Anthropology is the study of humanity in all its fantastic diversity. Waikato's Anthropology students learn from anthropologists who have a strong Pacific focus and engage in research across a wide range of crucial global issues. In anthropology we study issues as varied as the environment and climate change, racism and ethnic conflict, religion and spirituality, media and visual culture, politics and power relationships, money, finance and trade. In all of these areas anthropology focuses on the experiences of people. It is by listening to people and understanding things from their perspective that anthropology challenges mainstream knowledge. Too often decisions and power reside in the hands of those who merely make assumptions about the lives of others. Anthropology brings the voices of everyday lives into the global production of knowledge.

Study Anthropology

Our speciality is Cultural Anthropology, which is the interpretation and appreciation of the vast array of cultural possibilities for human life. Studying Anthropology will challenge students to reimagine their assumptions about their own societies and cultures and develop a toolkit to critically understand their changing world. One undergraduate student Naveena, said that “I respect contemporary anthropology’s efforts toward reckoning with its colonial roots and decolonizing the discipline, and I want to be part of its journey to becoming a more inclusive field,” while Mona, a postgraduate student shared that “Anthropology has taught me to see the world from a wholly unique perspective. For me, Anthropology opened my eyes to the beauty of diversity and differences, while being instrumental in understanding my own cultural identity.”

Discover more about the courses offered in Anthropology and learn more about Anthropology as a discipline at our University.

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Career opportunities

Anthropology graduates are strongly positioned to contribute across a range of professional fields and industries that demand an empathetic sensitivity to cultural difference. Using their knowledge of diverse worldviews and systems of meaning, our students embark on careers in a variety of areas including:

  • Development
  • NGOs
  • Education
  • Social Work
  • Government
  • Immigration
  • Museum Curation
  • Social Research
  • Cultural consultant
  • Documentary & Media Work
  • Journalism
  • Public Health Programmes

Mona-Lisa Wareka

Mona-Lisa Wareka

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology

"I have always maintained that anthropology allowed me to see the beauty in other cultures, and eventually helped me to understand my own culture(s)."

Tell me a bit about your backround, where you grew up, what did you want to be growing up?

He uri ahau nō Te Tai Tokerau, Te Rohe Pōtae me Ateria hoki - ko Ngātiwai me Rereahu ōku iwi, and proud of both my Māori and Austrian heritage. I was born and raised in Whangārei, then moved to Whanganui when I was fourteen. I have always been interested in people, and growing up I wanted to be a psychologist or psychiatrist - I quickly learned though, that those were quite science-oriented (not a strength of mine learning-wise) and felt they didn't align with how I saw the world.

Can you explain why you chose to study your specific qualification/degree/programme?

I had taken a Philosophy paper in my last year of high school and really enjoyed it so I decided to begin uni doing a BA in Philosophy, however it was ANTH101 that really rocked my core and I discovered my love for Anthropology! From the first lecture with my now-supervisor, Dr Fiona McCormack, I found my passion in acknowledging the beauty of cultural diversity. Throughout my academic career, I have always maintained that anthropology allowed me to see the beauty in other cultures, and eventually helped me to understand my own culture(s). I believe it is a discipline that everyone can benefit from, especially as cultures become more intertwined with each other throughout the world today.

What were some of the highlights for you while studying? Have there been achievements or experiences throughout your studies that stood out for you? (E.g. scholarships, awards, student exchanges, travel opportunities?).

I have been really blessed with scholarships and opportunities throughout my study. I've tutored since my third-year, been part of numerous tauira Māori networks and groups, and have received a few scholarships and a tutorship to continue pursuing my studies. A particular experience that stands out for me, are my two trips to Chile as part of Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa programme, facilitated by the Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE). In 2018 I was selected to join the LATAMCAPE cohort to travel to Chile, and as one of the only students who were not a business or law student, I felt my anthropological lens gave a unique perspective to what we were doing there. Then, in 2019 I was chosen to be a Tuakana, where I helped prepare the new cohort and travelled to Chile to foster relations between Māori and Mapuche students. While both trips were quite different in nature, I am grateful for the learnings, cultural exposure and connections that were made during our time there, and now I have a deep love for the whenua and thee people.

What did you / are you really enjoying about your study?

The ability to think, create and present from a place of passion, where I'm not expected to be impartial, but encouraged to include my own perspective, worldview and culture within my study. My PhD research "Restor(y)ing Taru Rauhea" aims to create a positive, collaborative narrative of cannabis culture and decriminalisation from Māori perspectives. It is a topic that I am both passionate about, and feel is an important issue within our wider society. Being able to be a medium for the voices and views of my people is something I am able to do within this space, and it is important even more so, that these stories are told with the intention to whakamana (empower) our people's perspectives.

What was the student experience like on campus? (E.g. class sizes, interactions with lecturers, group work, the campus itself?).

One thing about Waikato University that I have always loved is the abundance of greenery and nature throughout - it's not a restricted feeling within the university boundaries, and being able to de-stress with a walk around the lakes or fields is great. During my undergraduate, a lot of time was spent with friends making memories on- and off-campus, most notably at the Halls of Residence (kia ora Studville). When I got to postgraduate, a lot more time was spent in offices and classrooms, but I enjoyed the smaller class sizes because it was easier to facilitate in-depth discussions on real-world issues. The Waikato campus has become a second home for me, a place of many memories, trials and challenges that I hope to give back to in the future.

If you’re still studying, when you finish your study what is the plan? How do you want to use what you have learnt for the next stage in your life?

My aspiration is to continue to be involved in the academic community, as I believe this is where I am meant to be to help our people. After the completion of my PhD, I would like to become a lecturer of Anthropology, preferably to give back to the Anthropology Programme at Waikato, but I am keen to keep my options open! I have loved tutoring throughout my university career, and I have a passion for fostering the critical minds of tauira interested in this area and who are keen to see beyond their own worldviews. I'd like to aim towards a professorship in the distant future, but I'm keeping an open mind to various possibilities, even outside of academia.

If you’re still studying, what is the most important/valuable thing you’ve learnt so far?

1) Balance is key and, 2) Remembering the Why. From early in my undergraduate I have maintained that balance is the key to success - in any field. It's important to work hard, as well as play hard - a 'do the mahi, get the treats' mentality fairs well when you're studying, because it's important to celebrate the little wins too! While it is hard and often all we want to do is play, the other valuable thing to remember is our 'why' - to ensure ourselves that our energy is being invested into work that is meaningful, impactful and significant beyond ourselves.

Do you feel your degree has put you in good stead professionally? If so, how?

Yes, but I have always been passionate about studying/research, and so I think this has also set me up well professionally too. An Anthropology degree opens up a world of possibilities in the professional sector, not simply just being an 'anthropologist'. There are growing opportunities for social scientists alike throughout the world to help create understanding in aspects of society that may have been previously overlooked, particularly as the world is becoming more culturally-conscious and diverse.

What advice would you give to someone from home or another prospective student, wanting to follow the same study path as you?

Acknowledge the beauty in, and absorb the richness that is cultural diversity. Sometimes we see or experience things we don't like, but it's always important to gather context and nuance. Getting an insight to other people's worldviews, culture, social norms, rituals and customs is wholly enlightening, but it also provides us with the mindfulness to acknowledge the unique aspects of our own culture and worldviews. Embrace your perspective and understand that it absolutely has a place within the story you are telling.

Hapaitia te ara tika pūmau ai te rangatiratanga mo ngā uri whakatipu.
Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations.

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