2018 winners of the Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer Memorial Graduate Student Conference Presentation Awards

The Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer Memorial Graduate Student Conference Presentation Awards take place at the Association's annual conference. These Awards were established in 2015 and the ASAA/NZ Executive decided to name them in honour of Cyril, an inspiring mentor and teacher who passed away in June 2015. The purpose of the awards is to recognise excellence in conference presentation skills by ASAA/NZ graduate student members.

The 2018 awards review committee was impressed with the high quality of graduate student presentations at our annual conference earlier this month, and we congratulate the following winners:

1st Prize: Anja Uhlmann (PhD candidate, University of Auckland)

The influence of ‘intimate moralities’ in young Cook Islands women’s relationship construction processes

“Do not ask! The whole last night was a mistake. It was not even planned that I would go out. I wanted to go home after work and sleep but a colleague just persuaded me to go to the club. I even had to borrow clothes from her and then I met that guy. It was not planned! It just happened”, a 22-year old Cook Island woman told me when I asked her where she got her love bite. She spoke in a low voice and I could see how embarrassed and ashamed she was about what she did. At this time, I decided not to ask further questions. It sounded spontaneous, coincidental, an individual case highly loaded with moral perceptions. But, indeed, after hearing this kind of story quite often I started wondering whether casual sexual contacts are really improvised or if they have to appear “planned improvised”.

Drawing on fieldwork in Rarotonga/Cook Islands, I explore how historical patterns and social institutions such as church, state, society and media establish, shape and convey rules, norms, attitudes and therefore moralities. These ‘intimate moralities’ regulate human behavior and promote a social environment in which particular kinds of intimacy are stigmatized, sanctioned or dissolved while others are encouraged. These discourses provide the framework for considerations about how ‘intimate moralities’ inform Cook Islands women’s relationships, how they are negotiated, transformed and challenged by Cook Islands women and how they influence women’s practices of living and negotiation in the planned – “planned improvisation” continuum.

2nd Prize: Julie Spray (recent PhD graduate, University of Auckland)

What does resilience look like? Self-harm and sociality in Aotearoa

In psychology, resilience frameworks seek to avoid a deficit model of the relationship between adverse circumstances and poor outcomes by focussing on the protective factors that help young people to mitigate risk and achieve success. Yet exactly what resilience is, and how it can be identified, measured, and fostered, are still subjects of wide debate. An ongoing problem is one of structure and agency; resilience discourses can place responsibility on the individual for their own wellbeing and be co-opted as an ideology that is used to justify inaction, while models that focus on ‘protective factors’ tend to erase agency or risk environmental determinism. Recent socio-ecological models attempt to resolve this tension by viewing resilience as practices of ‘navigating and negotiating resources’ in culturally specific ways (Ungar 2011). However, most resilience research to date has involved large-scale quantitative studies and there are few descriptions of how this socio-ecological version of resilience plays out in the context of daily life. In this paper I ask, how can ethnographic research complicate assumptions about what resilience looks like? Based on fieldwork at a South Auckland primary school, I consider the increasingly common practice of self-harm, which is usually framed as a symptom of dysfunction in contemporary psychology. I analyse how self-harm functioned for these children as a socially recognised embodied expression, and argue that considering children’s practices as ‘accommodations’ may more accurately conceptualise the many improvised social processes that play out in the space between vulnerability and resilience.

3rd Prize: Pauline Herbst (PhD candidate, University of Auckland) and Claire Black (MA candidate, University of Auckland)

Improvised vitality: patient’s storied lives before and after hysterectomy - Pauline Herbst

Hysterectomy is a term that describes the surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix, and sometimes extends to the ovaries (oophorectomy) and fallopian tubes (salpingectomy). In this paper I examine the experiences of nine women scheduled for two different procedures at a New Zealand hospital: laparoscopic and open hysterectomy. I find that the word ‘hysterectomy’ is more than a catch-all solution to a diagnosis, it is a repository for multiple improvised lives and related storylines that mirror each other. Each houses a ‘different’ hysterectomy, linked to a past and future self, one with the potential to create life and one without. It is also linked to vitality’s opposite, death, in that some hysterectomies are undergone to stem cancer. Vitality is a key theme in women’s stories: they desire the vitality denied by fatigue and constant bleeding, and simultaneously fear an enduring “weakness in the joints” post-surgery which is highlighted in the way they frame the differing procedures. Speaking to women before and after surgery has revealed the uterus as the centre of a spiral of social concerns that radiates outwards, improvised stories that give meaning to a disruption of the social self. I present this paper in conjunction with images drawn by these women illustrating their lives before and after surgery and ask if this disrupts the text or more provocatively, if as ethnographic storytellers and receivers, we intuit and enfold meaning regardless of intent.

Memeing LGBTQ lives: Negotiating difference and relatability through shared humour - Claire Black

From “LOLcats”, images of cats with intentionally misspelled captions, to “planking”, a trend in which people lay flat on various surfaces and posted photos of this online, humorous and often bizarre internet memes are ubiquitous on contemporary social media platforms. These groups of digital items – including images, text, video and audio – are the epitome of improvisation, as they rapidly spread online and proliferate through parody, remix, transformation. Memes are therefore highly social, but meme research has tended to focus on popular memes and their spread rather than on the people who produce and disperse them, with even less attention to how marginalised groups of people use and diffuse memes. I draw on ethnographic research with LGTBQ 16- to 24-year-olds in New Zealand to explore how memes are used in the imagination and negotiation of LGBTQ collectivities and communities. I argue that “relatability” is central to these processes: these young people create and share memes which draw on “shared experiences” to facilitate affective experiences of recognition and connection. However, this raises questions of whose experiences are foregrounded in popular LGBTQ memes, and how people deploy these memes to negotiate between different levels and kinds of LGBTQ communities.