Anthropology PhD students research profiles

man thinking sociology anthropology

A. Asbjørn Jøn 

Working title: Murihiku's nineteenth-century maritime heritage and its use in contemporary regional identity negotiation / affirmation.

Supervisors:
Primary Supervisor: Professor Lyndon Fraser
Co-Supervisor: Professor C. Michael Hall
Advisor: Emeritus Professor John S. Ryan

Contact details: ajo93@uclive.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
This study considers links between major nineteenth-century maritime heritage themes and current day affirmations of collective regional identity along the south-eastern coast of Murihiku (between Port Chalmers and Riverton / Aparima). Throughout the nineteenth-century, the geography, economic interests and communicative webs of the region were largely tied to the maritime industries and trade routes of shipping lanes and coastal ports – cementing strong connections between residents, their way of life, and the sea. Today, social actors are regularly exposed to the echoes of memory from that not so distant past – through touristic identity festivals, heritage commemorations and sites, and even the bric-à-brac of the period - which remains on display in cultural memory institutions. This thesis seeks to understand the negotiation and affirmation of the region’s collective identity of place, based upon key elements of that maritime heritage – including unpacking important issues such as: multi-layered notions of place, the issue of voice in interpretation, heritage presentation and representation and the associated heritage tourism dimension.

Underpinning that discussion is an analysis of the social processes operating within the negotiation and affirmation of heritage and identity – and then examining the way that the construction of social meaning and social memory within this southern context fits with those theoretical models. Research for this project is being undertaken through a series of three case studies:

'Whales, whalers and whaling stations'.
'The Shipwreck Coast'.
'Otago Harbour and movements towards the Union Steam Ship Company'.

Amir Sayadabdi

Working title: The Role of Foodways in the Expression and Maintenance of Identity among the Iranian Community in Diaspora: The Case of New Zealand

Supervisors:
Professor Patrick McAllister (supervisor)
Alison Loveridge (co-supervisor)

Contact details: amir.sayadabdi@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
Amir's research would investigate and analyse the relationship between foodways and identity in diaspora by focusing on a specific case, that of Iranians in New Zealand. Providing a description of Iranian foodways in New Zealand and a descriptive analysis of Iranian identity (mostly national and gendered), his project will present a detailed ethnographically based extension of the basic tenet of ethnogastronomy, that foods and identity are interconnected symbolically, that each aids in the understanding of the other. His thesis is going to demonstrate what anthropology has to offer to our understanding of the complexity of meanings and uses of food within a particular sociocultural context.

Dr Raj Sekhar Aich

Phd in applied aesthetics Psychology, pursuing my second PhD, in Anthropology.

Working title: Exploring photographic practices in White Shark conservation network.

Supervisors:
Primary supervisor: Dr Piers Locke
Co-supervisor: Assoc. Dr Barbara Garrie

Contact details: rajsekhar.aich@gmail.comraj.aich@pg.canterbury.ac.nz+64 220715948

Thesis summary:
My primary research interest is psycho-cultural, Multispecies perspective in art creation and contemplation, presently focusing on Human- White shark interaction and art created from the process. Human- shark interactions transcend millennium, configured by the complex interplay of history, culture, and environment. Presently, humans find themselves responsible for preserving the lives and oceanscapes of these often misunderstood but charismatic icons for conservation. Especially the image of great white Sharks plays a significant role in this enterprise, but has received little sustained consideration. Consequently, this research will examine the mobilizing role of photography in engendering affective networks of concern for white sharks. This will involve ethnographic study in New Zealand to explore the aesthetics of white shark photography, and the situations and practices by which photographic images are produced, circulated, and consumed. This will involve charting the networks that emerge from the capture, contemplation, and circulation of images, and the ways they are mediated both by technologies of representation, and by personal histories, affinities, and experiences. Situated at the intersection of the anthropology of photography, multispecies ethnography, and anthropology of conservation, this research will make a novel contribution to the field of human-shark relations by helping us understand the affective power and patterns of movement by which images of white shark make a difference in the world.

Patricia Ann Allan

Working title: The Christchurch Cathedral Controversy: Recovery and Rebuilding in the Wake of a Major Natural Disaster.

Supervisors:
Primary supervisor: Professor Patrick McAllister
Co-supervisor: Assoc. Professor Lyndon Fraser

Contact details: patricia.allan@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
This project aims to document, analyse and explain the post-earthquake controversy surrounding the future of Christ Church Cathedral, exploring why it is the subject of prolonged and acrimonious contention.

Chandan Bose

Working title: Is there an Indian way of Telling a Story? Technique, Performance and Function of Narration of Cherial Scrolls of Telangana.

Supervisors:
TBA (primary supervisor)
Dr Piers Locke (co-supervisor)

Contact details: chandan.bose@uclive.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
A significant group of narrative paintings from the Telangana region of the Deccan in India, called Cherial paintings, with subject matter reflecting the local interpretation of the classical mythologies, has been fairly recently added to the corpus of Indian art. Executed in bold style, they are the largest in size among the known examples of Indian pigment paintings on cloth.

The proposed research, a deep-ethography based in the politically volatile Telagana region of Andhra Pradesh, attempts to document a selection of these paintings, not only for their technique and purpose of narration, but also for their sophisticated contribution to the historical discussion and philosophical speculation on identity and shared culture. Painted by village artists, and performed by itinerant bards for particular caste communities, these scroll paintings perpetuate the ancient tradition of story-telling and of recording collective histories through visual material accompanied by narration.

Tuhina Ganguly

Working title: Imagining India as a Spiritual Travel Destination: Re-viewing ‘India’ and the ‘West’ in Each Other’s Social Imaginaries

Supervisors:
Dr Mike Grimshaw (Primary Supervisor)
Dr Piers Locke (Co-Supervisor)

Contact details: tuhina.ganguly@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
Contemporary travel narratives demonstrate an urgent desire among Western tourists to experience spirituality in India, and India through the prism of spirituality. This research project explores the dynamics of India’s emergence as a spiritual travel destination. How is India being imagined and experienced as a spiritual land through engagements between European tourists and Indians? How are these engagements restructuring the ways in which ‘India’ and the ‘West’ feature in each other’s social imaginaries? The ‘spiritual India’ trope is not new, nor is it innocent in its political ramifications. The spiritual space, thus, being offered by and within India – through ashrams (hermitage) for instance – is it fortifying the spiritual East/material West dichotomy, or does it afford the possibility of destabilising this very dichotomy creating a space that is neither uniquely Indian nor specifically Western? This project, therefore, enquires into global constructions of India as a spiritual travel destination, and the ways in which ‘India’ and the ‘West’ imagine each other as socio-political categories within spiritual tourism practices. It is based on extensive field work in Puducherry, India, home to Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Kathleen Harrington-watt

Working title: Privileged Photographs: The social agency of the British Indentured Migrant photographic archives of Mauritius.

Supervisor:
Dr Richard Vokes
Dr Piers Locke

Contact details: kathleen.harrington-watt@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
Kathleen’s doctorate research is centred on the Island of Mauritius and the indentured migrant colonial photographic archives. These archives not only play a significant role in understanding the history of Mauritius and its colonial past, they also perform as present day icons of identity and belonging in Mauritian social, political and vernacular contexts. This thesis seeks to understand the unique context and setting of these photographic archives and their powerful social agency. The social relationships of these archives are bound by both history and modernity. Over the last 150 years they have been through multiple processes of adaptation and transformation and play a significant role in all areas of Mauritian society today. The methodologies use to conduct this research will rely on the concepts of participant authority and collaboration and will include visual research methods such as, photo-elicitation, film, and interview. It will keep at the centre of enquiry the social lives and relationships of the photographs themselves.

Yuen Ching Lam

Working title: Mindfulness and the Engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh

Supervisors:
Primary supervisor: Prof Patrick McAllister
Co-supervisor: Dr Anne Scott, Dr Aditya Malik

Contact details: ching.lam@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
This research explores the teachings and practices of mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, writer, poet, calligrapher and peace activist, who resides in Plum Village, a Buddhist monastic community and retreat center in France. According to him, mindfulness is “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing” (http://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/). Thich Nhat Hanh is known for his teachings on integrating mindfulness practice into everyday life for creating peace in oneself and the world. He has transformed and adapted Buddhism in a way that links meditative practice with social engagement and this engagement has made a significant impact on Buddhist practice in the West. Through fieldwork and interviews, this project will uncover how his teachings could affect people’s daily life and have an impact on society. My research outcomes will provide insight into the transformative effects of mindfulness practice in the contemporary world, setting the framework for further research.

Rosa Persendt

Working title: Children’s understanding of Health and Illness in Namibia

Supervisors:
Primary supervisor: Dr. Catherine Trundle
Co-supervisor: Associate Professor Pauline Barnett

Email contact: rmp99@uclive.ac.nzrpersendt@unam.na

Thesis summary:
This medical anthropological study will centrally examine children's concepts of health and illness among 12 boys and girls aged 10-12, in northern Namibia selected by voluntary participation with parental permission and using qualitative, ethnographic, narrative methods. Both health and illness involve family, community relationships, citizenships rights, socio economic context and broader cultural understandings which will be explored through data collection methods including body mapping, drawings, free listing, dramas, ball games, photovoice and health diaries. Little is known about Namibian children's understandings of health and illness and this 8 months field study, carried out in two parts, will involve informed consent from children, parents and caregivers, the cooperation of doctors, nurses, traditional healers will gain and the permission of the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee and Ministry of Health and Social Services, Namibia. It should lead to a better understanding of children's health issues in Namibia and Southern Africa, increasing much needed research in the anthropology of childhood and contributing to useful information for policy formation and that will strengthen the health and education sectors in Namibia.

Lu Zhou

Working title: Identity Construction in a Han Immigrant Community: A Case Study of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps

Supervisors:
Primary supervisor: Dr Zhifang Song
Co-supervisor: Professor Patrick McAllister

Email contact: lu.zhou@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Thesis summary:
My research is concerned with the question of what it means to be a member of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (referred to XPCC), how identities are constructed in everyday life in the context of state policies and to what extent they blur state-designated boundaries through their own agency. As an administrative organization which is independent from the provincial government, the divisions of XPCC are scattered all over Xinjiang and provide a convenient immigration network for Han immigrants. Composed mainly of immigrants, XPCC has a complicated population structure due to more than sixty years of migration history. The inhabitants associated with XPCC can be divided into a lot of groups depending on why, when and from where people have moved into Xinjiang. Each group may have experienced distinctive identity construction process. As a result residents in XPCC probably hold dissimilar identities. Being a community in a minority area produced by state-orchestrated immigration programs, state policies such as ethnic identification policy, the household registration system, the administration system, and the state farm system affect all aspects of people’s life.

Based on this situation, I raise the question of how the interaction between institutional constraint and subjective agency shapes the process of identity formation. Identity here is not limited to people’s explicit identity that is expressed by what they say, but also implicit identity that can be observed by what they do.


The current research interests of Anthropology staff are also a useful starting point when you are choosing your topic and area of interest, and when you are ready to identify suitable supervisors.

Explore the full list of student research in

Anthropology