Anthropology and Sociology M257 University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Hwy, CRAWLEY
Phone + 61 08 6488 2858
My current research concerns several sites of contemporary knowledge making. From the temporal unfolding of social and ecological effectiveness in garden rituals in Papua New Guinea, to the knowledge of space, emotion, structure, and social others that are created in contemporary choreography, the project has two ethnographic foci. Firstly, the translation and presentation of 'bodily intelligence' and 'physical thinking' in Contemporary dance practice in Europe and Australia through an emergent genre of digital adjuncts to dance making that we call choreographic objects. The second focus is on ecological and cultural knowledge on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea. This involves experimenting with ways to comprehend and present the effectiveness of indigenous knowledge practices that do not distort, appropriate, or devalue it.
Two significant aspects link the sites. The first is a desire by people in both situations to communicate the value of what they do as a kind of knowledge, and to receive recognition for holding or making this knowledge. New technologies such as interactive adjuncts to dance making or hybrid digital/paper notebooks offer the opportunity for people to communicate what they do to others. They also suggest the possibility for the transfer of this knowledge out of the domain in which it is generated. These opportunities are increasingly stimulated by interest in what indigenous ecological knowledge, or indeed, the bodily intelligence of choreographers and dancers, might offer our environmental practices, our scientific research, or our economies. The second aspect linking the sites are the complex social, ethical and epistemic trajectories created when ‘knowledge’ is abstracted from the relationships in which it emerged, and in which it has its specific effects. It is all too common in such instances for distortions and misunderstandings to result. I seek both a theoretical understanding and critique of such instances, and to turn this understanding to the service of practical experiments in modes of presenting ‘process based’ knowledge. Examples of these experiments are given in the links above.
My long term research trajectory, of which this research project is part, has focussed on creativity, knowledge production, and ownership; on art, science, and collaboration; and on the development of new technologies and their implications for social form (see Activities for a selection and read more about me).
I studied Social Anthropology at Manchester University (B.Soc.Sci 1992, PhD 1997), and then spent nine years on Research and teaching Fellowships at Cambridge University in the Dept. of Anthropology, Darwin College, and Kings College. I have held appointments of Senior Lecturer and Professor at the University of Aberdeen, UK, where I was also Head of Department.
My published works reflect my interests with books and articles focused on kinship, creativity, place/landscape and art in Papua New Guinea, on creativity and the person, intellectual and cultural property, knowledge production and exchange, on gender and free software, and on the relation of technology and law to artistic and collaborative practice (see Books and Articles).
Having been awarded the Royal Anthropological Institute J.B. Donne Prize in the Anthropology of Art for 1999, I was subsequently a recipient of The Philip Leverhulme Prize (in my case for a co-creative approach to anthropological research) in 2004.
My writing and teaching draws upon, and extends, long-term collaborative ethnographic field research with Nekgini-language speaking people who live in and around Reite village on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea. A co-authored publication with Porer Nombo focussed on his plant knowledge is one recent output drawing on these relationships – see Books for free download. A fascination with how persons and things come into being – how they are constituted in processes that Anthropology is uniquely positioned to describe - has spurred an interest in design taken broadly as the space in which people collaborate and negotiate different interests and capacities. I am working to explore how anthropological methods and concepts can contribute to others’ endeavours, and how both imagined and unexpected outcomes emerge. These interests are now being pursued under the ARC Fellowship at UWA, experimenting with the modes in which comparative anthropological analysis and engagement can aid the presentation of knowledge forms across a range of contexts.
I am an honorary advisor to Wayne McGregor | Random Dance.
Postgraduate Research Students
Candice Roze. Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu: perceptions of place, forest, church, and kinship.
Completed Postgraduate Research Students
Nail Farkhatdinov: From Decoding to Enacting: an Ethnographic Study of the Social Relations at Exhibition Sites – a Contribution to the “New Sociology of Art”, Aberdeen 2013
Kathryn Harriman. An Argument of Images Through a Symbolist Lens: Craft Practices in North East Scotland. Aberdeen 2011.
Bernhard Krieger (2009) 'The production of free software: an ethnographic enquiry into a new social practice'
Katharina Schneider (2008) 'Movements and social relations among Pororan Islanders, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea'.
Alice Street (2008) 'Diagnosing Difference: Medical agency and the politics of recognition in a Papua New Guinean hospital'. Cambridge