Preliminary Fieldwork in Redfern and Waterloo

I am thankful that I had 15 days to conduct fieldwork in Sydney in August. While the majority of my dissertation fieldwork will take place over 9-12 months (hopefully starting in late Fall 2019), this trip was combination pilot study (to test potential validity of my site) and a preliminary dive into ethnography and interviewing. Some days though, I did have time to explore the citIMG_1415y and really “learn” my site in a way that is only possible through firsthand experience. Thankfully, another visitor to Circular Quay was nice enough to snap the photo to the left of me!

Another great aspect of exploring my field site is seeing how concepts related to my research interests manifest throughout the city. For example, when I was walking through the Redfern area, I noticed a beautiful mural painted of an Aboriginal Australian woman. Many of these murals exist throughout the city, and often times seek to make the presence and humanity of Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islanders more obvious. Since 1788, indigenous Australians have been displaced, disenfranchised, and disrespected. Murals, organizations, and other related endeavors certainly don’t fix this unfortunate historic fact; however, they do give agency to indigenous Australians.

Mural of an Aboriginal Australian woman

Mural of an Aboriginal Australian woman

Meeting with two of the faculty members from the anthropology department at the University of Sydney helped me see two drastically different approaches to anthropology involving indigenous Australians. One of these perspectives is a more passive, purely academic approach, which seeks to put anthropology (and observation) first. The other perspective is a more activist approach, that seeks to produce work that rejects and resists the historical and cultural conditions that have led to how indigenous Australians have been subjugated by non-indigenous (largely Anglo-) Australians. As of now, I see myself as the latter kind of anthropologist.

In terms of the ethnography I conducted on this trip, I was able to interview the two aforementioned anthropologists as well as a handful of community members, from Redfern and other nearby neighborhoods. I was additionally able to formally interview a manager of one of the local youth organizations, aimed at providing productive activities for indigenous youth in Redfern. The manager explained what the organization’s goals are, who they work with, their daily operations, and the demographics of those they work with.

One of the organizations in Redfern I visited to conduct an interview

One of the organizations in Redfern I visited to conduct an interview

Now, I’m back stateside, working on transcribing the interviews I was able to conduct. I’m looking forward to the future of my fieldwork, which will hopefully be funded by grants that I’m currently in the process of submitting. Thank you again to the Reves Center, Charles Center, and the College of William & Mary for the opportunity to receive funding to help me conduct my dissertation fieldwork.

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