Chasing Whakapapa

I have no idea what my Māori grandmother looked like. I have never seen a photograph of her or her husband despite asking whānau several times.

My father refused to talk about her. For most of my life I thought she was dead like my other grandparents when in fact she was living somewhere in the same city as me. Sometimes I wonder if I did in fact meet her one day in the street without even realising.

I never met any of my father’s whānau as a child even though many of them lived in Auckland too. It was only when I was a teenager that I met one of my aunts for the first time when she came to visit my father. I discovered many years later that my grandmother was in hospital dying at the time and my aunt had come to try to convince him to visit his mother before she died. I have never seen that aunt again. It was only as an adult that I felt able to reach out to another of my father’s sisters and began to make my own connections with that side of my whānau. Continue reading “Chasing Whakapapa”



I was feeling somewhat whakamā (ashamed) this morning and when I sat down to write this came out. I’m not really too sure what it is: a poem, a meditation… But it is a reflection of my experiences of the struggle to identify myself as Māori against both Māori and Pākehā. Its the first time I’ve written anything like this and it reads a little self-pitying I guess, but despite all of this I am wāhine Māori.

Ko Kāi Tahu te iwi.
Kaore au e mohio ki tōku mauka, tōku awa, tōku marae, toku hapū hoki.
Ekari, kei konei ahau.
Ko Keziah Wallis ahau.

Continue reading “Whakamā”

Women Writing about Burma/Myanmar

A great piece on the importance of thinking carefully about the sources you use and cite in academic writing.

Tea Circle

Jenny Hedström writes on the importance of a new open-source bibliography for Burma Studies, now hosted on Tea Circle.

At a Myanmar studies workshop late last year, I eye through the papers we are to comment on and notice the absence of women from the bibliographies I read. When I question this, the response is first a bored kind of silence before one of the participants explains, patiently, that everyone writing extensively on these topics is already included. When I object, and offer to share names of women writing on this topic, someone else, probably thinking that he is supportive, smiles and says, sure, for the sake of political correctness. Send the list on. I try to make an argument for the importance of including other perspectives, try to emphasise that which gets lost when we take knowledge for granted and assume one type of knowledge is necessarily the same as—or…

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Writing Bootcamp Day 4

I bet all of you were thinking “is she ever actually going to write anything?”. Well today I actually did write something and weirdly enough it came in the middle of an unproductive day. I’d had a terrible night’s sleep and so didn’t actually make it into the office until around 10am. At 11am I was convinced to ditch my attempts to get stuck into work for a coffee with a friend and colleague. Which brought me to noon and lunchtime, still without a word written….

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Writing Bootcamp Day 2

Okay so not a lot of writing has been done today. Call me the queen of procrastination… No seriously I expect to hear Your Majesty at least once today! In all seriousness though, While I might have been procrastinating, this is something that your average ADHDer really struggles with. Everyone neurotypical does too, but ADHD seems to just add to the marble collection. I have somewhat perfected the art of the productive procrastination. This means that when I procrastinate I try and do something I have been putting off and really need to do anyway. Today that has been transcribing the recordings of my recent fieldtrip to the Waikato.

Continue reading “Writing Bootcamp Day 2”

Writing Bootcamp Day 1

I’ve always been slack at writing. It isn’t that I find the writing process difficult, it is just that making a start seems to stump me. As an undergraduate I generally spent week’s researching my essays and then often only started writing the day the assignments were due (or sometimes even later). It took me a long time to realise that part of this is how my brain works. I was incredibly vicious with myself during the doctoral process for not writing every day like everyone said to. My ADHD brain doesn’t always let me work to a schedule like this. What I found, however, was that when I did finally sit down to write, I was writing about 10,000 words a day! I just needed to wallow in my ideas and figure out a framework and then words just gushed onto the page. Fastforward almost a year and I still haven’t actually published any journal articles. I got myself a copy of Wendy Belcher’s How to Write a Journal Article in 12 Weeks and I am determined to actually finish some of the many half-finished writing projects I have.

Continue reading “Writing Bootcamp Day 1”

The Academic Boom in Yangon

It has been interesting following the sudden influx of academics into Myanmar, both for research and teaching purposes.  I know that they have been lurking about the fringes since far before I began to dip my toes into the waters here but it seems like this year there is a real boom.  Perhaps it is just that I arrived here during the wet season which is a time that a lot of ex-pats plan extended holidays and I imagine little research is conducted.  When I first arrived in my dormitory the many, many rooms were populated by a pair of Koreans working on a teacher education project, a Chinese professor studying Myanmar Studies, a Japanese professor working in the law department, and a mysterious American from Johns Hopkins working on something.  Now a large portion of the dormitory is actually filled with English-language teachers on a British Council project teaching English at Yangon University of Education, but even that is a real step forward in a country which wouldn’t let me onto the University grounds in September 2013 without an appointment with a staff member.

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That which we call a rose…

Well those of you who know your Shakespeare will be able to guess at the topic of this blog post: the politics of naming. It has been floating about my brain on and off for the last 6 months or so, and even more infrequently prior to that. I felt like it was time to cough it all up however as just last week we had to write about our names and naming in my Writing & Thinking Workshop and today when I was asked what I studied by my Thai hosts the Thai translation made me pause. But more on that later. I guess I’ll start off with the piece of 5 minute Focused Free Writing I did on the naming of things and then see if I can wedge in some academic discourse somewhere along the way.

Continue reading “That which we call a rose…”

On the Veneration of Elders

I first planned to write the post weeks ago back when it was all so fresh in my mind and I was busy reading Khin Myo Chit’s book Buddhist Way of Life in Myanmar and Other Articles.  Of course as always I managed to get myself sidetracked onto other things and now I can’t quite remember the details I had planned to put here.  I’ve signed myself up for AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) which is kind of like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but the aim is not to write a set number of words, but rather to complete a single piece of writing.  My goals are to finish one draft chapter, probably on the historical background of my topic, or on the general specifics of the objects of worship.  I also aim to finish my book chapter which is likewise due at the end of the month and of course I am aiming to get myself into a routine with these blog posts.  There are so many fascinating things I am learning about and getting to experience but I am often just too exhausted once I get home to even consider sitting up to write about them for any audience but myself.  I am thinking of limiting the days I spend in at the University once this current workshop ends and that may also help with spending some time focusing on theory and concentrating on the other side of research:  writing.