Cultural Anthropology Students
- Hayley Bathard
- Tanja Rother
- Liz Haynes
- Hannah Boast
- Tanja Schubert-McArthur
- Rachael Fabish
- Elisabeth Kosnik
- Former Students
PhD Student in Cultural Anthropology
Supervisors: Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich & Professor Richard Hill
Property Regimes and the Local Governance of Commons
My research project seeks to explore two seemingly contradictory trends: First, the increasingly contested ownership of things which occurs as a result of the global trend to a propertisation of the natural and cultural environment; and second, countertendencies that point to collaboration and ‘commoning’. In particular, I am investigating property relations as relations between people, and people and the environment, in the context of the negotiation of different legal and values-based systems in Aotearoa New Zealand.
More specifically I am examining both official and informal (community-level) co-governance and management arrangements for lakes, rivers or coastal areas. In terms of formal agreements, I am interested in how joint working groups of local authorities and iwi/hapū operate, and how their strategies are implemented in practice. At the community level I will study the property rights involved, the working arrangements that have emerged, and what the estuary, lake or river means to different user groups. The enquiry departs from an in-depth ethnographic study at the Ōhiwa Harbour in the Eastern Bay of Plenty where local authorities have formed a cooperative structure with four local iwi. In my analysis I will also refer to developments in this area at the national level.
Joint governance structures between local authorities and iwi/hapū are relatively new, and the processes and relationships under on-going development, and so they have been little studied. Likewise, not much is known about day-to-day community affairs in environmental management. The results of this study will therefore be useful in terms of documenting the experiences undergone, and in demonstrating the impact of, and on, the local community. At a wider level my research intends to contribute to inquiries on the practical implications of the notion “Treaty partnership” in Aotearoa New Zealand.
MA student in Cultural Anthropology
Supervisor: Catherine Trundle
Intricate Identities: Negotiating Deafness and Cochlear Implants in a Hearing World
Within public rhetoric, deafness is automatically associated with disability, which emphasises the power of medical knowledge, especially in its desire to ‘fix’ deafness. In such a context, cochlear implants are becoming increasingly prolific, with their use rapidly spreading throughout deaf populations, both in New Zealand and internationally. Whilst the experiential reality of these devices can vary hugely between users, this technology attempts to bring deaf individuals into the hearing world. While those who identify as being culturally Deaf may not feel comfortable with the normalising processes that accompany cochlear implantation, and the threat that these devices may pose to the continuation of Deaf communities, others have embraced cochlear implants and their effects.
I intend to undertake research within, and about, the New Zealand d/Deaf community, and seek to understand the contemporary identity formation of d/Deaf individuals in New Zealand. In my thesis, I will address the question of how d/Deaf individuals form identities at the crossroads of d/Deaf and hearing worlds. I plan to carry out interviews with both cochlear implant users and their families, as well as an analysis of media representations of cochlear implants and deafness, in order to better understand perceptions of deafness in contemporary New Zealand. This project will contribute to the literature on the New Zealand d/Deaf community, and will examine the social and cultural effects of cochlear implants, as opposed to the predominant focus on medical effects and language acquisition.
MA student in Cultural Anthropology
Supervisor: Dr Catherine Trundle
Internet people: Commitment and obligation in a virtual world
Online gaming is a rapidly growing area, in terms of both numbers of players and prominence. My research looks at community, social obligation and commitment in TERA, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 2012. Such games provide their own goals and challenges for players to work towards and are generally competitive or achievement-driven rather than primarily social, and yet socialising and co-operation are usually both encouraged and required to reach the highest levels of achievement. It has been famously said that "it's not the game that's addictive, it's the people" - in-game community is what keeps players playing, serving to make the game both more enjoyable and more profitable for developers, most of whom rely on player subscriptions for income.
I plan to investigate how formal in-game groups ('guilds') encourage commitment from members who may only be known through the game, and how successful this is. Using participant observation, I am seeking a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be part of a guild, owing time and loyalty to people one might never meet face to face, but who nonetheless share values and powerful experiences together. Studying virtual worlds, including game-worlds, will help us to understand how human culture develops to suit an environment and its specific needs as well as how people deal with the new, ambiguous relationships enabled by internet technologies.
MA Student in Cultural Anthropology
Supervisor: Dr Hal Levine
The transformative effects of cultural redress settlements on the concept of cultural property, Crown-Iwi relationships, and New Zealand Society
Cultural Redress is a part of the Treaty settlement received by Iwi who have undergone negotiation and settlement with the Crown. Its focus is redress related to land, resources and associations of cultural rather than financial significance.
I have experience working with a number of iwi on different aspects of their Cultural redress package. This work has included the completion of a number of Sites of Significance inventories, and the drafting of Statements of Associations, Historical Accounts and other documents.
Drawing upon this experience, and with input from informants within the 'Treaty' industry, I will discuss and critique the Cultural redress model which Iwi are obligated to operate within. The focus of the thesis will be some of the key issues surrounding both the negotiation of Cultural redress and life post-settlement – for Iwi, the Crown and New Zealand society.
My research will examine the relationship between ‘culture’ as an anthropological/academic concept and Cultural redress. Firstly, what are the historical foundations of Cultural Redress (in early settlements), and leading on from that, what definitions and conceptual frameworks are affirmed or challenged by the process of Cultural redress. I would like to explore the relationship between culture, power and agency, particularly in regards to the ‘legalisation’ of culture, which I will argue occurs as a result of Cultural redress settlement.
I also to explore the consequences of Cultural redress, particularly the creation of new and radical forms of Cultural property. I intend to discuss the legal and practical obligations created and their effect of New Zealand legal structures, as well as the cultural and social effect of Negotiation and settlement on both New Zealand society as a whole, and on iwi and Maori people in general.
Tanja Schubert-McarthurPhD Student in Anthropology & Museum Studies
Supervisors: Prof Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich & Dr Conal McCarthy
Biculturalism in practice at Te Papa
I am researching how Te Papa's bicultural framework works in an organisational context 'behind the scenes' at the museum. Te Papa's bicultural commitment is quite unique in the museum world and therefore worthwhile investigating as a model. Searching through the literature I was surprised to find very little about the impact a museum's philosophy has on its operation and staff.
In this case study I use ethnographic methods like participant observation and semi-structured interviews which allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the workplace culture and the everyday routines in different jobs. I have spent a lot of time 'living with' various teams across the organisation, both back-of-house and front-of-house getting to know their daily tasks, how they interact with other teams, what meanings they attribute to the concept of biculturalism and how it effects their work lives. My analysis draws on the anthropology of museums, organisational theories and Maori studies.
Being a casual employee at Te Papa myself I have been fortunate to experience what working in the museum feels like, build relationships with staff members and enhance my knowledge of te reo Maori and tikanga. However, keeping the balance between research and work, insider and outsider perspective and defining my role within the organisation has been challenging. Consequently, I reflect upon my role in my field diary and discuss it in my methodology chapter. I hope that my research will provide a new angle of studying museums from within and will be useful for museums considering the implementation of a bicultural model.
Rachael FabishPhD student in Anthropology
Supervisors: Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich & Dr Maria Bargh
Where parallel lives meet: a personal study of biculturalism in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Rachael is currently undertaking her PhD research in Anthropology, with support from Te Kawa a Maui (Maori Studies). Her research focuses on the Wellington anarchist scene in its struggle with decolonisation.
Rachael completed her earlier degrees in Religious Studies at the University of Otago. Her MA research focused on Indian political leader Aurobindo Ghosh's use of tantric goddess language to inspire violent resistance to British colonialism. After returning from India and becoming more active in the anarchist community of Wellington (including support work for those arrested in the October 2007 Terror Raids), Rachael began to look more deeply at her own role within the colonialism of her homeland. This also led her to question the national rhetoric of biculturalism, in a country where Pakeha are able to remain largely monocultural. She decided to change disciplines - to Anthropology and Maori Studies to explore these issues further.
Inspired by Kaupapa Maori research and Participatory Action Research, Rachael is attempting to focus her research on her own community using a combination of participant observation, autoethnography and interactive interviewing to work with other women in the Wellington anarchist scene towards a greater centralising of Maori experience, values and aspiration.
PhD Student in Anthropology
Supervisors: Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich & Dr Catherine Trundle
Cross-Cultural Organisation Study about WWOOF
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a widely popular environmental movement with individual groups all around the world. Analysing this organisation from an anthropological perspective means to investigate how this institution thinks, how it operates and adapts to various settings, and how the people involved experience their participation with the organisation.
Through participant observation I am studying the organisation from within, in New Zealand, Austria and Great Britain. Conducting field research as a wwoofer means acquiring new skills and performing physical work every day, while at the same time living in very close contact with host families. Such close involvement with the organisation is a challenging and also rewarding research approach.
My research investigates the shared values and beliefs of WWOOF and how they are communicated across national and cultural boundaries. As a multi-sited ethnography it will provide insights into a grassroots movement networking on a global level. It will shed some light on a social movement uniting a vast number of people worldwide through shared values and beliefs.
I have completed my MA in European Ethnology at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria and studied Social Anthropology for a year at the St. Andrews University in Scotland.
After completing an Honours degree in Anthropology, Ben worked at the Office of Treaty Settlements where he helped negotiate settlements of historical Treaty grievances on behalf of the New Zealand Government. He then won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to New York city to complete a Masters Degree in Anthropology at Columbia University. Now Ben is working at the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations where he covers the work of the UN Security council general peace and security issues such as the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iran, and provides policy advice to the New Zealand Government.
Ben says he greatly enjoyed studying Anthropology at Victoria. The degree gave him skills essential to his current work. Anthropology is a great subject as it is wide enough to encompass many others; political science, economics and international relations, among others, all have their place within anthropology. but rather than focusing on just one, anthropology offers a holistic lens, essential in this interconnected and interdependent world.
The things I enjoyed the most about studying Anthropology were learning about different cultures and ways of doing things, and learning ways to interpret and understand these differences. This thinking broadened my world view. It made me more respectful of different ways of life and approaches to doing things. Studying anthropology gave me valuable skills in critical thinking, analysis, report writing, and qualitative research.
After I completed my undergraduate degree in Anthropology I taught English in South Korea, and then returned to New Zealand to complete my Honours degree in Anthropology. I have been working at Statistics New Zealand on the Census of Population and Dwellings ever since.
Statistics New Zealand is the country's national statistical office and produces a wealth of key social and economic information. While this might seem a far cry from my anthropology background the skills anthropology gave me have been very useful in my job here.
The five-yearly census is one of the largest community exercises undertaken in New Zealand, and involves counting every person and dwelling in the country. Anthropology has helped me to understand the diversity and complexity of the population we are measuring. This is important when we think about how we go about designing the questions that we ask, collecting the information from respondents, and interpreting the information that we get back.
Recently I have been fortunate to be able to use some of the qualitative research methods that I learnt in Anthropology. I conducted some questionnaire design research into an emerging ethnic identity in New Zealand. I used cognitive interviews and focus groups to gather the information, and my critical analysis skills to interpret the information and write up the results. I really enjoyed my time studying Anthropology at Victoria University. I made a lot of great friends who are doing a diverse range of interesting things with their Anthropology degree. I would do it all again and am even considering taking some time out to do my Master's!