Climate & Environment


United Kingdom

Living in Harmony with Cyclones: An Anthropological Study of Life in the Australian Tropics

Please note that an Australian Honours Degree in Anthropology is an extra degree programme which is undertaken only after a Bachelor Degree is successfully completed. The completion of an Honours Degree in Anthropology gives direct access to and is the main pathway to a PhD in Anthropology at Australian universities. A Masters Degree is not necessary to enter the PhD programme in this case.
My Honours dissertation followed the journey of “nyonya cuisine” to explore the way in which the same cuisine can evoke very different meanings as it travels through time and space. Nyonya cuisine is originally the cuisine of the Peranakan people, a distinct cultural group which evolved in the former Malay Peninsula (now known as Malaysia and Singapore). The first part of my dissertation investigated nyonya cuisine from its beginnings with the original meanings of the cuisine to the Peranakan people. It then explored how the meanings of this cuisine have changed within the same geographical location from being the food of the Peranakan people to being a representation of a united Malaysian nation.
The second part of my dissertation changed the analytic pole of space to Australia to explore how nyonya cuisine has acquired different meanings as it has travelled to Australia packed into the memories of migrants from Malaysia and Singapore. It examined how, in this context, the meanings of nyonya cuisine have changed to become a connection between these migrants and their homeland. Additionally, it also investigated how through cookbooks as well as in everyday practices at home, Australian-born descendants of these migrants embrace nyonya cuisine as a link to their cultural heritage. Finally, my dissertation also explored the impact that nyonya cuisine has had on the wider Australian society as many Australians who have no connection to Malaysia or Singapore have been exposed to nyonya cuisine and have come to embrace it. In this way, nyonya cuisine has facilitated the change in the way that Australians perceive their society from being Anglo-Celtic dominant to one that is multicultural and cosmopolitan.
Research for this dissertation involved a combination of archival and library research as well as ethnographic fieldwork. This ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in South Australia and my informants included migrants from Malaysia and Singapore, their descendants, as well as other Australians who do not have a connection to the region. As a result of this dissertation, I was awarded a First Class Honours Degree and was the Top Student in Anthropology Honours in 2010.
This dissertation was published as part of my Honours Degree at The University of Adelaide. The research which was conducted has also resulted in the publication of an article in “The Peranakan Magazine” (2012), and will be presented at the British Sociological Association Food Study Group Conference in July 2012.
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University College London


United Kingdom