By: Lorena Gibson
How we can reclaim anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand and stake out a new public and pedagogical space for the discipline? This question was at the heart of a panel at the recent Anthropology in Aotearoa Symposium, hosted by the Cultural Anthropology Programme at Victoria University of Wellington on 10-12 May 2017. My contribution to the panel–shared below–was as part of a group of anthropologists from across the country who collectively sought to address the above question.
Writing a poem was my way of overcoming the writer’s block that hit me when I tried to turn my abstract into a paper. I was inspired to do so after re-reading the work of my colleague Teresia Teaiwa, who has been a major influence on how I think about and practice anthropology and who sadly passed away earlier this year. My poem begins where I first encountered anthropology – as an undergraduate student in a first-year class taught by Jeff Sluka – and ends with a new class I will teach next term. Providing a view from Aotearoa, it retraces some key moments in my journey towards what Faye Harrison calls an anthropology for liberation.
I am grateful to Sita Venkateswar for showing me what a classroom agenda can look like when informed by a politics of decolonisation, and to Teresia Teaiwa for continuing to inspire.