Associate Professor Tess Lea

A18 - Brennan MacCallum Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +612 9351 6777
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> Karrabing: Keeping Country Live

Biographical details

Associate Professor Tess Lea is an anthropologist who specialises in the anthropology of policy. Her fundamental interest is with issues of (dys)function: how it occurs and to what, whom and how it is ascribed. Looking at extraction industries, everyday militarisation, houses, infrastructure (eg plumbing and roads), schools, and efforts to create culturally congruent forms of employment and enterprise from multiple perspectives, her work asks why the path to realising seemingly straightforward ambitions is so densely obstacled. As part of this she is also exploring ways in which Aboriginal families might tell their stories and commandeer policy openings and closings for their own ends. For this pursuit she is working closely with Professor Elizabeth Povinelli from Columbia University and the Karrabing Film Collective (see www.karrabing.com). Lea also has a strong history of applied work, having inaugurated the School for Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University; and worked as a policy and ministerial advisor at senior levels of government. She has been awarded a number of Australian Research Council grants; fellowships (e.g. Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship; Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship;, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge Visiting Fellowship); and was the inaugural University Medallist for Women’s Studies at the ANU. Her publications span interests in housing, health and education in regional and remote Australia.

Research interests

Tess’s research interests include human/other animal relations; conceptualisations of the anthropocene; cultures of audit and the anthropology policy; development theory and the will to improve (across housing, education, health, infrastructure and other social policy fields); the tactics of post-colonial power and liberal settler governance; institutional ethnography; urban and regional research.

Teaching and supervision

Tess is available to supervise in subjects matching her interests above, including organisational or policy studies; developmentalism ; the materiality of inequality; the built environment; the workings of contemporary capital; the statisticalisation of everyday life; and human/other animal relations. Any GCS project which involves ethnographic fieldwork will also be of interest.

Current projects

Other current ARC-funded linkage projects focus on the trials and tribulations of the Housing for Health program; Indigenous parental engagement with schools; and implementation of the first randomised control trial of a literacy software program, ABRACADABRA, in collaboration with the Centre for Studies in Learning and Performance, Montreal.

Awards and honours

Editorial Board, OCEANIA and Anthropology in Action

Karrabing Indigenous Corporation, Honorary Member; The Hawke Research Institute, UniSA; Advisory Board Member Centre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research; Member, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; Fellow, Australian Anthropology Society; Member, Australian Cultural Studies Association; Member, European Association of Social Anthropology; Member, American Anthropological Association; Member, American Cultural Anthropology Association; Member, Association for the Anthropology of Policy

In the media

Short film produced by Tess - Povinelli, E. and L. Johnson (2012). Karrabing! Low Tide Turning. Australia, Karrabing Indigenous Corporation: read news story here.

Selected grants

2017

  • Housing for Health: Fixing Infrastructure and Housing Policy in Indigenous Australia and Beyond; Lea T, McConnell A, Tawa M, Torzillo P; The Henry Halloran Trust/Incubator.

2016

  • Global Ethics and Futures (Open Learning Environment - Undergraduate); Miles R, Anderson W, Bleasel J, Haq I, Lea T, Griffiths P, Jou C, Poronnik P, Race K, Hickey-Moody A, Ross P; DVC Education/Large Educational Innovation Grant.

2013

  • Human Animal Research Network; Probyn-Rapsey F, Belov K, Black C, Degeling C, Fawcett (Quain) A, Irvine R, Johnston J, Lea T, Kindt J, Michael M, McGreevy P, McManus P, Raubenheimer D, Schlosberg D, Spurr B, Shine R, Wadiwel D; DVC Research/Research Network Scheme (SyReNS).

2010

  • Can there be good policy Tracing the paths between policy intent, evidence and practical benefit in regional and remote Australia.; Lea T; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

Selected publications & creative works

Download citations: PDF RTF Endnote

Books

  • Lea, T. (2014). Darwin. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing.
  • Lea, T. (2008). Bureaucrats and Bleeding Hearts: Indigenous health in northern Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales (UNSW) Press.

Edited Books

  • Lea, T., Kowal, E., Cowlishaw, G. (2006). Moving Anthropology: Critical Indigenous Studies. Australia: Charles Darwin University Press.

Book Chapters

  • Lea, T. (2017). Deceptive Darwin, the country capital. In C. Driscoll, K. Darian-Smith & D. Nichols (Eds.), Cultural Sustainability in Rural Communities: Rethinking Australian Country Towns, (pp. 84-100). Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Lea, T. (2017). Infrastructure reform in Indigenous Australia: From mud to mining to military empires. In Penelope Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen, Atsuro Morita (Eds.), Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion, (pp. 64-75). UK: Routledge (Taylor and Francis).
  • Lea, T., Rollo, S. (2016). A Servant is Not Greater Than His Master: American Primacy in Australian Security. In Matthew Chambers (Eds.), Hearts and Minds: US Cultural Management in 21st Century Foreign Relations, (pp. 17-42). Frankfurt: Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Lea, T. (2015). Educating for inequality: Indigenous schooling in Northern Australia. In Megan Watkins, Greg Noble, Catherine Driscoll (Eds.), Cultural Pedagogies and Human Conduct, (pp. 144-157). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Lea, T. (2014). A Benign Arithmetic: Taking Up Facts About Indigenous Health. In Timothy Neale, Crystal McKinnon, Eve Vincent (Eds.), History, Power, Text: Cultural Studies and Indigenous Studies, (pp. 250-270). Sydney: UTSePress.
  • Lea, T., Kowal, E., Cowlishaw, G. (2006). Double Binds. In Tess Lea, Emma Kowal, Gillian Cowlishaw (Eds.), Moving Anthropology: Critical Indigenous Studies, (pp. 1-15). Australia: Charles Darwin University Press.

Journals

  • Probyn-Rapsey, F., Donaldson, S., Ioannides, G., Lea, T., Marsh, K., Neimanis, A., Potts, A., Taylor, N., Twine, R., Wadiwel, D., et al (2016). A Sustainable Campus: The Sydney Declaration on Interspecies Sustainability. Animal Studies Journal, 5(1), 110-151. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2016). Senses, ethnography and spatial politics: storying Darwin. Postcolonial Studies, 19(1), 107-112. [More Information]
  • Lea, T., Torzillo, P. (2016). The cunning of data in Indigenous housing and health. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 44(4), 272-282. [More Information]
  • de la Cadena, M., Lien, M., Blaser, M., Jensen, C., Lea, T., Morita, A., Swanson, H., Ween, G., West, P., Wiener, M. (2015). Anthropology and STS: Generative interfaces, multiple locations. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 5(1), 437-475. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2015). What has water got to do with it? Indigenous public housing and Australian settler-colonial relations. Settler Colonial Studies, 5(4), 375-386. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2014). "From Little Things, Big Things Grow": The Unfurling of Wild Policy. E-Flux, 58, 1-9.
  • Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Wolgemuth, J., Chalkiti, K. (2014). Challenges of conducting systematic research in Australia's Northern Territory. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 34(1), 36-48. [More Information]
  • Wolgemuth, J., Abrami, P., Helmer, J., Savage, R., Harper, H., Lea, T. (2014). Examining the Impact of ABRACADABRA on Early Literacy in Northern Australia: An Implementation Fidelity Analysis. The Journal of Educational Research, 107(4), 299-311. [More Information]
  • Wolgemuth, J., Savage, R., Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Abrami, P., Kirby, A., Chalkiti, K., Morris, P., Carapetis, J., et al (2013). ABRACADABRA aids Indigenous and non-Indigenous early literacy in Australia: Evidence from a multisite randomized controlled trial. Computers & Education, 67, 250-264. [More Information]
  • Pholeros, P., Lea, T., Rainow, S., Sowerbutts, T., Torzillo, P. (2013). Improving the state of health hardware in Australian Indigenous housing: building more houses is not the only answer. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 72(Supplement 1), 1-6. [More Information]
  • Harper, H., Helmer, J., Lea, T., Chalkiti, K., Emmett, S., Wolgemuth, J. (2012). ABRACADABRA for magic under which conditions? Case studies of a web-based literacy intervention in the Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 35(1), 33-50.
  • Lea, T., Young, M., Markham, F., Holmes, C., Doran, B. (2012). Being Moved (On): The Biopolitics of Walking in Australia's Frontier Towns. Radical History Review, Fall (114), 139-163. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2012). Contemporary Anthropologies of Indigenous Australia. Annual Review of Anthropology, 41, 187-202. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2012). Ecologies of Development on Groote Eylandt. Australian Humanities Review, 53, 1-11.
  • Lea, T. (2012). When looking for anarchy, look to the state: Fantasies of regulation in forcing disorder within the Australian Indigenous estate. Critique of Anthropology, 32(2), 109-124. [More Information]
  • Cowlishaw, G., Lea, T. (2010). Development, heroism and the indigenous life project. Dialectical Anthropology, 34(2), 223-234. [More Information]

Research Reports

  • Lea, T., Driscoll, C. (2012). Evaluation of The Smith Family's Girls at the Centre Program Centralian Middle School, Alice Springs, April 2012, (pp. 5 - 60). Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney.

2017

  • Lea, T. (2017). Deceptive Darwin, the country capital. In C. Driscoll, K. Darian-Smith & D. Nichols (Eds.), Cultural Sustainability in Rural Communities: Rethinking Australian Country Towns, (pp. 84-100). Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Lea, T. (2017). Infrastructure reform in Indigenous Australia: From mud to mining to military empires. In Penelope Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen, Atsuro Morita (Eds.), Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion, (pp. 64-75). UK: Routledge (Taylor and Francis).

2016

  • Lea, T., Rollo, S. (2016). A Servant is Not Greater Than His Master: American Primacy in Australian Security. In Matthew Chambers (Eds.), Hearts and Minds: US Cultural Management in 21st Century Foreign Relations, (pp. 17-42). Frankfurt: Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Probyn-Rapsey, F., Donaldson, S., Ioannides, G., Lea, T., Marsh, K., Neimanis, A., Potts, A., Taylor, N., Twine, R., Wadiwel, D., et al (2016). A Sustainable Campus: The Sydney Declaration on Interspecies Sustainability. Animal Studies Journal, 5(1), 110-151. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2016). Senses, ethnography and spatial politics: storying Darwin. Postcolonial Studies, 19(1), 107-112. [More Information]
  • Lea, T., Torzillo, P. (2016). The cunning of data in Indigenous housing and health. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 44(4), 272-282. [More Information]

2015

  • de la Cadena, M., Lien, M., Blaser, M., Jensen, C., Lea, T., Morita, A., Swanson, H., Ween, G., West, P., Wiener, M. (2015). Anthropology and STS: Generative interfaces, multiple locations. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 5(1), 437-475. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2015). Educating for inequality: Indigenous schooling in Northern Australia. In Megan Watkins, Greg Noble, Catherine Driscoll (Eds.), Cultural Pedagogies and Human Conduct, (pp. 144-157). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Lea, T. (2015). What has water got to do with it? Indigenous public housing and Australian settler-colonial relations. Settler Colonial Studies, 5(4), 375-386. [More Information]

2014

  • Lea, T. (2014). "From Little Things, Big Things Grow": The Unfurling of Wild Policy. E-Flux, 58, 1-9.
  • Lea, T. (2014). A Benign Arithmetic: Taking Up Facts About Indigenous Health. In Timothy Neale, Crystal McKinnon, Eve Vincent (Eds.), History, Power, Text: Cultural Studies and Indigenous Studies, (pp. 250-270). Sydney: UTSePress.
  • Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Wolgemuth, J., Chalkiti, K. (2014). Challenges of conducting systematic research in Australia's Northern Territory. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 34(1), 36-48. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2014). Darwin. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing.
  • Wolgemuth, J., Abrami, P., Helmer, J., Savage, R., Harper, H., Lea, T. (2014). Examining the Impact of ABRACADABRA on Early Literacy in Northern Australia: An Implementation Fidelity Analysis. The Journal of Educational Research, 107(4), 299-311. [More Information]

2013

  • Wolgemuth, J., Savage, R., Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Abrami, P., Kirby, A., Chalkiti, K., Morris, P., Carapetis, J., et al (2013). ABRACADABRA aids Indigenous and non-Indigenous early literacy in Australia: Evidence from a multisite randomized controlled trial. Computers & Education, 67, 250-264. [More Information]
  • Pholeros, P., Lea, T., Rainow, S., Sowerbutts, T., Torzillo, P. (2013). Improving the state of health hardware in Australian Indigenous housing: building more houses is not the only answer. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 72(Supplement 1), 1-6. [More Information]

2012

  • Harper, H., Helmer, J., Lea, T., Chalkiti, K., Emmett, S., Wolgemuth, J. (2012). ABRACADABRA for magic under which conditions? Case studies of a web-based literacy intervention in the Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 35(1), 33-50.
  • Lea, T., Young, M., Markham, F., Holmes, C., Doran, B. (2012). Being Moved (On): The Biopolitics of Walking in Australia's Frontier Towns. Radical History Review, Fall (114), 139-163. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2012). Contemporary Anthropologies of Indigenous Australia. Annual Review of Anthropology, 41, 187-202. [More Information]
  • Lea, T. (2012). Ecologies of Development on Groote Eylandt. Australian Humanities Review, 53, 1-11.
  • Lea, T., Driscoll, C. (2012). Evaluation of The Smith Family's Girls at the Centre Program Centralian Middle School, Alice Springs, April 2012, (pp. 5 - 60). Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney.
  • Lea, T. (2012). When looking for anarchy, look to the state: Fantasies of regulation in forcing disorder within the Australian Indigenous estate. Critique of Anthropology, 32(2), 109-124. [More Information]

2010

  • Cowlishaw, G., Lea, T. (2010). Development, heroism and the indigenous life project. Dialectical Anthropology, 34(2), 223-234. [More Information]

2008

  • Lea, T. (2008). Bureaucrats and Bleeding Hearts: Indigenous health in northern Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales (UNSW) Press.

2006

  • Lea, T., Kowal, E., Cowlishaw, G. (2006). Double Binds. In Tess Lea, Emma Kowal, Gillian Cowlishaw (Eds.), Moving Anthropology: Critical Indigenous Studies, (pp. 1-15). Australia: Charles Darwin University Press.
  • Lea, T., Kowal, E., Cowlishaw, G. (2006). Moving Anthropology: Critical Indigenous Studies. Australia: Charles Darwin University Press.

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