AAA 2015 Melanesia Interest Group Business Meeting

As Convener of the AAA’s MIG (Melanesia Interest Group), I want to extend an invitation to all those attending the AAA 2015 meetings in Denver with an interest in Oceania to attend the MIG business meeting.

Date: Thursday November 19

Time: 6:15-7:30 PM

Venue: Room 706 of the Colorado Convention Center
Our meeting agenda is as follows:

  • Convener’s report
  • Incoming convener elections
  • Member updates
  • Proposal for discussion: that we change the scope and mandate of Melanesia Interest Group to become the Oceania Interest Group
  • Proposal for a 2016 AAA panel in honour of Nancy Sullivan

Hope to see you there!

Negotiating comparison in ethnographic fieldwork

Anthropology, a discipline dedicated to understanding the full range of human experience from as many perspectives as possible, has always been comparative. This comparative aspect was one of the things that initially captured my imagination as a student. I became interested in understanding how issues that affect humans everywhere – such as poverty, inequality and development – appear in different contexts. I believe that to better debate such issues, we need to understand people’s practices as well as context-specific structures of history, environment, society, and culture. Careful comparative analysis can add to knowledge about development and social change by informing debates and contributing to more effective policies and strategies.

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Anthropology theses published in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2014

Following on from my post last year, here is a list of theses (Masters and PhD) published in anthropology departments in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2014. My list includes all major universities except for Auckland University of Technology, not because AUT doesn’t offer anthropology (it does, in the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy) but because it takes an interdisciplinary approach and I couldn’t tell which of its theses were more or less ‘anthropological.’

I compiled this 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. I also searched individual university library catalogues and online research commons. 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. Please comment below if you have a thesis to add to this list or correction I need to make.

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Doing anthropological fieldwork ‘at home’

A month or so ago I posted some thoughts about what it’s really like to be an anthropologist. Not long after that I was asked to talk to a group of Y12 students (high school students in their penultimate year who had come to Victoria University to learn about future study options) about doing anthropological fieldwork. That talk did a much better job of capturing what for me is one of the most rewarding (and challenging) parts of being an anthropologist: doing fieldwork.

I studied Hip-Hop Culture in Aotearoa for my Masters degree in social anthropology, which involved doing fieldwork ‘at home.’ I had long been a fan of Aotearoa Hip-Hop (I used to co-host the Hip-Hop show on Massey University’s student radio station Radio Control) and became interested in understanding how and why Hip-Hop in New Zealand was different to Hip-Hop overseas, particularly the United States. My thesis was based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork (2000-2002) where I explored what Hip-Hop meant to those actively involved in producing and performing Hip-Hop in Aotearoa.

My fieldwork involved a lot of listening and observation. I went to events (b-boy and MC battles, graffiti showcases, gigs, Aotearoa Hip-Hop Summits), used a technique called participant-observation (sometimes known as ‘deep hanging out’ with a purpose) where I would participate in as well as observe what was going on, took fieldnotes and photos, interviewed members of the Hip-Hop community, and tried to immerse myself in all things Hip-Hop.

Lorena doing fieldwork at the 2001 Aotearoa Hip-Hop Summit
Lorena doing fieldwork at the 2001 Aotearoa Hip-Hop Summit in Auckland

People often smile when I tell them my fieldwork involved going to gigs or watching spraycans while people created graffiti art (making jokes like “I bet that was hard work”). However, this kind of fieldwork is not as easy as it sounds. Daniel Simons’ video The Monkey Business Illusion is a great example of how we often miss a lot of what happens around us:
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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 workshops at Victoria University of Wellington

Earlier this year I participated in an online writing group for anthropologists run by Savage Minds. I didn’t achieve all of my writing goals but I did enjoy reading the series of interviews Savage Minds bloggers published with various anthropologists, including one with Kirin Narayan on ethnographic writing. I have long been a fan of Kirin’s work and when I saw that she is now in the School of Culture, History and Language at Australian National University (much closer to New Zealand than the United States) I decided to invite her here to speak about her research. She accepted! Next week she and Ken George will be giving seminars and running workshops/master classes on various aspects of their research at both Massey University in Palmerston North, and Victoria University of Wellington. Details of the Wellington events are below.

KirinNarayan KenGeorge

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

Parenting, AAA 2013, and being an anthropologist

Last month I went to the AAA 2013 meeting in Chicago. This was the first time I’d attended an international conference with my family in tow (20-month-old toddler and amazing husband). My husband looked after our daughter during the day but her presence gave me the opportunity to reflect on how being a parent of a young child has changed my experience of conferences, and possibly my future research directions.

I had a great time at the AAA 2013 and live-tweeted from about half of the panels I attended. I didn’t enjoy all of the papers I heard (mainly because I find it boring to listen to people reading articles or excerpts of thesis chapters – there’s an art to this and not everyone has mastered it) but I did appreciate the opportunity to hear some excellent speakers and meet people doing interesting and exciting research.

One of the first things I noticed was the number of children aged three or under with caregivers (mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunties, uncles) at the conference. I’m sure this is due to my heightened sensitivity as a first-time parent but it was great to see toddlers playing on stairs, younger babies in frontpacks, and kids sleeping or just taking it all in from the vantage point of a stroller while their parents gave presentations. What I didn’t see, though, was a parent’s room at the conference venue. Was there one? Could there be in future? What did anthro-parents with toddlers do at changing and feeding times if they didn’t stay at one of the conference hotels (like we did)?

Networking was also a different experience this time around. The 19-hour time difference between Wellington (NZ) and Chicago meant my daughter had a hard time settling, which ruled out any evening social events for me. However, explaining why I wasn’t going to be at a dinner did open up a space for people to talk about their own kids and how they handled going to conferences when their children were young. Plus I got to meet some lovely caregivers looking after toddlers whose parents (usually mothers) were giving presentations, people I would not have felt confident introducing myself to at previous meetings.

I noticed a divide in opinion about whether or not I would continue fieldwork in Papua New Guinea now that I’m a parent. This is something I have been thinking seriously about as I start to develop a new research project addressing vulnerable urban spaces in India and PNG. While no-one questions that I will continue to work in India, PNG is a different story (mainly due to reports of crime, security, and violence). Attending the AAA was good for meeting other anthropologists working in Melanesia and discussing the issues involved in taking children/family on fieldwork trips to PNG. Back at home I’ve continued these conversations with other anthropologists. I would love (and plan) to continue to work in PNG but being a mum is likely to shape future research directions.

I’m curious to hear from others about whether/how being a parent affects your future research plans. Have you done fieldwork with family in tow? Left them behind? Decided against a fieldsite due to safety concerns? I would love to hear about your experiences!