20122020

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Personal profile

Biography

I am a sociocultural anthropologist who studies the relationship between language, politics, and religious ritual. At the heart of my work is the question of how people organise themselves to communicate with 'extrahuman' figures (including God, ancestors, and spirits) and what social effects such ritual communication has. After completing my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002, I have taught at Bowdoin College, Monash University, the University of Oslo, and the ANU (since 2012).

Research interests

Oceania, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, language, culture, religion, ritual, theology, Christianity, Spiritualism

Researcher's projects

Australian Research Council Discovery Project, #DP170100563

'Social Engagement in Spiritualism'

2017-2019

Co-investigator, A/Prof Andrew Singleton, Deakin University

Project Description:

This is a unique, three-year investigation of the sociological, anthropological, and historical dimensions of Spiritualism in Australia, a small but highly influential religious movement. Ideas about the afterlife that Spiritualism introduced to Australia in the 19th century have shaped many citizens’ beliefs that individual personality survives death in a family-centered spirit realm.

Sociologically, the project aims to discover how Spiritualism articulates with the wider Australian religious context. Anthropologically, it aims to examine ritual forms in which Spiritualists attempt to speak with the dead. Taken together, the researchers plan to innovatively map the production and effect of belief on family, civic participation and ethics.

 

Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, #FT110100524

'Divine Power in Indigenous Christianity: Translation, Theology, and Pacific Politics'

2012-2016

Project Description:

This project examines the theological basis of political action in Oceania in innovative and distinctive ways. It focuses on missionary activities throughout the region and theological education in New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji. It analyses how terms for divine power have been translated and used in theological arguments in both the past and present. The project deepens our understanding of the political consequences of Indigenous Christian projects in Oceania. It builds and extends collaborative engagements between the ANU, the National University of Samoa, the Pacific Theological College in Suva, and the University of Auckland, and contributes to the goal of Safeguarding Australia by increasing our understanding of our region and the world.

Qualifications

BA (Rutgers)

PhD (University of Pennsylvania)

 

Current student projects

PhD Students

Dinith Adikari (Associate Supervisor) – Sociality and consumption in Myanmar teashops

Violet Cho (Associate Supervisor) – Pwakanyaw Christian community

Karen Hansen (Associate Supervisor) – Expatriate identity, gender and surfing in the Philippines

Suliljaw Lusausatj (Associate Supervisor) – Indigenous connections between Taiwan and Samoa

Bruma Rios Mendoza (Associate Supervisor) – Biak Mana

Geoffrey Piggott (Associate Supervisor) – International cricket and India–Australia relations

Carlos Ramos Garcia (Associate Supervisor) – Afro-Cuban religion in Australia

Callan Schultz (Associate Supervisor) – Christian fetishization and faith in Sabah

Saidalavi Palamadathil Chemban Thodika (Associate Supervisor) – Muslim hierarchies in Malabar

Elvin Yifu (Associate Supervisor) – Indigenous and Hindu ethics in northeast India

Past student projects

PhD Students

Lindsay Cameron (Chair) – The Convergence of British and American Methodism in the South Pacific (2017)

Dario Di Rosa (Associate Supervisor) – Frustrated Modernity: Kerewo Histories and Historical Consciousness, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea (2018)

Poonnatree Jiaviriyaboonya (Associate Supervisor) – Khmer Ways of Seeing: Migration and Divinatory Improvisation in Phnom Penh  (2018)

Dayne O’Meara (Associate Supervisor) – Disciplining the Heart: Love, School, and Growing up Karen in Mae Hong Son (2020)

Heather Skousgaard (Associate Supervisor) – Spirituality in the Pub: Finding Voice in a Monological Church  (2018)

Jodie-Lee Trembath (Associate Supervisor) – Marketing Academic Authenticities at an International Branch Campus in Vietnam (2019)

Kirsty Wissing (Primary Supervisor) – Permeating Purity: Fluid Rituals of Belonging in Ghana (2021)

Teaching

Convenor

ASIA8022, Approaching Asia and the Pacific: Concepts, Tools, and Methods

ANTH9101, Contemporary Anthropological Theory

Expertise Areas

  • ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • OTHER LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE
  • RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES

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