Ep. #45: Financial Identity, Quiet Fields, Silencing Students & Angry Anthropologists: This Month On TFS

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Simon [1:00] begins our chat by asking what happens to your identity when you become a dependent spouse; that is, when your partner is supporting the household financially and you are not, especially in a new country. “For the last maybe 20 or 30 years, the assumption has been that both men and women will probably work together to support a household [financially], what does it mean to be a spouse that works at home? And what does it mean for the masculinities that we will see in the future…?” (Note: this is coming from a middle-class, Australian context)

Next, Kylie [6:09] turns our conversation towards fieldwork, as she has just come back from the Northern Territory where she hopes to conduct her PhD research (very exciting!). Because this is the first time doing anthropological fieldwork, she asks us: what does a typical day in the field look like, specifically regarding how to spend your time? Jodie reflects back on her first month of fieldwork, in which she found scheduling breaks for herself to be somewhat ‘away’ from her fieldsite was highly beneficial, especially since she found it exhausting constantly absorbing other people’s words, thoughts, energy and emotions. Simon reminds us that downtime is something you should expect to have and Julia reminds us that even in those times when it isn’t busy and chaotic, maybe there’s a reason for that – why does it seem quiet? Jodie adds that these ‘quiet’ times offer perfect opportunities to write descriptions about your field, which will help in the writing-up process later.

Traffic Light Tree

Pierre Vivant’s sculpture, Traffic Light Tree (1998) in the Docklands, London

We move onto a very current issue in Australia, as Jodie [10:35] discusses the recent meeting between Vice-Chancellors from Australian universities and the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, regarding international Chinese students. There are two key issues that are framing the debate: (1) that Australian universities are relying too heavily on international Chinese students for funding, and (2) that there is a security risk posed by having international Chinese students who could potentially be spying at Australian universities (for more information see Links & Citations below). Jodie poses the question: where do you find that space between what is purely racist and racist policy and actual security threats, and how do you know the difference? Kylie asserts that “When we use those two lines of arguments, we overlook people’s experiences and think of them as either ‘security risks’ or ‘cash cows’”.

Julia [15:13] ends our chat on an unusual note – that some people think anthropologists are ANGRY! This comes after she recently listened to an episode of the Making Sense podcast by Sam Harris featuring Jarod Diamond, in which they were having a laugh about angry anthropologists; Julia had also experienced feeling disgruntled after coming across a book that did not include the rich depth of research it needed, by failing to engage with the wide literature on the topic (the same criticism Diamond had come under). Can we really be mad, if we don’t put in the effort to communicate our research? Does this come from a failure of anthropologists to engage with a wider audience and – especially – scholars from other disciplines on the same topics? How does the issue of this image of the angry anthropologist impact on engagement and communication, which in turn impacts on the issue of representation?


We don’t have any photos of angry anthropologists, but here’s an angry cat instead!


You can read a bit about Australia’s paternal leave issue here:

For an overview of the discussions surrounding international Chinese students in Australia, check out these sources:

The Monsoon Project recently released a podcast episode about the international education industry in Australia, seeking to understand student experience. You can listen to it here: https://www.themonsoonproject.org/resource/international-student-strife-and-successes/

The episode of the Making Sense Podcast that Julia refers to can be found here:

And Jarod Diamond’s book that Jodie references is: “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” (1999), W. W. Norton & Company, New York, London. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393354326/

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 the Australian 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
Podcast edited by Matthew Phung and Kylie Wong Dolan

A note about the Feature Image – the Traffic Light Tree was designed by Pierre Vivant in 1998: “The Sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflects the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_Light_Tree)

[Feature Image ‘Traffic Light Tree’ by William Warby (2008), https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/2460655511/

Angry cat image ‘Anubis (angry)’ by draxil (2014),

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