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Announcing the R2, 2021 Engaged Anthropology Grants

Published on 9/9/2021

EndLine: Deathcare Workers & the Covid Crisis

Endline emerged out of a collaboration between researchers (Hannah Gould, Samuel Holleran) from the DeathTech Research Team at the University of Melbourne and Bri Hammond, a documentary photographer based in Melbourne. The project seeks to capture the lived experiences of deathcare professionals working in Victoria during the Covid-19 pandemic, using documentary photography, interviews, and participant observation. The team is currently developing an exhibition, catalogue, and program of events in order to share this ‘backstage’ world of deathcare workers with as broad a public audience as possible.

End Line pays tribute to the people who work in Australia’s deathcare sector, from palliative care nurses and funeral directors, to morticians, crematoria operators, and cemetery staff. The public exhibition will take the audience into the ‘backstage’ of deathcare, a sector that is mostly hidden from public view and is often stigmatised. In intimate portraits and in the small details of working environments, the photographs reveal death work to be an essential service and a practice of care, not only for the dying and dead, but also for the bereaved and the wider community. Theoretically, the project investigates the (in)visibility of labour involved in caring for the dead body within contemporary Australia. The research team, in collaboration with a professional photographer, has conducted portraiture photography sessions, undertaken fieldwork at funerals during lockdown, and interviewed key figures in the Australian deathcare sector. The resulting collection of stories and images powerfully communicates both the professionalism and tenderness of those who handle the dead, provoking the kind of big questions about life, death, ritual, and care that anthropology has been so skilled at answering.

The judges considered this an excellent project - timely, original, and political in both a nuanced and intimate sense. A public photography exhibition is an innovative way of getting people to think about the multi-modal ways in which anthropology is practiced beyond the text. The focus on “backstage” deathcare practices also helps demonstrate the ways in which anthropological approaches can shed light on the facets of crisis sometimes obscured in mainstream media platforms.

Endline has been awarded an Engaged Anthropology Grant of AUD$1,250 to support some of the public-facing outcomes for this project, namely the development of a public program of talks and events and the production of an exhibition catalogue.

For a sneak preview see

Music! Dance! Culture!

Music! Dance! Culture! is a new podcast which explores the study of music, dance and other performing arts across cultures. Produced by Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan, an anthropological linguist, ethnomusicologist, musician and Honorary Associate at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and Georgia Curran, an anthropologist and DECRA Fellow based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, the podcast aims to bring greater awareness of anthropological ideas relating to performance.

Music! Dance! Culture! is aimed at listeners who are interested in understanding more about the cultural aspects of music and dance but may not have a background in anthropology or ethnomusicology. The episodes will be produced in a way that will make them engaging to this broad audience through audio examples including field recordings, discussion with relevant authors and practitioners, as well as putting theoretical insights into more non-academic language with plenty of opportunities for fun storytelling. The intended benefits of this project are to make research on music and dance traditions, and theories of performance more accessible to a broader audience. The series aims to increase the reach of the work of anthropologists, linguistics, and ethnomusicologists to a broader public, and provides an invaluable opportunity for the participation of research collaborators and music practitioners.

The judges considered this a very exciting and feasible project, which builds on the applicants’ existing research partnerships and academic scholarship. An ethnomusicology podcast series is an innovative and relatable way of highlighting to public audiences the wide range of mediums and topics covered by the discipline, and to centre music in particular as a valid object of ethnographic inquiry.

Music! Dance! Culture! has been awarded an Engaged Anthropology Grant of AUD$1,250 to support the production of a pilot series of six episodes. This pilot series will explore the value of ethnographic research on music and dance, paralleling the theme of a special issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, guest edited by Georgia Curran and Mahesh Radhakrishnan. Each episode will feature a guest researcher or practitioner of the music tradition being discussed, along with audio examples of music and insights into theoretical ideas.

For a sneak preview see this sample episode and keep an eye on the website for more updates.