I’m Julia, an anthropology honours student currently writing my thesis while working as a bartender and dodging the many curveballs of life. I’m a London expat who moved to Australia at the age of 19, in search of a more affordable university education and a half-reasonable cost of living, and to explore the birthplace I could never have become acquainted with from the other side of the world. In that first year here I ended up living in a run-down sharehouse in Carlton, only a few hundred metres from where I was born. I still live in that house; I’ve never gotten tired of the convenience of being able to roll out of bed and into a 9am seminar at the Parkville campus.
So why are those seminars I roll into half asleep anthropology seminars? I became interested in anthropology when researching university courses while still at school, mostly because it seemed to be the only subject that emphasised culture as the primary lense through which to understand the world, and this aligned with what I felt was my interpretation of the world around me. The discipline seemed concerned with meaning, but in a more vital way than my other potential route at the time, which was comparative literature. Throughout undergrad my initial impressions of anthropology were often confirmed, denied and confused all in the same paragraph of any one reading, and that is precisely why I stuck with it. The possibilities afforded by a discipline that can at once be grounded in theory, poetically descriptive and sometimes frustratingly self aware are possibilities worth exploring.
I chose to undertake my current honours research after a trip to a place that piqued my curiosity and imagination, where everything people said seemed ripe for an anthropological analysis, and for interesting conversation in general. This place is Queenstown on the West Coast of Tasmania. This mountain valley town hosts a rich mix of culturally formative history, including its colonist establishment in search of ore, rise and decline of a copper mining industry, subsequent transience for the underemployed working class, a tourism industry based on the mountain’s logged ‘moonscape’ aesthetic, and in recent years a boom of artistic activity in the area. I want to find out how people experience, talk about, represent, and influence the changing cultural and ecological conditions of their home environment. I’ll be doing this through a two week fieldwork trip to Queenstown. The thesis will aim to convey the significance of local understandings of change in the context of the regeneration and survival of communities founded by industry.
Only through anthropology could I have pursued research at university that is so deeply personal to my own curiosity and formed using such flexible methodology (find me in the local pub or on a mountain top come June). Getting to this point of fulfillment in my degree has been quite a journey. Like many students, I had to find a way to simultaneously dedicate sufficient time to my studies, pay rent and put food on the table when I started my degree. This is a difficult undertaking, but a right of passage almost and an invaluable exercise in self-development. Doing anthropology, I’ve found, integrates well into the mess that is my life because it is so integrally about life.