The postgraduate showcase: new ideas, new talent
Location D
Date and Time 9th December, 2008 at 08:30


Nelia Hyndman-Rizik (ANU)
Jennifer Gabriel (James Cook University)
Hedda Haugen Askland (The University of Newcastle)
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The Postgraduate Showcase will feature talented work from upcoming new researchers across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom who are in the post-fieldwork phase of their Doctoral program or have recently submitted and are early career researchers.

Long Abstract

At the 2007 annual AAS Conference at the Australian National University, ANSA (Australian Network of Student Anthropologists) hosted a successful Postgraduate Showcase, which featured new and upcoming talent in Australian anthropology. Based on the popularity of this event, ANSA would like to host another Postgraduate Showcase in New Zealand for the combined ASAANZ, ASA and AAS Annual Conference. Abstracts will be called for from postgraduate students and early career anthropologists who have recently submitted their dissertation or graduated. We encourage postgraduate students in anthropology across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom who have finished their fieldwork to present a completed portion of their research or emerging theoretical arguments grounded in their ethnographic material. The development of conference presentation skills are an essential part of the PhD process. This forum offers an opportunity for postgraduate scholars to present their research to an international audience, gain conference experience, form contacts with peers and benefit from the advice of established academics in a supportive environment. The intention of this session is to encourage postgraduate scholars to view themselves as part of the international anthropological academic community and to inspire them to consider the potential of their research beyond the purposes of their dissertation. The session will be grouped by sub-themes and by the regions in which the research was undertaken.

Chair: Nelia Hyndman-Rizik

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Making a Mark: value creation in an Aboriginal art dealership

Author: Barbara Ashford (University of Queensland)

Short Abstract

Based on a case study of an Australian art dealership this paper discusses contested value creation in the exchange of Aboriginal art


Aboriginal art dealers regulate and mediate categories of value through particular practices of representation and the social relationships they foster. In conducting the sale of Aboriginal art in the fine art market, the dealer must also mark a specific formulation of culture through processes of mediation and negotiation. Such social practices raise interesting questions about issues of appropriation and collaboration between artists, art workers and buyers.

This paper discusses localised, ethnographic research undertaken in an Australian dealership selling Aboriginal art. Influenced by the ideas of Gell, it concentrates on relationships that facilitate the circulation and marketing of art works, rather than the production of art forms. In so doing it focuses on personal, communal and market interests, which are evident in the mediation of exchange. It explores how the dealer negotiates these interdependent yet unstable and contested value regimes.

Contested categories: conceptualizing an Australian Aboriginal photography in the early 21st century

Author: Marianne Riphagen (Australian National University, Canberra)

Short Abstract


Questions concerning the definition and conceptualization of art have occupied arts professionals at all times and places. Curators, critics, academics, collectors and dealers have regularly sought to characterize so-called 'queer' art, 'black British' art or 'women' art. Nevertheless, such attempts at classification remain contested and subject of debate.

In Australia, art world participants have similarly grappled with categorizing Indigenous Australian photo-media. From the 1980s onwards, when Indigenous Australian artists increasingly began working in the medium of photography, art cognoscenti have posed questions such as: what is Indigenous photography? What defines an image as Indigenous? What constitutes the category 'Aboriginal photography'?

This paper problematizes the conceptualization of Indigenous Australian photography. I will discuss recipients' changing approaches to defining and framing photographic art, while considering the vexed issue of Indigenous' ownership of cultural production. My paper argues that the amalgamation of Aboriginal and cosmopolitan experiences, concepts and influences, ever more apparent in Indigenous photographic art since the turn of the century, commands a new approach to characterizing Aboriginal photography. I suggest that to resolve recurring questions of conceptualization, we need to reconcile the nature of photographs as 'Indigenous cosmopolitan objects'.

Biculturalism in practice: a case study of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Author: Tanja Schubert-McArthur (Victoria University)

Short Abstract

Based on literature research and case studies this paper asks how the process of memory shaping functions and changes within the cultural institution of a museum.


Cultural institutions such as museums are "the products of the society that supports them" (Janes 2005: 1) and indicators of social and cultural change (Kaeppler 1996). In preserving memory, museums also shape a nation's collective memory, identity, and culture, and influence the thinking of individuals deeply: "For better or worse, individuals […] have no other way to make the big decisions except within the scope of institutions they build" (Douglas 1987: 128). Investigating museums and how their institutional thinking changes provides us with a valuable perspective on the social and cultural changes of a nation.

This paper examines The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa as a case study of a bicultural institution in a post-colonial country. It will analyse how the representation of memory, identity and culture has changed in the first ten years and what this says about the New Zealand nation. How are "big decisions" made about what is displayed in permanent exhibitions? And how are the decisions around what should be remembered or forgotten negotiated? An understanding of these processes can provide us with clues about the wider institutional intentions and memory shaping within the museum. This leads to the bigger questions surrounding the politics of exhibitions, strategic forgetting and ownership in the museum.

One year on, The Northern Territory Intervention

Author: Peter Stewart (Flinders University of South Australia)

Short Abstract

The Intervention commenced in July 2007 with a subsequent “roll out” of intervention and the appointment of General Business Managers in a number of communities. I will summarize the consequences of the Intervention on Aboriginal communities in the South-west region of the Northern Territory, the country of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara.



In this paper I wlll examine the government's adopted theory that the contemporary social pathology was caused by welfare. The Federal Government justified intervention based on constructions of widespread Aboriginal community dysfunction and in particular child sex abuse as outlined in the Northern Territory report, Little Children are Sacred (Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle) (Wild 2007). Media reports were numerous in the lead up to the intervention contributing to a national moral panic concerning Aboriginal children.

An analysis of consequences of intervention that sought to implement a number of changes, including: restructuring economies, test children for STDs and restrict alcohol sales. Quantitative and qualitative data will be presented to explore the consequences of these government programmes.

Tabu Shell Money as Cultural Property for the Government: conversion and appropriation through shell money bank

Author: Yoshinori Kosaka (Australian National University)

Short Abstract

This paper explores the cultural policy through which the government aims to benefit from tabu traditional money as cultural property used by Tolai in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea.


Pacific countries have often presented particular objects as cultural properties for the formation of national identity. This paper explores another approach to cultural property, which relates to economic benefit, rather than identity formation. My focus is on tabu shell money, which is used by Tolai people in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea. In the province, as I will outline, the Local Level Government has been accepting tabu shell money for fines, taxes, and school fees. The Provincial Government, moreover, has attempted to legalize tabu shell money as secondary money in the province since 1999. In this paper, I will show how both levels of government have redefined tabu shell money as cultural property or 'legal tender,' which benefits not only the constituents, but also the government. I argue that convertibility and a 'Shell Money Bank' are key concepts in appropriation of tabu shell money as cultural property by the government.

Saints, Ancestors and Self-government among a Greek speaking community in South Italy.

Author: Stavroula Pipyrou (University of St Andrews)

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on issues of kinship and self-government as they have been documented among the Greek speaking populations of Reggio Calabria, Italy. Saints and the substance of blood are implemented in order to create kinship links thus bringing together elements of justice and self-perpetuation.


The ethnography of this paper is set up to explore the pivotal role of ancestors in the lives of the Grecanici - Greek speaking populations - in Reggio Calabria, South Italy. Ancestors, it has been argued, act as mnemonic devises that give meaning and continuity between the past and the present. Furthermore, ancestors are implemented by the locals in order to explain their own versions of law and self-government. The substance of blood plays an important role, for it is believed to transmit cultural traits and values. Thus strict forms of endogamy have assisted in the establishment of the mentality of self-government as one which denigrates other forms of government, such as the Italian state. In the life of my informants the 'Devine entities' are believed to be the community's 'living' and 'tangible' ancestors and their worship exceeds religious representation. In this paper I will reveal how my Grecanici informants portray their Saints to be 'acting' as the guarantors of self-government of the Grecanici territories and interests, thus bringing together heterogeneous elements of justice and self-perpetuation. The Calabrian Mafia - known as the 'Ndrangheta and at present the most successful network of political power and representation in Reggio Calabria - draws on both the notions of kinship and saints in order to exercise its claim to self-government and justice. The 'Ndrangheta is presented as a political figure, one who articulates its rhetorical opposition to state politics. Kinship is thus posed as the par-excellence sphere that conditions any possibility to politics.

Projects of Hope: Women Organising for Grassroots Community Development in Kolkata (India) and Lae (Papua New Guinea)

Author: Lorena Gibson (Victoria University of Wellington)

Short Abstract

This paper addresses ethnographic research conducted among women organising for community development in urban poor areas of Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and Lae. It looks at their collective hope and agency and the structural factors affecting the social opportunities available to these women.


This paper addresses ethnographic research conducted among women organising for community development in urban poor areas of Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and Lae. In Kolkata I worked with two groups led by young, Muslim women in some of the poorest slums of the city. The two predominantly Christian groups I worked with in Lae are located in peri-urban areas. Despite different social, economic and cultural contexts, there are similarities in the ways in which these women work to achieve their goals of individual and community development. The kinds of educational and income-generating initiatives they organise around, while being grounded in the present, reveal their hopes for the future and the possibilities they envisage for themselves and their families. When women at the grassroots level work collectively they can achieve a powerful agency, but does this agency lead to realised hope? This paper discusses some of the wider structural factors affecting the social opportunities available to these women, including the pressure placed on grassroots and other civil society organisations to provide community development in the absence of state intervention, and the very real discrimination faced by marginalised groups (such as Muslims) within society.

Project Title: Changing Culture and Gendered Identities: A Study among Female Employees at work in Call Centres in Bangalore

Author: Swati Mishra (Massey University)

Short Abstract


The rapid growth of the information technology sector in India has thrown open numerous opportunities for young women to work for attractive salaries in international call centres in cities of India. This has led to the migration of young women from different parts of the country to cities like Bangalore for the purpose of employment. Call centres present a site where young women come under the direct influence of US-centric cultural values and norms in their work lives. They are given training to inculcate these values and norms to facilitate their dealings with their American customers. These women also reside in a city that is undergoing rapid socio-cultural transition due to the forces of globalisation.

While the work lives and residence in the city symbolises a context for Americanization, the middle class background of the women employed in the call centres reflects their socialisation within a family culture that may differ completely from the values they encounter in their current lives. Thus the influence of diverse values and expectations in the lives of the women creates a situation of conflicting demands and aspirations. Against this backdrop, my ethnographic research explores the ways in which women working in call centres understand, behave and cope with these tensions in their personal lives.

Transitional spaces and ambivalent identities: Korean adoptees (re)inventing themselves

Author: Jessica Walton (Deakin University)

Short Abstract

This paper explores the ways adult Korean adoptees negotiate and (re)invent their identities as people whose lives have been shaped by the transnational adoption process. It analyses the ambivalent transitional spaces Korean adoptees occupy in the process of understanding what it means to be a Korean adoptee.


Korean adoptees are often viewed as 'anomalies' in South Korea and their adoptive countries because while Korean adoptees have physical characteristics that superficially categorise them as Korean or simply as Asian, they often identify with the white Western culture in which they were raised rather than South Korea, the country where they were born. Therefore, Korean adoptees can be seen to occupy a liminal space through which they experience their identities as ambivalent and subject to negotiation and contestation. This does not mean that Korean adoptees are necessarily sentenced to a postmodern hyper-existence of uncertainty and confusion, nor are their identities simplified in terms of celebratory postmodernism that glorifies hybridised identities. Based on data gathered from in-depth interviews and ethnographic research conducted in South Korea, this paper will analyse how Korean adoptees enact and (re)invent their identities in transitional spaces on the edge of 'here' and 'there' by focusing specifically on their lived experiences as they negotiate what it means to be a person whose lives were irrevocably altered by transnational adoption. The aim is to contest immutable assumptions about identity and to suggest ways that Korean adoptees experience identity as a process of negotiating transitional spaces, which are always on the verge of change.

Celebrants and changing rites of passage: what changes and what stays the same?

Author: Julie Macdonald (Massey University)

Short Abstract

Celebrants and changing rites of passage: what changes and what stays the same?


Independent celebrants are contemporary ritual-makers. They actively engage in ritual invention and change. In their role as agents of their clients, celebrants openly appropriate fragments of cultural customs and ritual traditions relating to the individual beliefs and life experiences of their clients and reconstruct these in pastiche forms of ritual. In this way their role is relatively passive, responding to the desires and demands of their diverse mix of clients by creating and performing for them personalised rites of passage and other ceremonies.

Despite this openness by ritual-makers and their clients around appropriating and inventing ritual, when we observe the rituals which take place, traditional ritual forms can be seen to be performed again and again. Are celebrants intentionally protecting or preserving these important ritual forms (and if so why?), or is there an intrinsic resilience to ritual form which ensures it maintains integrity and continuity in the face of rampant individualism, eclecticism, and consumerism?

A short cyber-ethnography of international gestational surrogates

Author: Erika Somogyi

Short Abstract

A cyber-ethnography of the virtual world of international surrogacy as observed from October 2007 to May 2008. The author uses a variety of internet sources to make contact with international surrogates in order to explore their experiences.


This paper investigates the cyberworlds and representations of gestational surrogates. It deals specifically with those who have chosen to carry pregnancies for intended parents (IPs) who are from locations which are not of the surrogate's country of origin. To do so, it draws on interviews with intending and actual surrogates, encountered by the author in cyberspace through various forums. These include virtual advertisements, discussion lists, facebook and question and answer sites such as Yahoo Questions, Yedda, and Wikianswers. The results suggest that stereotypical views of international surrogates as oppressed globalised workers forced to 'rent a womb' are inadequate descriptions of an extremely complex situation. Instead the women experience the embodiment of pregnancy in artful and pleasurable ways, actively working to create distance between themselves without necessarily denying the experience of the pregnancy.

"We don't go to heaven via Jakarta": Trauma and destiny in post-conflict Aceh

Author: Catherine Smith (KITLV)

Short Abstract

The popular narrative that the tsunami was an act of God to bring about an end to the conflict in Aceh reveals contemporary Acehnese meanings of the term 'trauma' and current attitudes and expectations about Aceh's post-conflict environment.


In post-conflict/post-tsunami Aceh, the term 'trauma' signifies a fragile and temporary state of being in which a person is unable to accept hardship or loss as an individual's predetermined destiny (qadha). 'Trauma' inducing events are commonly described as 'that which cannot be accepted' as qadha, leaving the sufferer in a perpetual state of fear (ketakutan) and sadness (kesedihan). 'Trauma' is said to be deepened by ongoing 'disturbances' (gangguan) which remind people of Aceh's history of conflict and relieved primarily through religious practice aimed to 'strengthen the self' (menkuatkan diri-sendiri). While 'trauma' and its relief are expressed most strongly in the language of Islam, 'trauma' is equally informed by the Acehnese ideal of being strong and brave, and always discussed in direct relationship to the political context through which it was induced and which makes it seem necessary for Acehnese to be continually 'strengthening themselves'.

Here I discuss the ways in which Acehnese people commonly compare 'trauma' in relation to the tsunami, with 'trauma' in relation to the conflict. The popular narrative of the tsunami as an act of God to stop the conflict informs the ways that people experienced the tsunami, understand the current peace agreement and ascribe meaning to ongoing 'trauma' in the post-conflict environment. Here I explore this narrative as a means through which to illustrate the current meanings of 'trauma' in post-conflict Aceh and the ways that Aceh's fragile political environment and the emotional and religious lives of Acehnese people continue to inform each other.

Cronulla 2005: Sons of Beaches, Incarnations of Australian Agnosia

Author: Kylie Tobler (University of Sydney)

Short Abstract

The Cronulla riot was an eruption of white Australian national consciousness that articulated the deeply ambivalent relationship between multiculturalism and national identity. This ambivalence when crystallised into racist violence was perceived as an ugly distortion of the nation rather than recognised as a caricature of its ontological truth.


The Cronulla 'riot' on December 11, 2005 was an eruption of white Australian national consciousness that articulated the deeply ambivalent relationship between multiculturalism and Australian national identity. This paper argues that the lack of recognition of this ambivalence, perpetuated by the then current political and public discourse, can be traced to the ideological roots of the 'State of Agnosia' that has prevailed since the inception of Australian society. Cronulla's combined local, historical, geographical and cultural-political features embody an intense magnification of the highly sensitive terrain of Australian class, gender, race and cultural issues that permeate our society. Hence I propose that the Cronulla 'riot' was the perfect homunculus of the national body, a condensed representation of these social issues that remain unacknowledged by the Australian State. This unarticulated white national ambivalence, when crystallised into the physical and symbolic 'racist' violence that characterised the 'riot', was perceived as an ugly distortion of the nation rather than recognised as a caricature of its ontological truth. I propose that the participants' celebratory and violent actions were the local cultural embodiment of the universal processes of collective identity formation, which were shaped by our national exclusionary ideology.

Contemporary Community Life of the Austronesian-Speaking Amis of Taiwan

Author: Shu-Ling Yeh (National Taitung University)

Short Abstract

I will explore community life of the Amis in the contemporary era based on my field investigation undertaken in several Amis villages. I will show that the ways in which the local people confront, negotiate with, selectively incorporate, and even actively adapt to different foreign forces are in accord with their familiar socio-cultural notions.


In this paper, I will explore community life of the Amis in the contemporary era based on my field investigation undertaken in several Amis villages of the eastern coast area. Through the study of Amis community life in particular historical and cultural milieus which involve certain dialectic processes between the indigenous culture and the foreign economic and political forces, I call into question the previous notion that culture is a heritage and that the indigenous culture is going to disappear under powerful influences from the outside world. In a globalising era of the rapid movement of people, objects and ideas, it is nonetheless necessary to consider the notion that culture is a philosophy of life, and is an inexhaustible reservoir of responses to the world's challenges (Sahlins 1999:21). The notion of culture as a project will help us to make sense of the vitality of the local community in the face of changing politico-economic circumstances. I shall show that the ways in which the local people confront, negotiate with, selectively incorporate, and even actively adapt to different foreign forces are in accord with their familiar socio-cultural notions and logic, such as their village-wide kinship system. Their active changes and creativity should also be regarded as the continuity of their living tradition rather than its utter loss or abandonment.

Bringing the world home: understanding young backpackers' adaptations and appropriations of 'local' knowledges, spiritualities and world views

Author: Amie Matthews (University of Western Sydney)

Short Abstract

This paper explores the valorisation and privileging of the authentic within traveller discourse and the subsequent appropriation of ‘local’ spirituality, worldview, lifestyle and/or belief that commonly takes place within the backpacking culture.


With increased secularisation, a movement away from traditional structuring influences and a growing distrust of, and disillusionment with, expert knowledge systems, in many Western societies contemporary journeying myths are vigorously circulated as a basis for identification. Indeed, a number of social commentators have recognised that these personal narratives of transformation and growth, of self-discovery through physical, psychological and spiritual journeying, are particularly salient among young independent travellers. However, what is striking is that through this process localised systems of knowledge (both secular and spiritual) are often adopted, adapted and souvenired by the global traveller.

Situated within a larger research project which examines the role of extended international travel in the lives of young Australians, this paper explores the valorisation and privileging of the authentic 'local' that occurs within the backpacking culture and the subsequent appropriation of 'local' spirituality, worldview, lifestyle and/or belief that commonly takes place. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews with young Australian backpackers and discourse analysis of key travel guides and literatures, particular attention will be given to the way in which foreign cultures and/or landscapes can impact on the individual traveller's understanding of the world and their sense of self. With special emphasis on the interaction between minority world and majority world populations, the paper will further explore the way in which the journeying narratives and spiritual discourses that emerge in the young person's representation of their travelled identity can be understood as an attempt to reconcile self and other.

Relationships of belonging and foreignness on Vella Lavella, Western Solomon Islands

Authors: Sarah Krose (University of Auckland)
Christine Dureau (University of Auckland)

Short Abstract

Concentrating on Southeast Vella, I examine the meeting points between concepts of ‘foreign’ and ‘local’ and ‘same’ and ‘different’ people, exploring ways in which the boundaries between them are negotiated and maintained through formal and informal sanctions.


Of the 53 matrilineages (toutou) represented on Vella Lavella, over half are not indigenous to the island; a legacy of the early period of migration and headhunting in the Western Solomon Islands. Inter- and intra-island adoption, marriage and migration are still commonly practised. Such relationships between 'foreign' and 'local' are double edged - foreign lineages are needed to keep matrilineal lines strong, yet outsiders are perceived to bring many cultural practices which are often met with fear and suspicion by locals, materializing in stereotypes of place and sometimes accusations of witchcraft.

Subsumed within the distinctions of 'foreign' and 'local' are more subtle and locally pertinent differentiations of 'same' and 'different' people- a categorization that speaks more to kin relationships and the intertwining of matrilineal identities than a difference in custom and belief systems.

These social relationships are mediated informally by 'talk' and community gossip and secondarily by local councils who respond to local dissent. With the rising population and the influx of logging companies to the island chiefs have rallied for a renewal in matrilineal representation on local community councils, an aspect which had taken a back seat to colonial- and church-sanctioned governance since the early 20th century.

I consider how foreigners are accepted and incorporated, both into local communities and matrilineal systems. Concentrating on Southeast Vella, I examine the meeting points between concepts of 'foreign' and 'local' and 'same' and 'different' people, exploring how boundaries are formally and informally negotiated.