Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer Memorial Graduate Student

Conference Presentation Awards

Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer

Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer

The Dr Cyril Timo Schäfer Memorial Graduate Student Conference Presentation Awards take place at the Association's annual conference. Established in 2015, ASAA/NZ Executive named these awards in honour of Cyril, an inspiring mentor and teacher who passed away in June that year.

The purpose of the awards is to recognise excellence in conference presentation skills by ASAA/NZ graduate student members. Prizes are as follows:

1st place = $100
2nd place = $75
3rd place = $50

If you are a student presenting at the conference and would like to be considered for the award, please ensure you are a current ASAA/NZ member.


  1. The awards are offered annually to graduate student members of ASAA/NZ who are presenting work at an ASAA/NZ Conference.

  2. Students will be considered for the awards if they are currently enrolled in a graduate degree in Cultural or Social Anthropology at a New Zealand University, or have graduated from such a programme in the 12 months prior to the conference.

  3. The awards are given for the most outstanding conference presentations (not written papers) and are based on the quality of both content and presentation.

  4. First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded.

  5. The three winning abstracts will be archived on the ASAA/NZ website.


  1. The awards will be judged by a panel of ASAA/NZ Committee members during the annual ASAA/NZ Conferences.

  2. First, second, and third place winners will be announced at the end of each conference.

2018 winners

Abstracts from the winning presentations at the 2018 ‘Improvising Lives’ conference (held in Wellington in December 2018) are below. The 2018 Awards panel consisted of Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich (Victoria University of Wellington), Julie Park (University of Auckland), Graeme Macrae (Massey University), Susan Wardell (University of Otago), and Nayantara Sheoran Appleton (Victoria University of Wellington).

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.

2017 winners

The awards panel for the 2017 AAS/ASA/ASAANZ Shifting States Conference - Graeme Whimp (Victoria University of Wellington), Carolyn Morris (Massey University), Caroline Bennett (Victoria University of Wellington), Peter Howland (Massey University), Graeme MacRae (Massey University), Fiona McCormack (University of Waikato) and Ruth Fitzgerald (University of Otago) - judged six student presentations. Abstracts from the winning presentations are below.

First place: Janepicha Cheva-Isarakul, Victoria University of Wellington

Looking Thai, acting Thai: embodiment of Thainess among stateless Shan youth in northern Thailand

For stateless youth in Thailand, public schools represent both space of normalization and differentiation. On the one hand, school provides a "protected zone" where their identity as students supersedes their statelessness and where in theory they achieve equal status to their Thai peers. On the other hand, school is instrumental in reinforcing state's ideals of Thainess that exclude non-citizens such as themselves. At once space of exclusion and inclusion, school is where the body, mind, and emotions of stateless youth are simultaneously trained to perform citizenship habitus and master "the techniques of the (Thai) body".

Grounded in my 11-month-PhD ethnographic research on the lifeworlds of stateless Shan youth in urban areas in Chiang Mai, this paper conceptualizes the body of stateless youth as both a political locus of state's version of citizenship and a personal expression of agency. In exploring how daily rituals and public performances of citizenship conducted in Thai public schools shape the body, movement and performance of Thainess among stateless Shan youth, I call the attention to the state-crafted "aesthetic citizenship". I also aim to reveal how stateless youth apply these techniques of the (Thai) body acquired in school as strategies for survival and self-protection as they spatially navigate the city. I argue that these strategic performances of "aesthetic citizenship" presents a critical paradox: on a personal level it demonstrates agency but on a macro level, it perpetuates the Thai state's project of exclusion.

Second place: Jacinta Forde, University of Waikato

Kaitiakitanga ki te Toheroa (Guardianship of Toheroa)

Prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori collectively owned and controlled the natural resources of New Zealand. The misunderstandings between the two versions of the treaty have given rise to considerable tension between the Crown and Māori in relation to the management of natural resources, fisheries and land. The traditional resource management tool of kaitiakitanga is a cultural institution founded on the principles and processes of kaupapa (principles) and tikanga (custom) and is an indigenous management model that pre-dates European incursion into the country. Since the colonial era, it has been adopted into the Resource Management Act (1991) to mean stewardship/guardianship over a resource and Māori are required to fulfil certain requirements, set by the state, in order to practice their kaitiakitanga rights. I will discuss the tension between Māori and the State in relation to the understanding of traditional resource management, namely kaitiakitanga (including rahui (ban) and translocation), specifically in regards to the management of the taonga (treasured) species, toheroa.

Third place: Hina Tabassum Cheema, Massey University

Illusions and disillusions: dilemmas of anthropological fieldwork

Prior to embarking on fieldwork, over the course of a year I developed and refined my research methodology, attentive to situations where participants might feel uneasy, emotionally disturbed or otherwise uncomfortable. I went through a full human ethics review process to ensure I was alert to every potential situation arising in the field. Over the same period I made time to establish rapport with potential research participants. As a part of my pre-fieldwork preparations, I attended three annual conferences of the Islamic Women National Council (IWCNZ) along with many other events such as mosque visits, Friday prayers, and Eid festivals. I became acquainted with many Muslim women from Auckland. All of them eagerly exchanged their contact details with me and offered themselves as interviewees or directed me to other relevant women for interviews. However, when I finally started my fieldwork nothing occurred as planned. Most of the women either did not respond to my calls or answer my emails and texts or just apologised and refused to participate. A few women said that my research looked very "intrusive" and it was hard for them to free up time to be involved. Other women agreed to interview for just the one sitting. At that juncture my hopes shattered as I questioned my anthropological training, berating myself for being an inadequate researcher. I overestimated my access on the basis of shared religion which was insufficient to confer an insider position. Moreover, complying with institutional ethical procedures from A-Z created a false sense of security not borne out during the research.

2015 winners

The inaugural awards were made at the 2015 ASAA/NZ conference. Jeff Sluka (Massey University), Julie Park (University of Auckland), Trisia Farrelly (Massey University), and Catherine Trundle (Victoria University of Wellington) were on the awards panel and judged eighteen student papers. The winning abstracts are below.

First place: Jessica Halley, Massey University

The politics of resettlement: Bhutanese refugees and the problem with ‘community’

New Zealand’s refugee resettlement strategy is focused on fostering a sense of independence and community among refugee groups. Yet for Bhutanese youth, resettlement in Palmerston North has provided fresh cultural texts which shape imagined identities. These imagined identities often conflict with wider Bhutanese community values. Here discourses of a ‘collective Bhutanese community’, promoted within New Zealand’s resettlement process, complicate the experience of growing up in a new country. For the anthropologist at home, exploring the paradoxical nature of ‘community’ (Young 1968) reveals how resistance and conformity are not always opposing actions; rather they can occur simultaneously through everyday behavior.

The photos below were taken by Jessica's research participants in July 2013 as part of a visual ethnographic project they were working on together. You can read more about Jessica's research on New Zealand anthropology blog www.anthsisters.com.

Second place: Sally Raudon, University of Auckland

Hurry up please, it’s time: conflicting temporalities of Australian constitutional reform

This paper analyses how republicans and monarchists rely on unexamined chronologies in debates about Australian constitutional reform, and who should be the Australian head of state. The Australia Republican Movement’s slogans – “It’s time!” –often imply that a deadline has arrived, and a new constitutional era awaits. This assumes a teleological narrative in which a colonial state’s constitutional order progresses through a series of typical forms of sovereignty, culminating in the apotheosis of the republic. Conversely, many monarchists regard the inheritance of centuries of well-tested monarchical stability as a priceless cultural treasure. However, they assume monarchy is timeless and perpetual when in fact it is, like republicanism, substantially a modern invention.

Both monarchist and republican positions represent diverging examples of temporality, the perception and social organisation of time. I argue that both the republican paradigm of progressive constitutional development, and monarchists’ historicization, disguise deeply emotive positions about how power should operate within Australia. Rendering clearly the distance between republican and monarchist assumptions about time reveals some of the hidden cultural logic operating in this vigorous debate about Australia’s constitutional order.

Third place: Jess Bignell, Massey University

Studying up: The practical parts of doing ethnography with powerful people

In this talk, I will dicuss some of the practical challenges of undertaking ethnographic fieildwork in an ‘upwards’ study. I spent 2013 undertaking fieldwork with four MPs in Aotearoa New Zealand’s Parliament, aiming to understand generational change in the Green Party. I will discuss the challenges I faced, like security, well-practiced narratives, and a lack of koru club membership with a view to considering to what extent it’s possible to underkate completely immersive ethnography while studying up.