Ep. #31: Field ties, clear truth, cringy rap & liminal states: This month on TFS

In this panel, we welcome Shamim to the Familiar Strange podcast. Shamim is working with Dee on a TFS video project that they hope will be released later this year – exciting!
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This month Ian (1:15) starts us off by asking how we maintain relationships with people that we met in the field. Whether it’s a family that we stay with, or a key informant who shared their lives with us, or anyone who helped us out while conducting research, often we want to show our appreciation. Ian tells us that he wanted to send a package to the family that he stayed with while he conducted his fieldwork, but found it difficult to do so in a way that wouldn’t cause jealousy in the rural community since so many people had helped him out. While he found a solution, he asks: what things do you consider when trying to maintain these relationships?

Next Simon (5:54) (who is in the process of finishing his PhD, go Simon!) changes our focus to a different aspect of fieldwork which can cause some researchers to feel anxious about: collecting proof. Sometimes when you’re writing your thesis, it can seem like you are inferring a lot of information from small amounts of evidence.  So Simon asks us how much data do we need to collect before we can say what we’re saying is reliable? Do we take what one person says as being ‘true’ for the whole community? How do readers know what an anthropologist has written is ‘true’?

Shamim (11:24) then draws our attention to something he’s been seeing in the New Zealand news a lot recently: an Air New Zealand safety video. This particular video has been criticised for transforming what should be on an aeroplane Safety Card into rap music based on the 1980’s song ‘It’s Tricky’ by Run-DMC. Although the video is very fun to watch from a computer screen at home, Shamim assures us that is was very cringe-worthy to watch whilst on a plane flight: “I was sitting on the flight and the whole flight was just dead silent. People were sitting still in their seats, air staff were just standing there still like statues, while this really bizarre, other-worldly rap safety video was playing, and it just was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve experienced.” We dive into a conversation about why people cringe and Ian asks whether it’s appropriate to use a song that was contextually embedded in the social politics of the 1980s.

Finally, Jodie (17:22) ends our panel with liminality: the in-between stages of our lives, such as when you are a teenager you are between being a child and an adult. She refers to Victor Turner, who explored this concept of liminality and whether this same concept can be applied to PhD students and academia as a whole – always moving towards new goals and deadlines for papers but never settling. She asks us if this could be seen as an addiction. Shamim offers that this is perhaps more to do with the way humans think and perceive our lives; we are always in these in-between states, but more importantly that we should all come to terms with living in a liminal state. Simon questions the theory of liminality itself.


The book that Jodie references is: Geertz C. (1988) Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
You can find it through Google Books here: https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Works_and_Lives.html?id=_EMEZKVE8UcC&redir_esc=y

You can find the Air New Zealand safety ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYu8kkD0Gy4

For a short explanation on what ‘liminality’ is, try giving this a read: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-burrows-grad/liminality-the-threshold-_b_13845666.html

And if you’d like to read Victor Turner’s book ‘The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual’, you can find it on Google Books here: https://books.google.com.au/books/about/The_Forest_of_Symbols.html?id=62bKQB5xEo0C&redir_esc=y 

This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and theAustralian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com

Shownotes by Deanna Catto

Image ‘Flightscape 113’ by Daily Sublime (2013) available at:


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