Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Guest Blog: Performing Identities on Facebook: Young Bhutanese Women and 'Selfie' Photos

I met Jessica about a year ago, at a mutual friends 21st Birthday when we discovered we were both completing our Master's degrees in Anthropology - we met again, a few months later, at an Anthropology conference in Queenstown and the paper she presented on her research was amazing to say the least. After getting to know Jessica and learning more about her research, I knew she needed to guest blog for us here at Anthsisters! Jessica's MA research traced the re-settlement experiences of five Bhutanese refugee women: a single mother and her four teenage daughters. The visual methodologies used in this project exposed the complicated "body appearance work" that Bhutanese women willingly undergo as they learn how to be 'Kiwi' women, as well as the many ways social media is used to negotiate these experiences. This post is based on her research - enjoy!

- Tayla

Jessica Halley is a Massey University Graduate and a social anthropologist by trade, her ongoing interest in life history analysis and women's stories has shaped her research projects. Her research interests include identity construction, migration, new media technology, visual ethnography, globalisation and women's stories. Having completed her master's thesis, Jessica is currently teaching at Massey University and is preparing embark on a PhD.

If you want to talk to Jessica about her research, contact her on:


Reflecting on the many pathways this research took, I can see that the course of my analyses was organised by the visual methodologies I used. At its roots, visual ethnography endeavours to explore and comprehend visual manifestations of culture and identity. This means that the items we have in our lives, the clothes we wear, the pictures and films we enjoy are often indirect displays of our cultural backgrounds or individual identity.

As an anthropologist, I was aware that my research focused on a vulnerable group, refugee women. If I was behind the camera lens and spent my fieldwork photographing them, I would have power over the direction of this research. I wanted the direction of this project to be guided by my participants. To achieve this, the participants needed to be behind the camera lens, so I relinquished control over my research and provided four young refugee women with digital cameras. I asked them to make a photo album that experienced their identities.

Thursday, 24 September 2015


I met the rhizome about two and a half years ago and since then it won't go away. Honestly once you know about it, you'll see it everywhere, kind of like the game, which you just lost. We were introduced by Deleuze and Guattari in 1987 at 'A Thousand Plateaus'* but I'm gonna make the call and say a lot of people conceived of the world through rhizomic glasses before that.

People that know about plants probably know the rhizome as a botanical term referring to 'a continuously growing horizontal underground stem which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals' #google. 

Well rhizome the theory is pretty much the same. 

Just like ginger, it is resilient and has the capacity to regenerate.

Just like potatoes, it involves multiple connections and a lack of hierarchy.

Just like pingao, it spreads through underground systems and has multiple entryways.

Just like bamboo, it reproduces through imitation and deterritorialisation. 

And just like ferns it's made up of multiplicities with no unifying centre.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Understanding Reflexivity 

Reflexivity is the awareness of the effect that anthropologists have on their research, the experience of fieldwork and the process of writing ethnography - applying a reflexive approach allows one to reflect on the production of ethnographic material. Ethnography is affected by the anthropologist in a number of ways - their position, personal history, socio-cultural circumstances, the theoretical framework within which they are working and the relationship between themselves and their participants. By being reflexive, anthropologists consider the effects that all of these have on their work and therefore situate themselves within their research.

Acknowledging my position in my research

For my master's research, I looked at the embodiment of fatness - that is, the lived experience of being, and living, fat (a quick note that my participants and I came to a mutual agreement to use the word fat rather than 'obese' or 'overweight' as the word fat is only viewed as a negative term because we have implied that is a bad thing to be. By using the word fat to describe their bodies, participants and I were reclaiming the word as a self-identifying term, rather than something rude or negative).

This research focused on the way in which fat individuals experience, negotiate and feel about their own bodies and I did this through the use of photographs - all of my participants were asked to provide images  that represented their experiences of living life as a fat person, these images were accompanied by narratives and stories throughout my thesis. And this choice of methodology came from a reflexive acknowledgement of myself, my position in my research, and my own body.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Anthropology... What kind of job will you get with that? - Chats with Sam

Last week at Victoria University, we had 'Study at Vic Day' - an open day for prospective students. I spent some time on the Cultural Anthropology stand, talking to potential students who were interested in studying Anthropology... aside from many people having no idea what it was, I was asked the same question from every person

So... what kind of job can you get with that?

Classic. Luckily, anthsisters have another installment of 'Anthropology... what kind of job will you get with that?' To answer that question.. and to prove that anthropology can land you an awesome job, I talked to Sam, who finished his honours year in anthropology at Vic Uni last year. Enjoy!

- Tayla

Sam is currently living in London and working in the digital marketing world. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Music and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Cultural Anthropology. His passions and interests are art, literature, music, film, television, music video gaming and people. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


TW: Discussions of Racism 

Defining ethnocentrism 

Recognizing and addressing ethnocentrism is one of the most important parts of anthropological practice. Being ethnocentric involves evaluating another culture solely through the lens of your own cultural values and standards, and is underpinned by a belief that your culture is inherently superior, natural, important,  or exclusively normal. Ethnocentrism is often tied in with notions of class, taste, morality, religion, and race. Ethnocentrism is visible where cultural differences are labelled as 'unnatural', 'abnormal', 'weird', or 'illogical'.

Ethnocentrism and 'broken' English

Stan Walker - a Māori recording artist and TV personality from Tauranga Moana, Tuhoe, and Ngati Tūwharetoa - was a judge on the X Factor NZ in 2013 and 2015. Throughout the show he used a mix of Te Reo Māori and a style of English that carries traits that signal Māori identity. Despite his success in the music industry the media and some members of the general public used his speech as a way to undermine his credibility. The word 'yous' in particular, brought the fire from mainstream NZ.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Be(com)ing a Responsible Māori Researcher - Reflecting on Fieldwork with Ngāti Rakaipaaka

Hi anthfriends! The following is a paper reflecting on the fieldwork I did with my iwi, Ngāti Rakaipaaka, for my thesis. I presented it last year at the International Competing Responsibilities Conference held in Wellington. Happy reading – Hollie :)

Tane-Nui-A-Rangi Marae. Photo by Moemoea Collective.
Tēnā koutou katoa, 

Ko Moumoukai tōku maunga

Ko Ngā Nuhaka tōku awa
Ko Tākitimu tōku waka
Ko Tāne Nui A Rangi tōku marae
Ko Ngāti Rakaipaaka tōku iwi
Ko Hira Patio Raroa rāua ko Kiriwera Pani ōku tīpuna
Ko Jackie Pani rāua ko Bob Russell ōku mātua
Nō reira ka puta mai ahau
Ā ko Hollie Russell tōku ingoa

Today my talk will focus on being and becoming a responsible Māori researcher. The being part is mostly what I've learnt from others, from what I've read, and from workshops I've been to. The becoming part is my experience of learning about and attempting to carry out Kaupapa Māori research for my thesis which considers Ngāti Rakaipaaka identity - discussing the past, present and future.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Anthropology... what kind of job will you get with that? - words of wisdom from Hayley

Kia ora! Long time no see.
We thought we would kick off a new round of blog posts with one of our most popular features 'anthropology... what kind of job will you get with that?'.
Yes if you have ever been a student of cultural anthropology you will most likely have been subjected to a bunch of similar questions  including "what even is anthropology?", or "Oh so like Bones the TV show?"  (Hmmm kinda but not really because I can't science/math), or even "Don't you want to make money?".
Never fear, we can reassure you that your chosen career path is a valid and important one. We have already talked to Caitlin about this and today we are going to share Hayley Bathard's story with you. We particularly love her advice for any budding anthropologists at the end of the piece. So....enjoy! And let us know below if you have had any funny comments on your degree choice. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a BA in Anthropology and Gender Studies, a BA (Hons) in Anthropology, and an MA in Anthropology. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Otago, and my postgrad at Victoria University of Wellington.

Tell us a bit about how you got into anthropology? Why you love it / hate it? What made you think to yourself “Hayley, anth is what I want to do with my life"?
I took a gap year after school which I hoped would give me time to decide what I really wanted to do at uni – instead,