Associate Professor Yasmine Musharbash

PhD ANU 2003, MA Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin 1997
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02-6125 1060

Areas of expertise

  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies 200201
  • Studies Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Society 169902
  • Family And Household Studies 160301

Research interests

Anthropology of the Everyday, Life in the Colony, Settler-Colonial Studies and Indigenous/Non-Indigenous Relations, Human/Other-than-Human Relations, Monster Anthropology, Animal/Human Relations, Central Australia, Warlpiri Studies, Anthropology of Place and Domestic Space, Anthropology of Emotions, Embodiment, Boredom Studies, Personhood, Sociality and Relatedness, Anthropology of Death and Grieving, Anthropology of Sleep and the Night.


since 2023: Associate Professor in the School of Archaeology & Anthropology, CASS
2020-2023: HoD (ANTH) in the School of Archaeology & Anthropology, CASS, ANU
2019-2023: Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology & Anthropology, CASS, ANU
2009-2019: The University of Sydney (Lecturer, Future Fellow, Senior Lecturer)
2009: Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (Anthropologist)
2004-2008: University of Western Australia (Postdoctoral Fellow)
2003-2004: Torres Strait Regional Authority (Native Title Anthropologist)
1999-2003: The Australian National University (PhD)
1997: Copenhagen University ERASMUS Summer School of Anthropology
1993-1994: Monash University (exchange, Anthropology & Inidgenous Studies)
1989-1997: Freie Universität Berlin (M.A. in Social Anthropology and English)


Researcher's projects

Ethnographically, my work is located in central Australia and mostly centred on Yuendumu, an Aboriginal community about three hours northwest of Alice Springs. I have been conducting fieldwork there annually since 1994, originally focussing on everyday life as it unfolds in Warlpiri homes and country. One of the biggest joys I know is to see where anthropological fieldwork takes me and, following incidents, events, questions, ideas, and experiences from the field, my research has branched out in a number of directions:

One such cluster is concerned with sleep, the night, ideas of safety and threat, and an inter-related one has taken me into the domains of the anthropology of emotions and embodiment. Here, I focussed especially on fear, but also on grief and loneliness, and then moved on to studying laughter and boredom. In all these endeavours I have always emphasised comparison, radical difference, and cultural relativity.

Social relations, sociality, and notions of the person, and of self and other are themes I return to from various directions, e.g. by studying birthday parties or fighting, childhood socialisation, intergenerational relations, and, especially, the ways in which Warlpiri people relate to others: to non-Indigenous people, to strangers, to enemies, but also to animals, plants, the weather, smoke, the underground, and to monsters. In this vein, I had an ARC Future Fellowship specifically looking at ‘bad relations’.

The research on monsters has blossomed into an on-going inter-disciplinary and comparative project that brings together anthropology and monster studies. Under the umbrella term ‘monster’ my co-editors and I have gathered ethnographic analyses from all over the world, that look at human/other-than-human engagements from a variety of angles (in instances of social change and transformation, for example, or as explorations of the different ways in which people ‘live with’ the monsters that haunt them.)

Another aspect of my focus on 'bad relations' is my collaboration with Warlpiri people in the aftermath of the shooting of Kumanjayi Walker in Nov 2019. This has entailed organising the 'court lawns' for the Parumpurru Committe and in conjuntcion with CASS, RSHA, and SoAA Social Justice Initiatives to provide a safe space for Warlpiri people to witness the unfolding of legal proceedings. I have also edited a Special Issue on Settler-Colonial Violence in Contemporary Australia and am currently finalising my mansucript on Everyday Life in the Colony.

Available student projects

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD in any of my areas of expertise and research interests, please contact me directly.

Current student projects

Louise Nisbet's PhD research explores how long-established residents of New Orleans’s public housing projects maintain safety from community violence in a vastly altered public housing landscape, pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina. This project seeks to understand the ways in which residents conceptualise and move within their houses – particularly at the liminal ‘edges’ of the house such as windows, doors and the front porch – in order to anticipate, mitigate, and ultimately stay safe from, the violent extensions of neighbourhood politics.

Philip Weinstein looks at how people of different cultural backgrounds interpret monsters differently, using two case studies: the Bunyip, an Australian Aboriginal water being; and the Tasmanian Tiger, an allegedly extinct marsupial believed by some to still roam the Australian wilderness. He is examining recent models of monster change in particular.

Kylie Dolan is undertaking research in Manigrida, Arnhem Land, where she is conducting research into the multiple ways in which Yolngu relate to salt, from salt as it appears in Dreamings, via the multiple meanings of salt as mineral, as shimmering material, as food, as gift and trade good and so forth, to salt in colonial and contemporary settler-colonial contexts.

Ruonan Chen is currently writing up her thesis about medical professionals in two public hospitals in Tibet, one cohort practicing Western medicine the other Tibetan medicine. Her thesis is focused on different types of precarity experienced by these parctictioner and is informed by a phenomenological approach. 

Past student projects

Patrick Horton’s PhD (2023) examines the ways hyper-incarceration impacts everyday life in remote Aboriginal communities. Indigenous people in Australia are among the most incarcerated populations in the world, and the Northern Territory imprisons more of its constituents than any other Australian jurisdiction. Framing the prison as an institution, an industry and a feature of settler colonialism, this project seeks to understand the realities that hyper-incarceration creates in a remote central-western Northern Territory town.

Joanne Thurman’s PhD (2023) is an analysis of contemporary Warlpiri life through the lens of material culture. Her thesis asks questions not only about materiality from the perspective of a Warlpiri life-world – about the role of things in Warlpiri relatedness, or the logics of order of Warlpiri domestic space – it also takes ‘things’ as a productive site for revealing the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of seeing and being in the world, and the asymmetrical power dynamics at the intersection of that difference.

Gil Hizi (PhD 2018): My dissertation focused on pedagogic programmes for self-improvement in urban China, exploring individuals’ experiences of social change. By combining theories of personhood, affect and modernity I analysed the ideal of the person practised and experienced through ‘soft’ skills workshops in Jinan. My findings suggest that self-improvement does not simply ‘produce’ new capitalist subjects, but is rather pursued in ways that contrast and critique everyday social norms and reproduces contradictions in Chinese individuals' experience of modernity. Gil’s dissertation can be accessed here.

Belinda Burbidge’s PhD project was based on research about kinship and relatedness with Wiradjuri people in central west New South Wales, particularly focussing on economic, social and emotional relatedness and generational change. Her thesis is an examination of of the ways in which the moral and emotional order of relatedness governs relatedness, where daily lived experience of shared emotional states can be understood in terms of a language for the self and moral framework within a shared Wiradjuri and non-Wiradjuri world. Belinda now works at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) as a Research Fellow.

I was the associate supervisor for Eve Vincent's PhD thesis about Aboriginality, identity and native title on the Far West Coast of Australia, submitted in 2012. This PhD became the book 'Against Native Title: Conflict and Creativity in Otback Australia', published by Aboriginal Studies Press in 2017. Eve is also the co-editor of 'Unstable Relations: People and Environmentalism in Contemporary Australia' (University of Western Australia Publishing, 2016) and 'History, Power, Text: Cultural Studies and Indigenous Studies (UTS E-Press, 2014). Eve joined the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University in 2014, where she currently is Senior Lecturer.


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Updated:  23 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers