A mindful and emotive AAS 2022

Join me at AAS 2022 to consider how we can make anthropological practice more mindful and emotive.

At the request of the team at The Australian Network of Student Anthropologists, I will be running my popular workshop on “The Mindful Writer”. Combining techniques from meditation, somatic psychology, and creative writing, we’ll discuss how to overcome procrastination in writing through mindfulness. I love teaching this workshop and it will be a joy to share it with AAS folk!

Panel: Ethnography with tears

With great excitement I will convening a panel with Diana Romano about emotion and affect in anthropology. We’ve brought together a fantastic variety of papers responding to the theme, with Professor Anna Hickey Moody as discussant.

Abstract: Ethnography with tears

Researchers’ bodies and emotions have long been regarded as central to the construction of ethnographic knowledge. And yet, long after the reflexive turn, ideals of ‘ethnography without tears’ (Roth 1989) persist, with many ethnographic accounts omitting the emotional experiences of the ethnographer. In many cases, ethnography continues to be imbued with a colonial and patriarchal rationality that rejects the researchers’ emotional experiences or demands a ‘sink or swim’ and ‘grin and bear it’ approach to difficulties during fieldwork.

This has implications for well-being, recruitment and retention in the profession. Moreover, it overlooks the fundamental role of emotion in anthropological practice. Ethnographic attention to researcher emotions, mistakes, traumas, and vulnerabilities can be crucial in building rapport, illuminating and overcoming prejudices in the researcher’s interpretations, and understanding complex social relations, sometimes enabling researchers to explore aspects of social life they would not have otherwise understood.

In this panel we ask, what does it mean to think with emotion in anthropological practice–that is, to do ethnography with tears? What knowledge does this thinking with construct?

We explore how the discipline can better address trauma in fieldwork, respect empathy as central to ethnographic practice, and represent emotion in ethnography. We invite contributions from anthropologists working in applied, academic, and creative research. Our aim is to initiate discussion and reflection on the role of emotion in anthropological work and what this means for anthropologists as subjects, scholars, and activists, as well as for a community of practice and the anthropological project at large.

Mourning time: Grief and the anthropology of space, time, and absence

Some early thoughts on the interplay of emotion and ethnographic practice.

In the weeks following my father’s death I stayed in an old caravan that was parked amid the horse stables on my father’s property. I couldn’t sleep and so I’d find myself awake late into the evening, leafing through the books that, in daze and under some fundamental misunderstanding that grief might lend itself to productivity, I had taken from my office the day after I had gotten the news that my father had died.

These books were Michael Jackson’s The varieties of temporal experience: travels in philosophical, historical, and ethnographic time, and Renato Rosaldo’s The day of Shelly’s death: the poetry and ethnography of grief.

Continue reading

Abandoned Brisbane: Presence and absence in an in-between city

This is a piece I wrote in 2013 that never found a home in print. I recently uncovered in the jumble of thoughts and images that is my computer hardrive. It is interesting to see how my interest in presence and absence–central themes of current PhD thesis–have preoccupied my thoughts for so many years! As always when looking back on old work, I found parts of this rather cringy (I was going through an experimental writing phase), but I hope it is of interest to some. A huge thankyou to Dr Stuart Glover for his feedback and mentorship on this piece. 


Bianca Jane Insane’s had her eye on a few places for a while now. She knows what she’s looking for. The long grass. The decay. The public notice for development.

She weaves her BMX through the Fortitude Valley traffic, threads around pedestrians and the midday drunks. You follow at some distance. Your bike clatters with every inch forward, screeches when it should stop.

Bianca shouts a running commentary on the buildings you pass, a tangle of things she’s learned from textbooks and from spending a lot of time stoned in derelict buildings. Her words catch on the wind, fragment, float back to you as part of the city’s synesthesic song. A tapestry of heat ripples, jasmine flowers, requests for ciggies, and the guttural wrench of beat-up Fords.

There’s an awesome…seventies style…used to go there a lot…art deco windows… a squat, man…

Continue reading

BLM, anthropology, and the shadow of settler-colonial dreams

An update on thesis writing in troubled times.

On a Saturday in June 2020, as I was drawing together the disparate themes of my PhD thesis, I took a break from my writing to stand with some 30,000 other people in Brisbane’s King George Square. The protest against structural racism and Black and Indigenous deaths in custody was part of the Black Lives Matter movement, which, on the crest of social media, had swept the globe in the weeks following the death of African American man George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Continue reading

The vulnerable ethnographer

This is an article that was originally commissioned and published via the Australian Network of Student Anthropologists.

The drive was twenty hours. Long straight stretches of bitumen and heat-hazed horizons, interspersed with the occasional dirt road and the odd truck stop. At the end I’d begin my fieldwork. Partly to stay awake, and partly to stave off my sense of dread (what the hell does ethnography even mean? What do I do when I stuff up? What if I’m not emotionally tough enough? What if I end up hating my research participants? Is it too late to bail? ), I started to listen to an audiobook a friend had recommended.

Continue reading