ANSA invites papers from postgraduate students at various stages of their research, particularly (but not exclusively) those who have recently completed fieldwork, submitted, or graduated. Joint papers are welcome, as are papers that embrace the conference theme "Life in an age of death".
The Australian Network of Student Anthropologists (ANSA) invites papers from postgraduate students at various stages of their research. This may include papers from postgraduates and honours students outlining their research projects or methodology, those who have recently completed fieldwork, those who have submitted their thesis, or have recently graduated. Joint papers are welcome, as are papers that embrace the conference theme of "Life in an age of death". The panel will be grouped into sessions by sub-themes and/or by the regions in which the work was undertaken, depending upon the range of abstracts received.
One of ANSA's main objectives is to support anthropology students and early career researchers as they establish themselves in the discipline. Another is to encourage interaction and relationships between students /ECR's and academics and applied anthropologists. At the AAS conference, ANSA will do these things by providing a space where emerging anthropologists and researchers can practice their skills in a supportive environment, and in which relationships between emerging and established anthropologists can be encouraged.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
In the company of mothers: reflections on fieldwork with 'Mumpreneurs'
'Mumpreneurs' (mothers who start-up businesses) complicate our understanding of both contemporary motherhood and economic labour. Drawing on recent fieldwork, this talk explores how the lived experiences of these women reflect and drive changing attitudes towards work/home, labour and motherhood.
Over the last decade, there has been an increase in mothers departing traditional modes of employment for entrepreneurship. Though some reject the term, these mothers with businesses are often labelled 'Mumpreneurs'. The choice to become a 'Mumpreneur' is grounded in a complicated interplay of structural factors and life-narratives that speak to the tensions contemporarily felt by many working mothers. These mothers with small to medium - often home-based - businesses straddle the line between traditionally unrecognised, domestic work and economic, capitalist labour. This talk aims to show that these 'Mumpreneurs' complicate our understanding of both contemporary motherhood and economic labour. The lived experiences of these women will be discussed based on recently completed fieldwork (conducted within a digital ethnographic project). Through this grounded discussion, it will be argued that 'Mumpreneurship' is both a reflection of (and driving force behind) changing attitudes towards work/home, labour and motherhood.
Dungeon mums and drag queens: personhood in Sydney's queer gaming communities
I intend to tell the stories of queer gamers in Sydney and come to a greater understanding of the ways technologically saturated young adults socialise. I will do this by drawing parallels between anthropological ideas of multiple personhoods and the way that gamers articulate numerous identities.
I am conducting participant observation and intend on producing a somewhat auto-ethnographical account of Sydney's queer gaming communities. The gaming public at large is pervaded by hegemonic masculinity and queer-phobia and as such I view these queer gaming communities as counter-publics (Shaw & Ruberg 2017). This means that queer gamers employ a multitude of techniques to carve out a space for themselves.
Being 6 months into fieldwork, I have some preliminary findings concerning the enactment of personhood within these communities. Queer gamers often enact a form of personhood that is consciously and explicitly relational. This seems to reject the neoliberal model of the 'individual' and instead can be understood through the lens of Strathern's 'dividual' (1988).
I contend that through their gameplay and interactions with one another, my participants, generate a 'composite personhood' which contains numerous, sometimes conflicting identities. However, it is within these contradictions that they create their own paths towards adulthood. The way they embrace irony and failure to communicate their anxieties about not being a 'proper adult' is an important avenue of investigation and is my current focus for the remainder of the fieldwork.
Shaw, A. & Ruberg, B. (2017) "Introduction: Imagining Queer Game Studies", In Queer Game Studies, edited by Shaw, A. & Ruberg, B. Ix-Xxxiv. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press.
Strathern, M. (1988) "The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia", California: University of California Press.
Engaging feminist martyrdom: discourses of life, death and agency in the self-produced media of Kurdish 'Women's Protection Units' (YPJ)
This paper draws upon early-postgraduate, case-study research on martyr culture in the self-produced media of Kurdish 'Women's Protection Units' (YPJ). It argues that the women of the YPJ seek to preserve the agency provided by a free symbolic life, which the physical death of martyrdom can secure.
The Kurdish revolution in Rojava, Northern Syria notoriously involves all-women 'Women's Protection Units' (Yekîneyên Parastina Jin or YPJ), which have a unique culture of feminist martyrdom prevalent in their self-produced media. These women have an important role as fighters on the front lines, and as actors in the revolution's focal women's movement. This paper contributes to the understanding of a feminist movement being built amid an active war zone, by examining the way that YPJ members employ discourses of life and death. I draw upon data from visual/virtual ethnography, and discourse analysis conducted on a case-study of the YPJ's self-produced media, and supplemented by content from interviews with YPJ members. I argue that YPJ members view freedom of agency over their own lives and bodies as symbolic "free life" which transcends physical death, and which martyrdom can, seemingly paradoxically, secure. YPJ members appear to engage ideas similar to those of post-colonial thought to the oppression they face as women, seeing violent oppression as a form of symbolic death. Their martyr culture embraces narratives depicting women who choose death as a martyr rather than facing the loss of their self-determination from capture or defeat. These findings challenge current research which often overlooks the central agency of YPJ women. There are also implications for security discourses focused on protection of women from physical death and conflict, as, for these women, choosing physical death may appear necessary to protect symbolic life.
Life in an age of the death of patriarchy? The negotiation of gendered identities through sexual decision-making in Northern Thailand
In the wake of the #metoo movement and a greater awareness of the effects of patriarchy worldwide, this presentation will explore the consequences of patriarchy through the sexual negotiations of men and women in one urban setting in Northern Thailand.
In the wake of the #metoo movement and a greater awareness of the effects of patriarchy worldwide, this presentation will explore the consequences of patriarchy through the sexual negotiations of men and women in one urban setting in Northern Thailand. Based on one year of ethnographic research in and around sex establishments and 60 formal interviews, this research aims to nuance the role of sexual decision-making in perpetuating and combatting greater patriarchal structures. This presentation will explore the concept of patriarchy in the Thai nation-state, discussing its similarities and differences to the Western model. Then, this presentation will problematize the lack of incorporation of the #metoo movement in Thailand, exploring the movement's successes and failures. Finally, this presentation will dispute that while new discourses around patriarchy — matched with new economic and social power for some women — have led to the "death" of patriarchy in its traditional form, Thai men and women are resurrecting new forms of patriarchy that mix the traditional with the transnational.
Islam and organ donation in Singapore
This paper explores the role of the state in shaping the Muslim community's attitudes and beliefs towards organ donation in Singapore.
The state has an undeniable hegemonic hold over the mainstream media's and government/statutory bodies' representation of organ donation as a positive act. Organs have been represented as gifts of lives allowing transplant recipients to live on and those who donate their organs and/or donate organs on behalf of a family member are hailed as heroes. This paper explores the role of the state in shaping the Muslim community's attitudes and beliefs towards organ donation in Singapore through selected narratives and also looks at how alternative media outlets such as The Independent, coconut.co and other foreign news agencies are valuable and imperative resources that one should use at his/her disposal to make a reasonably informed decision on whether or not to opt him/herself out of the automatic opt in system. What they bring to the table is often a counter narrative that has been suppressed within and by the mainstream media. If the "informed" in informed consent is only shaped by a one- sided, dominant view that privileges state agenda over all other sources of information and is vocal in its quest to change beliefs, attitudes and ideas which do not fall in line with it, we question how "informed" are peoples' subsequent decisions going to be and what kind of consequences that will have on their loved ones.
Multi-sited meaning-making, alienation, and (bio)value in genetic testing for Huntington's disease: a methodological critique of medical anthropology
Huntington's disease testing proves problematic for traditional medical anthropological critiques. Medical anthropology is yet to sufficiently engage with the specificities and uniqueness of genetic testing, and would benefit from studying further upstream and from being increasingly specific.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disease, in which the almost-universal prognosis is death within 15-20 years of onset. There is a reliable genetic test for HD, but there is neither treatment nor cure available. Roughly 15% of those who know they are 'at risk' choose to undergo testing. Most anthropological literature on HD relates to the transformation of identity and social relationships following testing and/or diagnosis, and on the ability - or lack thereof - of primary care physicians to facilitate decision-making. The main findings have been deficits in lay knowledge, attributed largely to deficits in genetic counseling; and transformation of familial/interpersonal relationships. I argue that the ability of physicians to 'translate' for laypeople is hugely hindered by a disconnect between the genetic industry and its output. However, critiques of the genetics industry in anthropology tend to examine an abstract macro-structure, treating emerging genetic biotechnologies as monolithic.
Thus, just as bioethicists are concerned with whether, and to what extent, current frameworks are equipped to deal with the social, practical, and legal complexities of the 'new genetics', I am concerned with whether medical anthropological frameworks are equipped to deal with the medical, social, and individual complexities.
HD testing is here an example of why and how medical anthropological study of genetic testing would benefit both from studying further upstream, into the system(s) in which genetic testing is used and developed; and from being increasingly specific, studying the full (social) life of one disease, condition, or biotechnology.
Resisting the 'patient' body of the biomedical model: a performative account
Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy is often experienced as a highly traumatic event. I provide support for rethinking the cancer event through a performative perspective and show how the biomedical model of the body can be resisted through dance and mindful embodied practices.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing oncological treatments is often experienced as a highly traumatic event. Many psychological and socio-anthropological studies observed how undergoing chemotherapy deeply mined cancer patients' perceptions of self and personal identity.
Part of this disruption is tied to the biomedical model of medicine, according to which the subject of the illness event is the pathology rather than the person diagnosed with the disease. In this view, a body-self is made a 'patient' body-object that can be enrolled in a therapeutic protocol, investigated, assessed, and transformed.
How can it be possible for cancer patients to embody the opposite dimensions of their body-self and their body-diseased-object? Can we envisage an alternative approach that enables the coping with trauma and the social suffering tied to the status of cancer patient?
Building from Nancy Sheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock 'the mindful body' (1987), this work provides support for rethinking the cancer event through a performative perspective and illustrates how the biomedical model of the body can be challenged and resisted through mindful embodied practices such as dance.
Based on phenomenological approach and autoethnographic analysis, including the material collected over ten years of oncological treatments, video dance performances and physical explorations, this work shows how dance can set in motion processes of healing and resistance. It aims to illustrates how dance can shape an alternative interpretation to the biomedical model of the body that allows the emergence of new meanings and offers ground for transformation.
The State vs homo sacer: necropolitics in the criminal justice system
This paper proposes that police brutality and negligence towards targeted minority groups is subjective violence that is systemically legitimised by necropolitical, neoliberal government structures.
Societies in settler-colonial countries are quintessentially necropolitical as a direct result of their attempt to eliminate the existing Indigenous populations and replace them with settlers. In settler-colonial countries, all too often, the death of individuals from minority groups occurs at the hands of the State's instruments of social control through the exercising of necropower. The number of such deaths is rising to a crisis point that demands greater attention and investigation. This paper aims to explore the theories of Agamben, Foucault, and Mbembe in relation to police brutality in the context of minority groups and arguing that this is subjective violence, not only ignored by the mass public, but also legally condoned by necropolitical, neoliberal government structures. The settler-colonial countries of Australia, Canada, Brazil and the United States of America supply ample case studies in which to situate police brutality firmly in the necropolitical space
Horizonal phenomena: technological mediations of geocaching experience
This paper examines how technologies 'indirectly' mediate engagements with the world through geocaching, a locative digital game. It suggests that embodied interactions with technologies may create the conditions for indirect mediation.
For those who have access to them, locative digital technologies are becoming pervasive in everyday life. It is therefore important to understand the processes by which such technologies shape how people engage with the world. Using a postphenomenological approach, this paper examines these processes in the context of geocaching, a locative digital game where players use a GPS-enabled device to find small containers hidden in public spaces by other players. In particular, I focus on how technologies 'indirectly' mediate how geocachers engage with the world; that is, how technologies might shape experience even when they are not simultaneously co-present with humans. Interpreting data collected in metropolitan Melbourne, I discuss how indirect technological mediations shape a geocaching world and a geocaching subjectivity. Firstly, I argue that 'directly' mediated social relations shape the parts of the landscape that geocachers engage with and give rise to a shared mode of interpreting that landscape. Secondly, I argue that differentiated access to digital information creates a divide between the worlds of geocachers and non-geocachers, compelling geocachers to employ distinctive modes of interacting with and being in the landscape while playing the game. My findings suggest that embodied interactions with technologies may create the conditions for the indirect mediating effects of technologies, but that we require further investigation to better understand the intricacies of indirect mediation. Hence, this paper not only develops a relatively under-theorised aspect of technological mediation, but also enriches understandings of geocaching and experiences of public space more generally.
Confidence as life-long cultural capital: children's on-stage performances in parents' eyes
Drawing on a case study of a speech-giving training institution in northeast China, the article explores why Chinese parents are keen to urge their children to build up self-confidence by actively participating in on-stage performances.
Chinese parents attempt to fulfill their "educational desires" by purchasing extra educational services other than school education. By focusing on Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, the article explores why Chinese parents are keen to urge their children to build up self-confidence by actively participating in on-stage performances. Drawing on fourteen in-depth interviews with parents who sent their children to a speech-giving training institution in northeast China, this study finds out that these parents hope their children accumulate their cultural capitals through gaining self-confidence. They view self-confidence is both a result and an articulation of cultural capital, which will bring their children social rewards in contemporary Chinese society. Moreover, many parents expect their children could articulate self-confidence on the stage of performance at present and transform it into life-long cultural capital as a form of symbolic currency on the stage of future life in the metaphoric sense. Thus, this article argues that self-confidence is both a desirable end that these parents expect their children to reach through the on-stage performances, and a critical means of how to live a successful life in these parents' eyes rather than their children's.
Fashioning style and tradition in India
As I prepare for my PhD fieldwork in a Rajasthani textile printing town, this paper explores intersections between heritage clothing and textile production in India and the global fashion industry.
Practices of heritage fabric production are often framed in national and economic terms as keeping regional traditions alive. At the same time styles that replicate elements of non-Western textile handicrafts are regularly incorporated within contemporary global fashion trends. Local industry, government and other concerned groups in non-Western locales work to preserve cloth handcrafts. As the title of Tarlo's (1996) classic monograph announces, clothing matters. In India, distinctions of caste and region are added to those of class, gender and religion making a complex array of difference expressed in dress. The effects of economic liberalisation beginning in the late 1980s has progressively transformed many aspects of Indian life. Do moves towards preservation of heritage handcrafts invest new life or foreground the dying out of regional practices of dress? How can we understand the effects on people of changing practices of local dress? Based on pre-fieldwork research for a study in a Rajasthani textile printing town, this paper examines how anthropology has approached heritage dress practices and commoditization of traditional styles within contemporary global fashion developments in India and other non-Western locations.
Experiences of 'being different'
Based on an ethnographic study, this paper explores the experience of difference and privilege of upper class female Colombian migrants living in Australia. This paper is centered on Teresa's life story. It shows how her class status enables her to navigate her ethnic difference in a positive way.
The demographic of people migrating to Australia has changed. There is an increase in numbers of international students and highly skilled migrants, who replace traditional working class migrants from the post World War II era. This paper is part of my current PhD project. Using an ethnographic methodology I draw on data gathered through life story interviews and participant observation to explore the experience of difference and privilege of upper class female Colombian migrants living in Melbourne, Australia. This paper is based on a single case study, Teresa's life story. It shows how, although regularly confronted with stereotypes about her homeland, she uses her difference as a means to find her voice. The difference Teresa has as a migrant in Australia allows her to step into the role of an artist. Nevertheless, it is her upper class background from her life in Colombia that allows her to position herself in such a way. Her social position enables her to participate in established Anglo-Australian art institutions, rather than being pushed into institutions which represent 'the other' Australia. In this presentation I argue that the experience of 'being different' beside other factors, is heavily influenced by a migrant's class position and the privilege that comes with this class position. Difference, for some, can be played out in a positive way.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.