny, I know). I did my undergraduate studies in Political Science and Asian Studies, so I knew how to count ballistic missiles and analyse policy documents, but knew nothing about studying people. I said to my newfound supervisor, ‘So how will I collect data? Using surveys?’ Lyn responded with, ‘Uh, no. You’ll need to do qualitative research using ethnographic methods because I’m an anthropologist.’ I had no idea what that meant. But as soon as I began my doctoral studies, I fell in love with anthropology—I grew up in a culturally mixed family (dad is Chinese Indonesian, mom is Japanese, and I was born in Canada) and lived in four countries as a kid, so observing and making sense of ‘culture’ was already part of my social survival skills. Now I get to do the same and call it ‘work’!

Soon after, I read Stuart Hall’s work and came across postcolonial theory. That changed my world. (I felt cheated that postcolonialism was never mentioned in my undergraduate units.) I’m Asian but I had received Western education throughout my life. Stuart Hall wrote about so many things that resonated with me. It was like he had read my diary (except he’s much more intelligent and eloquent).

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so I shouldn’t be scared of doing interviews. A couple of weeks before flying off for fieldwork, I showed my other supervisor a list of interview questions. It was three pages long. I wanted her to teach me how to do interviews. Loretta barely glanced at them. She took the sheets of paper, put them aside, and said, ‘Danau, let’s do real ethnography. If you’ve done your preliminary research right, you should be able to start the ball rolling with one question. And they will answer all the other questions you’ve written here without you having to actually ask them.’ I thought, ‘What is this, magic?’ But she was right. We did a mock interview in which she interviewed me so I would know what it feels like to be interviewed. Loretta asked me one question and I turned didactic because I wanted her to get the story about me right. Once in the field, my interviewees turned didactic on me. They loved it that I listened and was interested in their story. I mostly nodded, uhuh-ed and said, ‘that’s interesting, can you tell me more’. They answered my questions, and I didn’t even have to ask most of them.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Lyn, my supervisor, emailed me during fieldwork: ‘Write your field notes everyday before the sun goes down.’ Likewise, a colleague who was ahead of me in their career said, ‘Write as much field notes as you can.’ These are the tips I wish I had followed more closely. It’s time consuming to write and thus relive a full day of your life before the night is over (especially when you’re exhausted from the day), but it will save you from post-fieldwork regrets of: I wish I had written that down!

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

I’m about to start Letters Never Sent by Ruth Van Reken. She grew up as an American missionary kid in Nigeria, and the book, I heard, is a memoir about the pain and healing that came with growing up among different worlds and having to leave them behind with each new move. She’s a nurse by occupation, but did some of the most extensive research (in collaboration with David Pollock) about the cohort I study—Third Culture Kids (TCKs).

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

I have two: one long, one short.

“For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-bys I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedershens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ‘Till we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking Farewell. Farewell is a father’s good-by. It is—’Go out in the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-by (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go—I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will over you’ and even—underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible—’I will be with you; I will watch you – always.’ It is a mother’s good-by. But Sayonara says neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-by, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara.'” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I said to the almond tree: ‘Speak to me of God’ and the almond tree blossomed.” — Nikos Kazantzakis, “The Fratricides”, 1964

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

Social dancing! West Coast Swing, Salsa, Bachata, etc. Recently I went to a dance party on the beach. Loved it.


 FEBRUARY 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH:   Thomas McNamara

 

I study how actors embedded in rural Malawian communities utilize the presence of NGOs to change their intercommunity social position and create new discourses surrounding development. I also co-convene the ethnoforum with Morgan Harrington, email me at tjmcn@student.unimelb.edu.au if you’d like to speak at it.

 


 ANSA speaks to… THOMAS MCNAMARA

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

I’m not actually an anthropologist, I’m doing a PhD in development studies. In 2011 I went to Malawi to do fieldwork for Honours and found qualitative work both more interesting and enjoyable than quantitative so when I was lucky enough to get into a PhD program I figured I’d do ethnography work.

ANSA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about doing anthropology and/or ethnography?

I was told by a woman who’d just spent eleven months doing fieldwork in Malawi that hanging out reading wasn’t ethnography. I guess I interpreted that as saying that you should treat your fieldwork as a job. It’s really tempting to spend a lot of time catching up on novels you feel you should read or learning to cook local food or something, and while those things are cool, they’re not why you’re there.

ANSA: What resource, writing, or fieldwork tips do you have for those new to anthropology?

Read a whole bunch of really good ethnographies before writing anything and figure out which parts of each person’s writing you want to emulate.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading (academic or otherwise)?

I just finished Grahame Green’s The Heart of the Matter, I’d read The Power and the Glory on fieldwork (during the day, while I should have been working) and loved it so I wanted to read something else of his. It’s pretty good and only takes a few hours so I’d recommend it.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying, phrase, or quote?

“Samuel thundered that no American factory hand was worth more than eighty cents a day. And yet he could be thankful for the opportunity to pay a hundred thousand dollars or more for a painting by an Italian three centuries dead. And he capped this insult by giving paintings to museums for the spiritual elevation of the poor. The museums were closed on Sundays.”
Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

ANSA: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of uni/academia?

I really like watching reality TV. Right now I’m halfway through Sister Wives and I recently finished all of Tool Academy.


JANUARY 2014’S PROFILE OF THE MONTH:  David Troolin

I am coming into anthropology after working overseas, which gives me an interesting perspective on what I am learning now in my PhD programme at Adelaide Uni. I have a wife and four children. Together we have been living up in Papua New Guinea, in a small village, since 2002, as members of SIL International (a worldwide language development organisation with a nondenominational Christian background). We are helping the local people who speak the Sam language with community-directed language development needs, issues they requested help with, namely alphabet development, vernacular literacy, compiling a Sam dictionary, and helping them write things to read in their language. An integral part of this effort is learning their language and culture, which has been both difficult and rewarding. I have made some great friendships and have learned so much from them. My experiences living with the Sam people have also been helpful to make the anthropological books and articles I read concrete and meaningful.

I am interested in many different aspects of culture, including Melanesia, vernacular education, cargoism, religion, conflict and social harmony, conceptual blending, identity and personhood, and performativity. My specific PhD research is focussed on social harmony in the village and causality.


  ANSA speaks to… DAVID TROOLIN 

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

It has taken me a long time to realise I love learning about how people in other life situations think about their world! For as long as I can remember, I have felt a deep desire to communicate and form relationships with people, and at the same time, I have felt like I was standing outside of my own culture, like a spectator. The mix of these two influences have led me to step back and look at my view of the world and the views of the people that I want to relate with. I think this motivation is something many people feel, of wanting to move past ourselves, our finiteness, to know and be known by others.

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

I have enjoyed learning about the first “anthropologist” to visit the Astrolabe Bay area, near the Sam village we live in, in the latter half of the 1800’s, named Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay.[1] He showed an admirable spirit of wanting to learn about and relate with the local people, in very different surroundings than what he was used to, and he used what he learned to be a voice for the local people in opposition to unjust slave-trade and colonial practices. Leo Tolstoy wrote this to him:

“You were the first to demonstrate beyond question by your experience
that man is man everywhere, i.e., a kind, sociable being with whom
communication can and should be established through kindness and
truth, not guns and hard liquor. You proved this, moreover, by a feat of
true bravery.” [2]

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

Aside from my anthropology reading, I am currently reading a mystery novel located in England during World War II entitled “A Blind Goddess,” by James Benn.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

I have a few of them. Two of them are: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” (Friedrich Nietzsche), and “We are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it” (Charles Darwin).

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

In Minnesota, USA, I had a summer job in high school sitting on a metal stool in a corner of a metal shed, spot welding metal washers onto bolts, which I was told was important in making snow mobiles. I never actually saw the final result of my work, but I took their word for it. I was also told that while the work was very boring, I should not get sleepy because a) they wanted me to work fast, and b) if I wasn’t careful I could spot weld my hand. They told me about “the man who got his hand caught in the welder and lost a finger”; true or not, that legend helped keep me awake!

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

At this moment I have been impressed with the idea that I should always try to assume the best intentions of another person, and not jump to conclusions based on something they write in an email or brief comment. It is too easy for me to form opinions without waiting for the full picture. If I take the stance of always assuming the other person means well, I hope there will always be a basis for building good will and trust with them. (Another thing I have learned is that there is life outside of my postgraduate studies!)

[1] He wrote up his experiences in Mikloucho-Maclay, N. (1975). New Guinea Diaries 1871-1883 (C. Sentinella, Trans.). Madang: Kristen Press.

[2] Tolstoy, L. 1888 Letter to N. N. Miklouho-Maclay, September 25, 1886. Nedelya, April 10, cited in Tumarkin, D. (1993). Miklouho-Maclay and the perception of the peoples of New Guinea in Russia. Pacific Studies, 16(1), 33-42.