When Worlds Collide: A tale of parenting and an optimistic undergraduate

I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Jess Thompson to anthropod. In this post Jess shares her experiences of being a parent and university student, adding to our conversation about carework at university.

I wouldn’t say I’m a typical young woman at the mere age of 22; I threw myself into the world of academia at 18 years old like most my age, but I’d already moved to and worked in London for five months after leaving high school. After 2 ½ years at Victoria University I got on a plane and didn’t look back, ventured to Samoa, and volunteered on a development assignment before returning to finish my final papers for my degree this year. En-route, things took a sharp turn with the arrival of my son (Moo) 8 ½ months ago. Three papers short on my Bachelors in Development and International Relations, suddenly I was faced with a situation I had not anticipated; do I work my life around my son, work my son around my life, or just throw it all away and become a full time mum?

Today, the result of finding a middle ground between the former two options exists. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than I could have hoped for. Moo and I are not a nuclear family; I am a co-parent with his dad, a system in place since he was born, and as circumstances arise and Moo gets older, our situation changes as needed. I study part-time, three generations of my family occupy the house I live in, and I’ve not only returned to my volunteer role at GirlGuiding New Zealand as a Ranger Leader (girls aged between 12 ½ and 17), but also taken on an additional role of being a Training Assistant, on the pathway to becoming a Trainer for other Leaders. I live my life as I choose, and integrate Moo into it as required if he is in my care.

From an academic point of view, things have been generally speaking, relatively straight forward. I make the most of the time Moo is with his dad as study time and work care arrangements around lectures and tutorials. But if there was ever a piece of advice read here: you have to be a little crazy and whole lot of adaptable to take an intense 5 week summer paper with a two month old. I would sit at my desk and be working on assignments or catching up on readings with Moo lying next to me playing, or almost begging him to go down for a sleep so I could get an hour’s peace to get part of an essay knocked off.

Photo 1.jpeg
This was one method of essay writing; Moo fell asleep in his bouncinette once while I was sprawling through books trying to work on an assignment on the floor.

A lot of the time I find myself switching between my ‘mum’ headspace and my ‘student’ headspace so things can get done. To my classmates I am a regular student just like them, and it’s only when I talk to people that they realise and sit in slight astonishment that I am juggling study with raising an infant. As an undergrad and Moo being his age it is impractical to bring him to lectures meaning I am in constant reliance of my support networks to look after him. Over time, things have certainly become more manageable; I sit and write this on the couch while he eats crackers, stares at the cat, and pulls half the contents of the bottom of the DVD rack out and throws them on the floor. Needless to say he has now started working out how to move, and I spent much of my exam prep this trimester hoping he wasn’t going to learn how to crawl BEFORE my exam.

Photo 2.jpeg
This was Moo as I was writing this piece; he shuffled off the towel, is secretly a gymnast with legs like that, and was trying to pick up a small piece of cracker on the floor. Had also thrown his homemade drum away made out of an old formula tin.

GirlGuiding has been a part of my life for over 15 years now, and the concept of leader’s daughters in units with me has been quite normal. A lot of leaders are typically mums, however being so young means many of the young leaders I work with are usually students or full time employed, maybe with a serious partner but no kids. Suddenly I’m an anomaly; 22 years old, well experienced, young leader, facilitating/attending/presenting trainings WITH an under 5! I emphasise with here, as in the course of his life, Moo has already come to weekend trainings, is down for two school holiday sessions coming up, and I’m sure a few more in the next few years.

Photo 3.jpeg
I posted this photo on Facebook on the Sunday morning of my first weekend training, captioned: “There should be a blanket patch labelled ‘I survived a GirlGuide weekend as a trainer with a small child.”

Being a new trainer, plus learning the ropes with a very dependent young child makes anyone’s stress levels skyrocket. Attending a weekend training, let alone facilitating one, is another kettle of fish when it comes to having Moo coming along; sometimes I wonder who has more stuff packed in the car, him or everyone else. By the time all his clothes, port-a-cot, food, some toys, and pushchair are packed, then somehow it’s my personal bits, plus resources needed to bring along and so on to pack; there’s an entire house in a small car minus the kitchen sink and a fridge almost. (Although I’m getting really good at car tetris.) A conference I attended led me to be ‘that crazy woman pushing a pushchair up and down outside to get the baby to sleep’. Part of one weekend training involved sitting at the back of the room listening to presentations quietly, so to avoid the awkwardness of the occasional squeal or baby noise we sat at the back of the room listening while I bribed Moo with gingernuts on a blanket on the floor. That same weekend I was presenting two morning sessions; Moo was happily sitting watching me present when all of a sudden he fell down from sitting up and absolutely lost the plot while I was mid-sentence. Bringing such young children has become a rarity over time but now there are a couple of us who for one reason or another need to bring children along always/on occasion and that these other little people are a major part of our lives beyond GirlGuiding and they do need to come along and be involved in the training sphere sometimes. Bringing Moo along certainly has its challenges, but he has never hindered the ability to get things done.

Looking to the future is a hard and difficult one. My passions for a very long time have laid with the Pacific and Development, and really making a difference in the world. Once upon a time I saw myself ten years from now potentially returning to the academic sphere having ventured overseas once again and gained some real-world experience. Now as I save what I can from my benefit each week so that in the long run I can afford to buy my first home (big dreams I know, but you can’t give up on your dreams entirely) I’m faced with a future either working within the NGO sector locally for a salary less than ideal doing something I love, or adapt my skills into something else and start a career path down a different track, while committing my spare time into my passions. One day I’d love to return to the academic sphere to add to my study in a postgraduate form, but only when things are a little more stable.

Regardless of where the future is headed, there is one thing I know for sure. We cannot let children hold us back from chasing what we want to do, sometimes the better option is to let our children come along in the chase. From my perspective there’s a lot of occasions where we forget that other people have lives beyond the portion of their lives we know them from, and sometimes these intersect, and other times they are reason things do not happen immediately. Adaptability and flexibility is key, not only from a mother’s point of view but from an everybody point of view. I praise people like Lorena who have the ability to combine their interests with their children and also their professional life. As the concept of professional work changes and how it is represented, from flexi-hours to working from home, surely it is time to bring the sphere of children and where they fit in the bigger picture into it as well. What if we looked at others like real complex humans, with histories and stories untold, friendships and relationships we may not know about, and a vast array of experiences and needs; would our methods of recognising care, how we treat people, and how we go about and participate in our careers and lives differently? I certainly hope so.

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Doing the squiggly writing – a guest blog post

I am delighted to welcome guest blogger Charlotte Weston, who agreed to write this piece following my earlier post on Doing fieldwork with kids: Part I. These posts are part of an important conversation I think we need to have to make the carework many of us do more visible at university. 

I joined the world of academia at 28 years old; a full decade older than most first year university students. I had a bunch of stuff to do first, like getting married at 21, becoming a solo mother at 24, and trying my hand at lucrative careers like being a musician, a photographer, and a small business owner. When I finally made the decision to go to university it was because I wanted a career rather than a job. I no longer wanted to try and make money from my creative pursuits, and I was ready to commit to something long term. I was exhausted from years of financial insecurity and frugality as the sole-earner, child-carer, and responsibility-bearer for my little household. I wanted to knuckle down and find a more stable and defined career path.

But I had someone else to consider, and what did my son want? Me.

In an effort to balance our needs, I decided to get the education I’d always wanted rather than go back to full time work at that point. I’m working towards improving our lives long-term but in the short-term my university schedule allows me the flexibility to pick him up from school most days and do fun things together…

 Picture1Even though he’s sometimes dejected when I get to school and interrupt his play time.

 …or bring him with me, or stay home when he’s sick without having my pay docked or letting  my colleagues down. It also allows me to include him in my world on a regular basis, something which most workplaces don’t encourage or allow. I have no idea if my university has a policy regarding children on campus; I don’t want to know so I’m not going to ask!

There are such high expectations of constant productivity in the workplace and other institutions that children usually aren’t welcome in those environments: they make noise and have needs and can be unpredictable. And unless an event is specified as child or family friendly, it’s usually not. These attitudes unfortunately have the result of not only excluding children from ordinary or extraordinary experiences, but it excludes their parents as well. Particularly if, as in my case, you’re a solo parent and you just miss out if you can’t take your child with you. I don’t have the money for babysitters, nor do I have a partner to share the daily care. And everyone else misses out too: on opportunities to practice tolerance and kindness when children are disruptive, or the opportunity to meet a cool little human, or experience the genuine infectious joy when a child laughs, or the feeling of being part of a community where people of all ages are valued.

I want to see our society evolve (or return) to one where children are welcome everywhere it is safe for them to be. The only way I know how to do this is to simply ignore the unwritten rules, and take him where I want to go, including university. He’s attended a few lectures per week with me for the last year.

 Picture2Here he is plugged into the tablet during a lecture. Thank goodness I bought that
when I was still working; I had no idea it would be such an effective mute button.

 So far all of my lecturers have been happy for him to accompany me, with some making a particular effort to welcome both of us. I think my favourite moment was when he laughed out loud at what he was watching on the tablet for about 30 seconds, oblivious to the fact that the entire class could hear him, and my lecturer got the giggles. I was highly embarrassed at the time, but now when I look back on it I think it was a wonderful. In my cognitive psychology course I “encouraged” him to sit on the floor under the desk instead of on the seat as we weren’t allowed devices in the first six rows of the lecture theatre due to research into the effects of the distraction on grades. He thought it was super fun to hide under the desk.

Picture3Sometimes he gets bored at uni and does things like this. I’m OK with this. Apparently it’s good for kids to be bored. I’m not going to cite that claim because this is a blog and I don’t have to. 

 Mostly it’s been good, and he’s been good. I’m lucky that he’s old enough to behave (mostly), he sleeps well so I’m not sleep deprived (except when I procrastinate an assignment and stay up late finishing it), and he can entertain himself. As a parent and an adult student I’m motivated, and (reasonably) disciplined. I’m not doing it because it’s the natural progression from high school – that was a long time ago! Nor am I doing it because my parents think I should. I’m doing it for me. I don’t have as many hours in the week as my fellow students who don’t have children, so I have to focus harder in the hours I do have. I’ve spent most of my life as a night owl but these days I usually get up at 5am to study in the peaceful morning hours by myself before I have to get him up and ready for school.

The major downfall of studying with a young child is that I think I could get much better grades if I didn’t have the drain on my energy and time associated with parenting, and I struggle to come to terms with that. I want to do postgraduate study so I need to get good grades. Sometimes I’ve missed lectures because he’s too tired to be trusted to behave, or I just don’t have as many hours to work on assignments as much as I should. However it makes the As I do get that much more satisfying.

There’s also the social downside: I never really lived the young student lifestyle and find it hard to relate to most of the students in my class, who are mostly teenagers. I’ve made one good friend so far – another mature student. I overhear conversations about party games, and happenings in the hall of residence, and I don’t even know what they’re talking about. I feel like I can relate more to the faculty members, but I’m an undergraduate student, so there’s a divide there too.

I’m still financially vulnerable, and that makes me feel guilty and worried. I wasn’t an anxious person before I became a solo parent; now I have constant low level anxiety, and it’s almost entirely money related.

Then there was the time that my son woke up all through the night with a sore tummy, and I couldn’t send him to school but I had a test that day so I took him to university with me. This turned out to be a bad decision.

Picture4So unwell he couldn’t even sit up straight.

 This photo was taken moments before he vomited everywhere. Through the tutorial room, the hallway, and into the toilets I ushered him towards, mid-vomit, that were miraculously across the hallway (but still not close enough). I bumped into the course coordinator for my test as we left university, and asked if I could resit the test another time. She glanced at my vomit-covered child in sympathy and said “of course, go home”. I felt guilty for taking him to university with me; he needed to be home, and if it was a bug other people could have caught it.

Then there are the times when the student lifestyle has meant I’ve been strapped for cash, or too tired to cook a decent dinner, but he still requires feeding on a daily basis.

Picture5Here he is eating cheerios leftover from his birthday party while watching Netflix.
There is not a vegetable nor educational resource in sight, and certainly no nature.
The tomato sauce is in a plastic container as there were no clean dishes left.
I posted this picture on Facebook to make everyone else feel good about their parenting.

I’m too early on in my academic career to have experienced any particular requirements or expectations on my work, so my thoughts are entirely personal at this stage. I do wonder about my future career. I can’t take overseas jobs, and I imagine fieldwork or research as a mother would have added levels of difficulty, although it’s not impossible.

I’m very fortunate that I have a large support network of friends who give me practical and emotional support. I don’t think I could get through the demands of university without them. My friends are a big part of why I want to study friendships and community, and the flip side of that: loneliness and isolation. I’m particularly interested in community in non-traditional urban spaces, and how the internet changed the game. I want to look at it from the various disciplines of psychology, anthropology, geography, and sociology… so I’m doing two degrees at the same time so I can fit in as many papers as possible. I love university; I have always thrived on learning, analysing, debating, critiquing, exploring. Now I’m doing it officially. The benefits are worth the hard parts.

Picture6My friends are great but my cats are no use at all when I’m trying to revise my notes.
Yes, this is a gratuitous kitten picture.

 I asked my son’s opinion on university for this post and he said “I don’t want to give you any answers, think for yourself.” So I asked if he wants to go to university one day: he said he does, he wants to learn writing. “What kind of writing?” I asked. He said “I want to learn to do the squiggly writing.” So in conclusion, here is a picture of his notes from a lecture, compared with my notes. He’s pretty close.

Picture7I particularly enjoy the full stops at the end of each “sentence”.

Doing fieldwork with kids: Part I

Recently I started a new research project looking at the social impacts of three Sistema-inspired orchestral music education programmes operating in low decile schools in the Wellington region, where I live. El Sistema is a Venezuelan music and social development initiative that began in 1975 and is today one of the world’s largest and most famous orchestral music education programmes. Sistema-inspired programmes operate in over 60 countries and there are at least six here in New Zealand, including Auckland-based Sistema Aotearoa. My new project involves working with kids: those involved in the orchestral programmes, and my own. In this post I reflect on what it’s like to do fieldwork with my kids in tow, and in the next I’ll discuss how I plan to work with the children in these programmes.

It took me a good couple of years after finishing my PhD to start a new major research project. There were a few reasons for this. Two weeks after submitting my PhD I started working as a lecturer on a series of short-term contracts which meant constantly developing and teaching new courses. I needed to publish from my dissertation so I could secure a permanent academic position – something that is extraordinarily difficult as an adjunct, as many blogs, news articles and #quitlit posts on social media have pointed out. I had my daughter in 2012. And I needed some space to think about what I wanted to work on for the foreseeable future. In 2013 I was employed on a 3-year, part-time contract, meaning I could access university research funding not available to those on short-term contracts. This, combined with the fact that you need to be research-active with a track record of obtaining funding in order to compete for academic jobs, meant it was a good time to develop a new research project.

When I started my PhD I had not yet met my husband and children were not on my horizon, so everything and anything seemed possible. Now I had two other people to think about in deciding where, how, and what I wanted to research – in that order. I wanted to do ethnographic fieldwork in Wellington and continue my interest in development and social justice. Basing my new project in Wellington was also a practical decision: I could take my daughter with me, I wouldn’t need to be away from home for extended periods of time, and I could get started without the security of funding or a permanent job. Coming up with a feasible project was more difficult, but a serendipitous sequence of events led me to Sistema Aotearoa and eventually the charitable organisations that run Sistema-inspired orchestral music programmes in Hutt Valley and Porirua.

I was pregnant with my second child by the time I established relationships with the organisations, developed a research proposal and obtained funding, and received ethics approval to begin the research. Ethnographic fieldwork was relatively straightforward to begin with as I could take my music-loving daughter and composer/conductor/musician husband along to interviews and performances. Things became a bit tricker after our son was born last year.

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Part of my field-and-carework kit

For a start, my fieldwork kit expanded significantly from a pen, notebook, iPad and camera to include nappy bag, frontpack, and buggy as well as preschooler snacks and activities. I didn’t always have my daughter with me but my son was now a permanent attachment, meaning I relied heavily on family and research assistants for help. He still breastfeeds frequently at night and at the moment my fieldwork doesn’t extend to evening rehearsals as it is just too difficult to get away after the dinner-bath-bed routine. I do go to some evening and weekend performances, usually with one or both kids in tow, and my husband or mother-in-law (also a musician).

Combining fieldwork with carework is not easy. I no longer write notes in the field while my kids are with me, instead relying on my memory, what Simon Ottenberg terms ‘headnotes’ (in the 1990 book Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology edited by Roger Sanjek), and my GoPro camera. I miss things when I’m breastfeeding or changing nappies or leaving the room with a screaming baby or taking a preschooler who’s had enough somewhere else to play. (I have a keen recollection of my then 3-year-old daughter standing up during the middle of a concert and loudly announcing, “That’s enough, everyone wants to go home now.”) My kids miss me when I pay attention to the person I’m interviewing or spend an afternoon at music lessons without them. I often don’t get time to write up my fieldnotes in Evernote at the end of the day, and I definitely don’t have the same amount of time or headspace available to just think.

Despite the difficulties, there are a lot of things I enjoy about combining fieldwork with carework. I like my children being able to see and participate in what I do and love watching their interest in music grow. I get a different perspective when sitting on the floor with my son. My daughter often makes interesting observations about things that I hadn’t noticed, and I value being able to discuss the musical aspects of performances with my husband and mother-in-law. I also appreciate the connections I can make with the children I’m working with, who invariably ask “whose mother are you?” upon meeting me, and also with their parents.

Doing fieldwork with children in tow is not new; a number of anthropologists and geographers have offered useful insights into how one’s children can shape the research process. Kelly Dombroski’s excellent blog post on carework in fieldwork discusses some recent publications on this topic (including her own). However I have not yet come across much work that reflects on fieldwork at home with children. Even this “Family in the Field” survey of anthropologists undertaking fieldwork with their children assumes that ‘the field’ is somewhere away from home.

Do you do ethnographic fieldwork with your kids at locations close to your home? Do you know of people who have written about this? I would love to hear of your experiences!

Version 3
At a concert with my 5 month old (note the buggy doubling as a tripod)

 

It’s not just about the thesis…

Great post – wish I’d had these tips when I was working on my thesis.

The Thesis Whisperer

In a recent lecture at ANU, the esteemed research education expert Dr Margaret Kiley claimed that if we set out to design the Australian PhD from scratch we wouldn’t start from here. The PhD assessment (in most cases, a long form thesis), she argued, does not not necessarily develop the full panoply of skills we expect in a working researcher, inside or outside of academia.

One of the clever students in the audience absorbed the implications of Margaret’s lecture straight away and asked:

If that’s the case, what should I spend my time on? At the moment I spend most of my time reading and writing because that’s what I’m being assessed on. Should I be doing more?

Joyce Seitzinger and I being silly in a photobooth for the Canberra Tourist board. Joyce Seitzinger and I being silly in a photobooth for the Canberra Tourist board.

The student’s question went right to the heart of an issue that has been frustrating me…

View original post 1,190 more words

What is it really like to be an anthropologist?

This is the time of year in New Zealand when potential university students start thinking about future career options and what they’d like to study. Last week I received this email from Hannah asking what it’s like to be an anthropologist:

I am at that point in my life where I need to decide what it is I want to do with my life career wise and I have a shortlist of things I love to do and would love to do as a career, Anthropologist is one of those things.
I have  done a bit of research into it but what I would really like is to know what it is really like to be an Anthropologist on a day to day basis and in the long run?
I would like to know this so I can decided if this is what I really want to do so I can choose my study for next year at Uni.
I would greatly appreciate any information you can give me on the life of an Anthropologist.

Hannah said the replies I sent her were helpful and gave her a lot of food for thought in terms of her future career. I asked her if I could share them on my blog in case other students might also find them helpful. She agreed, so there they are!
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Anthropology theses published in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2013

Ever wondered what kind of topics graduate students in anthropology work on in ‘the antipodes’ (a term I’ve often heard used to describe where I’m from)? The following is a list of theses (Masters and PhD) published in anthropology departments in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2013.

I compiled the list by searching the New Zealand National Union Catalogue of the National Library of New Zealand, which holds masters theses and doctoral dissertations awarded by New Zealand universities as well as individual university library catalogues. I used the keywords “anthropology” and “thesis” in my search. Some catalogues were more difficult to navigate than others and I had restricted access to several resources, so my apologies to those whose names I have missed.

The theses are listed in alphabetical order according to the surname of the graduate. Congratulations to everyone to everyone who received degrees!

The Political Economy of Monumental Architecture at Nan Madol, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, by Helen Alycia Alderson.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Mark McCoy
Degree: Master of Arts

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnosis and intervention: An investigation of professional practice in New Zealand, by Kerryn Bagley.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisors: Rugh Fitzgerald and Chrystal Jaye
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

The Sweet Potato Factory – An Archaeological Investigation of the Pouerua Cultivation Landscape, by Alexander Campbell Bell.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Ian Barber
Degree: Master of Arts

The Disrupted and Realigned Self: Exploring the Narratives of New Zealanders with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, by Lara Joyce Milka Bell.
Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington
Advisors: Catherine Trundle and Rhonda Shaw
Degree: Master of Arts

Tombs and trade: strontium and mobility at ed-Dur (U.A.E.), by Augusta Violet Bunting.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: MA Biological Anthropology

Bodies in context: a comparative study of early childhood education in New Zealand and Japan, by Rachael Sarah Burke.
Social Anthropology, Massey University
Advisors: Graeme MacRae (Massey) and Judith Duncan (Canterbury)
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Bronze Age nomadic pastoralism on the Mongolian Steppe, by Brittany Rose Carroll.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: Master of Arts

Time of Transition: Patterns of Obsidian Exchange and Utilization during the Lapita and Post-Lapita Periods on Watom Island, Papua New Guinea, by Yi-lin Chen.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Glenn Summerhayes
Degree: Master of Arts

Glimpses of Eternity: Sampled Mormon Understandings of Disability, Genetic Testing, and Reproductive Choice in New Zealand, by Kristin Clift.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Ruth Fitzgerald
Degree: Master of Arts

Medicating Miners: The Historical Archaeology of the St Bathans Cottage Hospital, by Jessie Garland.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Ian Smith
Degree: Master of Arts

‘Wrought into being’: An archaeological examination of colonial ideology in Wellington, 1840-1865, by Rose Caroline Geary Nichol.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Ian Smith
Degree: Master of Arts

Dental pathology profile of pre-European Maori and Moriori, by Amanda George.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisors: Richard Walter and Jules Kieser
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Argonauts of Aotearoa: voyages of alternative ageing via the movanner archipelago, by Kim Green.
Social Anthropology, Massey University
Advisors: Graeme MacRae and Kathryn Rountree
Degree: Master of Arts

What’s Cooking? An Archaeological Residue Analysis of Ceramics from Thailand, by Cathleen Hauman.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisors: Charles Higham and Russell Frew
Degree: Master of Arts

Game Balance: Designed structure and consumer agency in an online game, by Elizabeth Haynes
Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington
Advisor: Catherine Trundle
Degree: Master of Arts

Himalayan journeys: a mobile ethnography and philosophical anthropology, by Christopher A. Howard.
Social Anthropology, Massey University
Advisors: Kathryn Rountree and Graeme MacRae
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Buying fair: the moral assemblage of Trade Aid and its supporters / Corinna Frances Howland.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: Master of Arts

“Still at nature’s mercy”: human-environmental relations after the Christchurch earthquakes, by Heidi Elisabet Käkelä.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: Master of Arts

“Nourishing ourselves and helping the planet”: WWOOF, Environmentalism and Ecotopia: Alternative Social Practices between Ideal and Reality, by Elisabeth Kosnik.
Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington
Advisors: Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich and Catherine Trundle
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Assessing the temporal foundations of supra-regional models for early to mid-Holocene climate-cultural change, northeast Africa, by  Natasha Phillips.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: Master of Arts

Shooting and friendship over Japanese prisoners of war: differences between Featherston, New Zealand and Cowra, Australia in Japanese connections, by Yasuhiro Ota.
Social Anthropology, Massey University
Advisor: Graeme MacRae
Degree: Master of Arts

Foreign seasonal workers in New Zealand horticulture: an ethnographic account of the nexus of labour and immigration policies and employment practices, by Jana Prochazkova.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisors: Jacqueline Leckie and Martin Tolich
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Relieve me of the bondage of self: addiction practitioners from three treatment centres in New Zealand discuss the use of community as a method of healing the self, by Derek Ross Quigley.
Social Anthropology, Massey University
Advisors: Eleanor Rimoldi and Kathryn Rountree
Degree: Master of Philosophy

The politics of influence : an anthropological analysis of collective political action in contemporary democracy, by Kathryn Scott.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Advisors: Julie Park and Cris Shore
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Soldiers’ Foodways: Historical Archaeology of Military Comestibles in the Waikato Campaign of the New Zealand Wars, by Alexandra Lee Simmons.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisors: Ian Smith and Helen Leach
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Neighbours and Social Capital in the wake of the Christchurch Earthquakes, by Kirsten Stallard.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Gregory Edward Rawlings
Degree: Master of Arts

Narratives of Incorporation: An Anthropological Analysis of Same-Sex Civil Unions in New Zealand, by Dionne Steven.
Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington
Advisors: Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich and Catherine Trundle
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Understanding the culturally modified tree record and the socio-economy of the Weipa mission in Cape York, Australia, by Eleanor Jeneen Sturrock.
Anthropology, University of Auckland
Degree: Master of Arts

Cheese Machines and Cellos: Technical Craftsmen and Craft Technicians, by Gwenda Dorothy Wanigasekera.
Anthropology Programme, the University of Waikato
Advisors: Michael Goldsmith and Tom Ryan
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Between Gifts and Commodities: “Op Shops” in Dunedin, New Zealand, by Valerie Jane Wilson.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Jacqueline Valerie Leckie
Degree: Master of Arts

Artefacts and Community Transformations: A Material Culture Study of Nineteenth Century North Dunedin, by Naomi Woods.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago
Advisor: Ian Smith
Degree: Master of Arts

How I’m participating in Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo)

Academic Writing Month 2013 starts today and I’m participating this year for the first time. For some reason it passed me by last year, but for the past week my Twitter feed has been filled with people declaring their writing goals and encouraging one another as they gear up for the month-long writing marathon that is #AcWriMo.

The purpose of #AcWriMo is for academics to prioritise writing for the month. One of the things I like about being an academic is that I get (paid) to write a lot. I don’t like the pressure put on academics to publish – what Thesis Whisperer Inger Mewburn calls the academic performance culture – but I love writing and the writing process, so I’m keen to share experiences with others for the month.

#AcWriMo participants are supposed to set and declare goals for the month, make weekly reports (I’ll use Twitter) and declare their results at the end of November. I have 6 goals:

  1. Write and present a paper at the 2013 AAA Meeting in Chicago
  2. Write a review of the film Mr. Pip for Asia Pacific Viewpoint
  3. Attend at least one of the Shut Up and Write sessions organised by my colleagues at Victoria University (#VUWacwri)
  4. Spend two Pomodoros a day, 5 days a week, writing material for publication (I’m part-time at work and have a very active and inquisitive toddler at home so this will be a test for my time management skills!)
  5. Develop the AAA paper into a complete journal article
  6. Start planning the editorial I need to write for a Special Issue of SITES entitled ‘Anthropology and Imagination’

The first two goals will be completed in the next couple of weeks and I will use goals 3 and 4 to help me achieve them. I might not achieve the rest of the goals as I’ll also be marking Honors theses before heading to Chicago then taking 2 weeks’ annual leave after the AAA meeting. I will probably start on goal 5 while I’m on annual leave, as like Anne Galloway I’m keen to try out Inger Mewburn’s strategy for Writing a Journal Article in 7 days. Also, I can never really ‘switch off’ so I’m sure I will achieve a lot of thinking about goal 6 even if I don’t write those thoughts down.

For me participating in #AcWriMo is more about joining an online discussion of academic writing and the writing process than meeting specific goals. I didn’t achieve any of my goals today, for example, but I did spend one Pomodoro doing research for my AAA paper and gave a very short presentation at a seminar on using social media in the classroom at Victoria University (look up #VUWteach on Twitter for live-tweets from the seminar), so I feel like that’s good enough. I will achieve some of my goals and make progress on others and look forward to chatting with others about their progress on Twitter.

Making the most of the 2013 American Anthropological Association meeting

UPDATE: Since I posted this, the AAA has released a mobile app for Android and iPhone/iPad users. The AAA Annual Meeting Mobile App replaces the hard copy version of the programme in an effort to help make the event ‘greener’. I will probably give this a go before heading to Chicago later this month.

I’m excited about the 2013 American Anthropological Meeting in Chicago next month. I am presenting a paper as part of the session The Spatial Politics of Enclosure: Creating Persons and Publics.

The session organisers, Barbara Andersen (New York University) and Tate Lefevre (Franklin & Marshall College) of the Melanesia Interest Group, have done a great job in putting together an interesting panel (not just because my paper is in it!) and lining up discussants. Here are my paper details:

Title: Negotiating Space: Hope, development, and a politics of possibility in Kolkata (India) and Lae (Papua New Guinea)

Abstract: Hope is a prominent theme in discourses of development. Through its focus on social change, development provides a way of engaging with a hoped-for future of social justice and equality that is embedded in, but moves beyond, present social, political, and spatial enclosures. In this paper I explore how women living in bastis and settlements in Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and Lae (Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea) negotiate space for themselves, their families, and the wider communities in which they live by participating in grassroots-level development initiatives. I discuss how the various social and spatial arrangements ­ in particular, physical and societal enclosures facilitated by structural inequalities ­ that shape women’s lives in each of these cities simultaneously constrain and provide a basis for their actions. I argue that whether or not they achieve their objectives, such initiatives foster a sense of possibility and movement within and beyond the social and physical spaces these women inhabit.

How to make the most of the meeting?

AAA Meetings are always well-attended with multiple streams of panels running from 8am-9.45pm most days. Based on past experience I know that good planning is essential in order to make the most of my time at the conference. There are a range of new tools available now to help plan everything, including the AAA’s personal meeting scheduler and of course Google Calendar. Kerim has written a useful blog post on Savage Minds combining these two process into one #AAA2013 Google Calendar.

A quick look at the preliminary schedule suggests it’s going to take me a couple of hours to work through everything. The search function of the preliminary schedule seems a bit clunky – for example, looking at the Melanesia Interest Group in the ‘search by section’ function only shows the group’s annual meeting and does not list the session above as we have been sponsored by the American Ethnological Society. Also, because the schedule is only ‘preliminary’ I can’t read many of the abstracts to get an idea of what the papers will be about.

However a couple of sessions run by the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology stand out, this one in particular:

Special Event: Genres of public writing in political and legal anthropology: Addressing Multiple Audiences
Participants: Thomas Hylland Eriksen (,University of Oslo); Ghassan Hage (University of Melbourne); Susan Hirsch (George Mason University); Linda Layne (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Date: Thursday 21 November 2013
Time: 12.15pm
Venue: Chicago Hilton, conference room 4E

I haven’t started planning my time yet and might end up doing so the old-fashioned way with pen and paper on the longhaul flight from NZ to the USA (although this might not be practical with a 20-month in tow). I am keen to hear from others about conference planning – what tools or apps work well, and which should I avoid? If you are going to the AAA 2013 Meeting, how are you planning your time?

Bloggers and Digital Anthropologists Unite at AAA

I’m going to the AAA in Chicago this year and am keen to meet other blogging and tweeting anthropologists. There are a few of us here in New Zealand and it will be great to meet others from all over the place! I’m not presenting on digital anthropology but will blog and tweet from the conference as I can.

turning your thesis into a book

This is a great post on how to turn your thesis into a book, and very timely for me as it is what I am doing right now. I haven’t taken all of Pat’s advice (I’m working on a full manuscript without a contract, for example) but her tips on rewriting are very useful. Her post has reminded me that I’m writing for a specific genre – ethnography, quite different from a thesis in social anthropology – which has particular conventions that I need to follow, and inspired me to completely rewrite my introduction and conclusion with a new audience in mind. Now, if only I could churn out 2,000 words a day …

patter

Lots of people want to turn their thesis into a book. This is not always possible – not all theses make good books. But it may also not be desirable. Some disciplines revere the scholarly monograph so writing one may be very good for the career. But others hold the peer reviewed journal article as the gold standard; in such cases, it may be better to get stuck into turning the thesis into a set of papers, rather than sweating over a manuscript. However, if you do want to do the book business, then you have to think about what the common advice – this book is not your thesis – actually means.

The first and most important difference relates to purpose.

The thesis is a text which is written to be examined and evaluated. As such, it follows a particular form, and the writing has to do particular kinds…

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