Two social anthropologists, Associate Professor Jacqueline Leckie and Dr Gautam Ghosh, have been made redundant from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Otago through a 'Management of Change' process. There will now be two social anthropologists teaching in a department of eight permanent academic staff.
The job cuts are a result of a significant reduction in government funding to all tertiary institutions from 2011. In 2009 former Tertiary Education Union president Tom Ryan, whose union represents almost 1400 staff at Otago, told the Otago Daily Times that the Government’s decision to cut tertiary funding during a recession was “bizarre economics” and if the Government did not change its mind, New Zealand institutions would “slip down the ranks internationally” and would have trouble attracting students, staff, researchers and research funds. Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Waikato are also undergoing 'change proposals,' with job cuts signalled in the humanities.
ASAA/NZ Chairperson, Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich, has described the Otago redundancies as short-sighted. "Internationally, the number of students taking anthropology is in growth mode," she said. "The high enrolments we are experiencing at Victoria University of Wellington is not a bubble. Otago's decision to cut two social anthropology positions will make it difficult for the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology to offer a viable programme and suite of papers. It will also compromise the Department's ability to maintain the high quality of teaching and research for which its staff are internationally recognised."
One of those made redundant is Otago ASAA/NZ representative Associate Professor Jacqueline Leckie. She has 27 years of service in the Department and was appointed as its first female lecturer in Social Anthropology. Jacqui’s PhD is from the University of Otago and she lectured for 7 years at the University of the South Pacific and Kenyatta University before returning to her home town of Dunedin where she lives with her partner and daughter, who is doing a degree in Humanities at Otago.
At the end of 2016 Jacqui finished two terms as Head of Department and is a former Convenor of the Social Anthropology Programme. She has established popular courses on Pacific anthropology, the anthropology of work, and a postgraduate course on anthropology and development of the Pacific. Jacqui has supervised 17 PhD and 12 MA students to completion, currently is supervising 5 PhD students. In 2016 she was the Department’s Graduate Convenor, Student Exchange Officer, and Pacific Student Support Officer.
Jacqui is a foundational member of anthropological research in the Pacific and South Asia, and she has long been at the heart of a variety of international networks (including the ASAA/NZ, the Association of Social Anthropologists of Oceania, and the Pacific History Association). Her current research specialities include Asia Pacific, diaspora and migration, heritage and identity, gender, and Pacific biocultural health. She was awarded a University of Otago Prestigious Writing Grant in 2016 to complete a manuscript on Colonizing ‘Madness’ in Fiji for University Hawai’i Press and plans to extend this to research the impact and entanglement of psychiatry and global mental health strategies on Pacific Peoples. Jacqui has also begun a new project entitled Lost and Forgotten Diseases of Asia-Pacific: Yaws and Syphilis and is a Principal Investigator with the Otago Asia-Pacific Biocultural Health Research Theme. She had intended to develop new research on migration and refugee settlement in Dunedin. She is a Co-Director of the 2017 Otago Foreign Policy School on ‘Open and Closed Borders: The Geopolitics of Migration.’
Jacqui’s research includes 2 major monographs, 6 edited books and over 70 peer-reviewed chapters and articles with local and international publishers. In view of such a prolific career and service to Otago, it is inconceivable that Jacqui was made redundant.
We also struggle to understand the rationale behind Gautam's redundancy. In addition to having a strong international presence in the international anthropology community (including being on the editorial board of one of the premier anthropology journals, Anthropology Quarterly), Gautam is an award-winning teacher.
Anthropology is especially well placed to teach future global citizens and meet the demands of an increasingly multicultural society. The department at Otago has a prestigious history and its strong presence on the South Island makes a necessary contribution to New Zealand society. These redundancies are a further threat to the maintenance of a vibrant tertiary education system in New Zealand.