I first encountered Anthropology on a whim in my second semester of first year. A subject on humans and culture sounded interesting and after a pretty average (see: crap) first semester, I figured, why not?
In signing up for this class, I hadn’t quite expected for my carefully planned out future (Politics major; JD post-grad; UN here I come) to be completely rewritten.
Right from our first lecture, something clicked inside my brain in a way that I hadn’t experienced in my short time at uni. A way of knowing and making sense of the world that all at once felt excitingly new, yet intimately familiar, accompanied by the thought: I think I could keep doing this. Coming from a background in creative writing, Anthropology and ethnography appealed to both my thirst for knowledge and my creative skill set. And so, at the end of that semester I dumped politics and any desire to do a law degree and picked up Anthropology and Ancient World Studies (my other love). I haven’t looked back since.
To me Anthropology is a distinct way of seeing and experiencing the world that is inescapable once discovered. Even though it’s still drenched in its problematic past, to me the discipline’s goal remains optimistic – simply to understand what it means to be a human and exist in this world. Despite all of the discipline’s issues, there’s something admirable in that.
I find myself drawn to the Anthropology of Human Mobility: namely migration and tourism. Growing up firmly in the in-between (of cultures and place) I find myself drawn to those spaces that are often liminal, or at least liminoid, where categorisation and bounding fall apart.
My thesis centres around tour guides in Melbourne and the ways in which they construct and engage with a cultural place through performances of secrecy. Tour guides see and speak about their world differently to most – it’s their job to direct the tourist gaze toward and away from particular places and ideas, and in the process make certain things visible or invisible. But what is the purpose of it? And what does it say about us? Melbourne is sold as a city full of secrets, personified into a place that makes you work hard to find its “best parts” and I hope to unravel how intimacy, authenticity and secrecy interconnect and construct a sense of place; the way Melbourne’s “culture” is represented and performed; and how meaning and a sense of identity is created through this process.