The Unconventional Anna Tsing

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Last week, blogger Nadya had one of her best PhD moments: she met one of the most innovative anthropologists of our time.

When I was working on my master’s thesis five years ago, my supervisor told me that I was like Anna Tsing. At the time, although Anna Tsing’s work was mostly on Indonesia, I was not aware of her. Since then, I have been trying to discover myself through her works. I read her book ‘Friction’ three times. Imagine how surprised I was when I heard that she was coming to Wageningen!

I am dying to know what your research is about!

‘I am dying to know what your research is about!’ she said to me in front of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. I will never forget her warmth and genuine enthusiasm. Anna Tsing is a professor of anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz and Aarhus University. She visited Wageningen University to perform at the internal launch of the Center for Space, Place, and Society. Instead of giving a lecture, she decided to play the ‘Golden Snail Opera’ on this occasion.

Work ethic
Me and one other student helped her with the performance. She was very generous to say that it was an honour for her to meet us. I learnt about work ethic from her dedication to make sure that we practiced at least twice before the final presentation, despite her hectic schedule. She was also presenting at three other universities before, and she prepared three completely different presentations.

Her ground-breaking work, such as the ethnography of global connection and the multispecies approach, had made her well-known as an original and unconventional anthropologist. When she was a PhD candidate, one of her advisors read three chapters of her dissertation and told her: ‘You are a much more interesting person than this.’

Trying to please
She had to rewrite her dissertation, but she thanked him for that comment. ‘Otherwise, I would be a much more conventional anthropologist,’ she said. ‘In the beginning, I was trying to please,’ this was the challenge when she was writing up her dissertation. I think most PhD candidates are familiar with this tendency. I hope we can find our way to become independent scientists and overcome the ‘trying to please’ tendency.

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Author: nadya

on-going tensions between ready-made values and uncharted territory

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