This instalment of Graduate Stories features Jade Gifford, who is studying towards an Honours degree in Cultural Anthropology at Te Whare Wānanga o te Ūpoko o te Ika a Māui (Victoria University of Wellington). Jade recently completed a summer scholarship which formed the basis for Mahi Tahi: Māori and Anthropology in Aotearoa/New Zealand, a new initiative recently launched by ASAA/NZ.
Tell us about yourself
Kia ora! Ko Jade Marino Gifford toku ingoa, ko Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāi Tuhoe, me Ngāti Kuki Airani ōku Iwi. Ko Te Whare Wānanga o te Upoko o te Ika a Māui tōku whare ako. Though I hail from Wairoa (Hawkes Bay), Waimana, and the beautiful island of Tongareva in the Cook Islands, I have lived most of my life in the lively city of Wellington. I had a great upbringing immersed in Te Ao Māori, kapa haka and whānau. It is for this reason that I’ve always been interested in the diversity in cultures all over the world.
What drew you to anthropology?
It was kind of an accident really! My favourite subject in high school was Geography, and I thought I was going to study history and classics at university. I ended up taking ANTH101 with Dr. Lorena Gibson as a fill-in paper and absolutely loved it! This paper totally changed my perception of the world - especially the ways in which colonisation, exploitation, oppression and corporate greed have so heavily influenced the world we live in today. Long story short, I ended up changing both my majors to Cultural Anthropology and English Literature, and I’ve never looked back since.
What are you working on?
I’m currently doing an Honours degree in Cultural Anthropology. Part of that is a research project which is a continuation of a project I did through the university’s Summer Scholarship Programme. The project was entitled “Double Visions? Māori and Anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand”. Within this I produced an annotated bibliography of some of the pivotal pieces in the history of the relationship between Māori and Anthropology in Aotearoa. In my Honours project, I hope to continue this research and strengthen the conclusions and themes I started to touch on.
How are you finding life as a graduate student?
So far so good - my favourite thing is that I’m allowed to go to Milk and Honey now, which is the cafe reserved for postgrad students and university staff. I’m really enjoying the content of my courses and being able to relate a lot of the methods and concepts I’m learning to my own research interests has been awesome.
What are your current influences?
One of my current obsessions is a new website and blog called “Fruit From the Vine”, the blog is based on a Māori/indigenous youth perspective and details stories from personal life experiences as well as beautiful photography and graphics. It explores the ways in which we view and navigate the world differently, through “indigenous eyes”.
Academically, I’m always influenced by fellow Māori scholars and their work, one of the things that stood out to me from my summer research was the method of auto-ethnography within a Kaupapa Māori framework especially Paul Whitinui’s writing on this subject.
(Whitinui, Paul. 2013. 'Indigenous Autoethnography: Exploring, Engaging, and Experiencing 'Self' as a Native Method of Inquiry.' In Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 43(4): 456–487.)