A soundscape produced by Biruk Mengstu, for ANTH210 (Translating Culture)
About the soundscape:
My research question was around the influence of Hip-hop on some students in Dunedin. All these sounds were retrieved from the fieldwork (studio apartment and live underground hip hop showcase) and reconstructed to tell a story of the extent of influence hip-hop has on these students.
About the ANTH210 process:
Throughout my high school and university life, I have always been interested in the natural science field. However, I have always wanted to learn more about my surroundings and the social science aspect. When I found out about the ANTH210 paper, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to challenge myself and to get out of my comfort zone as I have never taken an anthropology paper before.
This paper has opened my mind to a different way of thinking and has shown me that there are so many different cultures that are all around which we sometimes don’t realise. This paper has allowed me to get in touch with my creative side, which I never really had the chance to express before. Overall I enjoyed and learned a lot by being a part of the Anthropology 210 (Translating Culture) class.
Though many of us who study social anthropology have a keen interest in helping others, from an uncomfortable seat in a crowded lecture hall it can often be difficult to envision how skills being learnt in the classroom might be applicable in a broader setting.
Here postgrad Social Anthropology student Jordan Webb interviews undergrad student Mika Young, about their experience participating in the new HUMS301 humanities internship practicum where they had a chance to translate anthropological theory into ‘real’ world practice at a community organisation; Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust.
Q. Could you briefly explain the humanities internship paper?
A. I guess it’s about applying what you have learnt in class to a practical context. Every student will go out to an organisation in the community and do some sort of project for them, whether it is research or a practical project. Mine happens to be a mix between the two. Since I already have experience working with organisations in the community, I am helping Life Matters Suicide Prevention in creating a new volunteer training programme.
Q. What initially drew you to this internship opportunity?
A. I often find it difficult to communicate with people about what anthropology can offer outside of research. So I thought because I am already interested in pursuing community work after my degree that this paper would be a good chance to learn how anthropology works in a practical sense. To get some experience in the area, and then be able to communicate to other organisations, this is what I have done and this is how I can help you.
Q. How did you use your anthropology major during your placement?
A. I drew a lot from Wollcot’s ‘3 E’s’ – experiencing, enquiring, and examining. I think it is really useful drawing on your own experience, doing the research to make sure you are well informed, and also talking to people and including their experiences. So for the organisations I researched on behalf of Life Matters, it was important to hear their perspectives on their existing training programmes. That’s how I try to see anthropology, and when I am going into an organisation I make sure I’ve covered these three aspects
Q. There has been a lot of talk in the tertiary teaching community about capstone papers which consolidate entire undergraduate experiences, how does this relate to your experience?
A. I’d say very well in the final semester of my degree. That was another motivating factor as I think it helps to bridge between academic and public world beyond, particularly with anthropology as it can be difficult to communicate what your skills are. It gives you an example of, ‘I did this, and this is anthropology’!
Q. How has this experience helped you to communicate the potential applications of anthropology?
A. It’s still a challenge! I think this also a difficulty discipline wide, translating anthropology for a the general public. But it is definitely nice having this concrete example of how a practical task could be approached from an anthropological perspective. For example, one thing that I was able to offer was approaching other organisations and translating the knowledge they had already developed, in combination with my own volunteer experience, and contributing an anthropological understanding of why this information is important. It helps the organisation as much as it helps me, providing them with a new perspective.
Q. What was your overall impression of the internship and paper?
A. I thought the biggest challenge would be making the paper count toward my anthropology major, but that aspect seems to have been quite seamless. In terms of, workload, the initial groundwork and planning took a lot of time and effort, but after that three week period it became a lot easier to manage my own workload as I became more familiar with the role and the organisation.
Q. Would you recommend the paper to other students?
A. Definitely! I think it is good practice to make those conceptual links between what anthropology is in the classroom and how you can apply that to different situations. I think a lot of students struggle because anthropology is so broad, everything can be anthropology if you want it to be! So the paper helps with developing both anthropological skills and real world skills, and being able to keep an open dialogue with organisations about how anthropology can be used to help them.
A. Anyone can do the internship, but being open to adapting, developing communication, and being willing to learn will all add to the value of the paper and the role. The advice I would give to others would be to find an organisation that suits your interests and experience, and find out what works best for you.
Many of us are interested in translating anthropology: imagining how we might be able to benefit our communities once we finally graduate! As Mika has suggested, the humanities internship paper might be one of the ways to help negotiate this transition, and to develop and refine ethnographic skills through sharing their application with others.
As Mika remarked, “The tools we are learning are helpful in an academic context but they are also just life skills! It is challenging finding applied uses for anthropology, but ultimately it is about being human, right?”
 Mika Young was also the winner of the 2018 Sites Senior Student Essay Competition.Their winning essay is entitled ‘Tā Moko and the Cultural Politics of Appropriation’, and will be published in the 2018 December issue of Sites.
 Wolcott, H.F. (2008). Ethnography: A Way of Seeing. 2nd ed. Blueridge Summit: Altamira Press.