Departmental Seminars

Anthropology Department Seminars at the University of Sydney


Seminars: Thursdays 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Seminar Room 148, R. C. Mills Building, Level 1, A26

About the seminars and other department events

The anthropology department at the University of Sydney holds regular seminars for staff, students, visiting anthropologists and colleagues from related fields to exchange ideas and discuss new research. On most Thursdays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. during the teaching term, an invited speaker presents their work in a seminar, followed by discussion, then usually a light reception.

For futher information, please contact Terry Woronov, convenor of the symposium.

Semester 1, 2016

Thursday 10 March 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Dr Yasmine Musharbash
University of Sydney
Title: “Warlpiri dog tales: of protectors, companions, and collaborators
Abstract:

Through narrative portraits of individual dogs, combined with two decades’ worth of ethnographic data about relations between canines and Warlpiri people at Yuendumu, central Australia, I revisit, revise and amend key themes of the Australianist dingo/dog debate of the 1960s and 70s. My premise is that then, as today, camp dogs at Yuendumu can be characterized by their 'inbetweenness'; (Kohlig 1978:109); they are ‘of the camp’ but not human, essential collaborators in boundary making and maintenance between not only the domestic realm and the world but also between Indigenous and non-Indigenous spheres. Exploring the neo-colonial permutations of Aboriginal/canine relations, I put forward, can shed new light on contemporary Warlpiri ways of being in the world.

During the great dog/dingo debate, hunting as a motive for the, as Meggitt (1965) called it, quasi-domestication of canines by Aboriginal people was already hotly contested. At Yuendumu today, with guns having replaced spears and spear throwers, and a sedentised rather than a hunting/gathering life-style being the norm, hunting as the primary raison d'être for the bond between humans and canines is even less plausible. Participants in the debate advocated other motives: the warmth dogs provide on cold winter nights, their eating leftovers around the camp fulfilling hygienic functions, their ritual importance and symbolic significance, and their providing an “emotional release for nurturant behaviour” (Hamilton 1972:294). Most importantly to my paper, all authors listed the same reason as secondary, namely the protection dogs/dingos provide by alerting a camp to the arrival of strangers, be they human or spirits. I argue that today, dogs being “the mangy sentinels of the night” (Meehan 1965:100) is the first priority in continuing canine/human entanglements, and that this has taken on specific characteristics molded to sedentised camp life in remote neo-colonial Aboriginal towns. To the task of protection, I add further, contemporary (and perhaps long-term) motives accentuating continued human/canine domestic co-existence: (1) culturally-specific kind of companionship formulated and understood in terms of kinship (different in both practice and meaning from that provided by, say, ‘pets’), (2) canine’s intrinsic entertainment value, and (3) their role as ‘participant-observant witnesses’ in colonial and neocolonial processes.

Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 17 March 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Paul-David Lutz
University of Sydney
Title: Images of Indolence – Resources, Land and Labour in Rural Laos
Abstract:

Over the past three decades, policy makers in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) have increasingly sought to integrate the country’s supposedly abundant natural resources into the global economy. State campaigns, such as “turning land into capital” or making Laos the “battery of Asia”, have been intertwined with ostensibly neo-liberal policies facilitating resource extraction and land-concessions to (mostly) foreign companies. In the context of an official discourse that continues to emphasize Laos’ status as a “people’s democratic state”, these policies have been justified by two interrelated arguments.

Firstly, and in a mode reminiscent of the “neo-extractivism” of leftist governments in Latin America, Lao policy-makers have argued that the revenue generated through land- and resource-rents is key to enabling the Lao state to deliver prosperity and development to its citizens. Secondly, Lao policy-makers have argued that engaging international companies is vital to making more productive use of land and resources, implying that their “traditional” use by rural Lao people is somehow deficient.

My talk will seek to engage with these justifications. By tracing the historical trajectory of a narrative that construes rural Laos as a plentiful and untouched “El Dorado” (Pholsena, 2006) and, concomitantly, rural Lao people as both profligate and indolent, I will seek to examine one of the ways that state efforts to reconfigure the relationship between resources, land and labour have been rationalized in Laos. This examination is part of my incipient effort to link ethnographic enquiries into aspirations and social change in Laos (e.g. High 2008, 2014) with Marxist-inspired approaches to the political economy of Laos (e.g. Barney, 2011; Baird 2011d). It is also a prelude to my upcoming ethnographic research into the local dynamics of socio-economic and cultural change in one upland community in northern Laos’ Phongsali province.

Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 24 March 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Zevic Mishor
University of Sydney
Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 14 April 2016, 3-5pm
Speakers: Dr Rozanna Lilley
Independent Scholar
Title: Excuse the mess: Maternal narratives about autism, kinship and domestic dis/order
Abstract: Drawing on qualitative interviews with 22 Australian mothers, as well as autoethnographic experience, I analyse how women contextualise their child’s autism diagnosis within a broader landscape of psychiatric disorders. Following Ian Hacking’s influential concept of ‘looping effects’, I investigate how clinical ideas about autism influence lay understandings of kinship, making particular kinds of families. The elasticity of clinical constructs of a) the autism spectrum and b) the Broader Autism Phenotype encourages mothers to reinterpret familial histories, creating tragic narratives focused on the repetitive (genetic) recurrence of oddities and deficits. The challenge of autism to maternal identity is often expressed in tropes of domestic disorder. Sometimes women transform this wreckage into a story they can live with; at other times, they experience chaos as they grapple with developmental disability and difference. These pathologising reinterpretations of kinship point to the dis/order instantiated by diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 21 April 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Jesse Dart
University of Sydney
Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 28 April 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Dr Paul Mason
Woolcock Institute
Title: An Offer that cannot be refused: Tuberculosis and the medicalisation of poverty
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 12 May 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Dr Ben Miller
University of Sydney
Title: David Unaipon's Benalla sermon (1914): Aboriginal writing and rhetoric
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]


Thursday 19 May 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Wendy Ristreka
University of Sydney
Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]




Thursday 26 May 2016, 3-5pm
Speaker: Dr Jadran Mimica
University of Sydney
Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]