Anthropology in Aotearoa Symposium at Victoria University of Wellington

On Thursday 11 May, the Cultural Anthropology Programme at Victoria University of Wellington is hosting a full-day Anthropology in Aotearoa Symposium. This Symposium is part of the events celebrating 50 years of Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington.  

The Symposium begins with keynote address by Dr. Michael Jackson, programme alumni and Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard University.

Existential Scarcity and Ethical Feeling

What we know full well to be a moral imperative (thou shalt not kill, or treat others as means not ends) or to be illegal (invading the territory of another sovereign state or crossing an international border without a valid visa) may, under certain circumstances, be felt to be justified. Whence does this feeling of rightness or justice come from if not from the moral and legal codes that one internalizes in the course of socialization in a particular culture or faith? This question has informed my research among migrants who cross international borders illegally, and whose recourse to deception, cunning, and disguise in defying police and border guards is justified on the grounds that these transgressions reflect a quest for life against death – a quest that transcends considerations of the moral and legal codes of particular nation states.

Prof Michael Jackson

Prof Michael Jackson

Dr. Michael D. Jackson is Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard University. He has done extensive fieldwork among the Kuranko (northeast Sierra Leone), the Warlpiri (Central Australia) and the Kulu-Yalanji (southeast Cape York) and is the author of 35 books of anthropology, poetry, memoir, and fiction. Recent titles include Lifeworlds: Essays in Existential Anthropology (2012), The Wherewithal of Life: Ethics, Migration, and the Question of Well-Being (2013), The Work of Art: Rethinking the Elementary Forms of Religious Life (2016), and Walking to Pencarrow: Selected Poems (2016). 

Professor Jackson's keynote will be followed by two panels drawing together anthropologists from across New Zealand to discuss the present and future of the discipline. 

Commoning Ethnography Panel

Contemporary ethnographic practices (and the political economies that drive them), raise important questions about the centres and peripheries of knowledge production and consumption. The most fundamental of these questions relates to who gets to be part of our disciplinary conversations and who is excluded. Following recent calls from within and beyond the academy to build a ‘knowledge commons’, this panel explores how the figure of the commons and practices of commoning might recraft ethnographic research for the 21st century. We ask: What might an ethnographic commons look like? What would it do? How might commoning reconfigure relationships between researchers and participants? What kinds of technologies, methods, and media might broaden the reach of our work and recompose our praxis? We invite contributors to this panel to critically consider new ways of opening up ethnography to diverse models of commoning. How can an ethnography of/for the commons engage diverse audiences, produce new modes of communication and research dissemination, reshape research relationships, and challenge the philosophical underpinnings of our discipline? 

Eli Elinoff (VUW): Towards an Ethnography Commons
Catherine Trundle (VUW): Feminist Critiques and Alternative Commons
Ruth Fitzgerald (Otago): How might commoning serve as a new pedagogical grounds for training ethnographers?
Dave Wilson (VUW): The Sound of Ethnography to Eome
Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich (VUW): Commoning Data Creation
Cris Shore (Auckland): Academic Capitalism, Anthropology and the Tragedy of the Knowledge Commons
Ruth Gibbons (Massey): Creative Practice: Challenging Perceptions
Tuhina Ganguly (Canterbury): The Challenges and Possibilities of Commoning Anthropology in India
Caroline Bennett (VUW): A 'Sweaty' Praxis?

Reclaiming Anthropology Panel

Anthropology has never been more relevant to understanding and influencing contemporary issues. Anthropology’s commitment to unsettling taken-for-granted assumptions and structures of power is essential in an era of ‘alternative facts.’ This panel will address the ways in which we can reclaim anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand and stake out a new public and pedagogical space for the discipline. 

Jeff Sissons (VUW): Not Ethnography: Human Cultural History
Susanna Trnka (Auckland): For Deep Hanging Out
Sita Venkateswar (Massey): Anthropology for and of the times?
Lorena Gibson (VUW): Decolonising Anthropology within a Neoliberal University
Diane O'Rourke (VUW): Expanding Anthropology
Nayantara Sheoran Appleton (VUW): Imagining a Feminist Scientific Future
Lily George (Western Institute of Technology Taranaki): Stirring up silence
Janepicha Cheva-Isarakul (VUW): Down the Tower
Marama Muru-Lanning (James Henare Māori Research Centre): Multidisciplinary Research Collaborations, Vision Mātauranga Science and the Potential of Anthropology in Aotearoa-New Zealand

Tim Beaglehole Courtyard, Victoria University of Wellington. Photo: Eli Elinoff.

Tim Beaglehole Courtyard, Victoria University of Wellington.
Photo: Eli Elinoff.

Check out the full programme for more details.

Simultaneously, we will host an exhibition, ‘Then, Now, and Tomorrow’, that unpacks the programme’s archives to explore the history of the discipline at Victoria and features cutting edge contemporary visual work by current scholars at Victoria. The day will conclude with a second keynote by Professor Dame Anne Salmond from the University of Auckland, followed by a reception. 

Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and reception (drinks and nibbles) will be provided at the Symposium. Registrations are required.