Mining stories at the nexus of intersecting issues: Dr Natalie Araujo

Mining stories at the nexus of intersecting issues: Dr Natalie Araujo

Dr Natalie Araujo is a lecturer in Anthropology and Development Studies at La Trobe, focusing on intersecting issues of structural violence, trauma, agency and gender.

Her work is concentrated on understanding the impacts of structural violence and inequality, and, perhaps more importantly , on the creative and generative ways that communities and individuals who experience structural disadvantage adapt as they strive for wellbeing and better futures.

Versatile and agile academic

When the pandemic closed borders in 2020, I was in the midst of collecting ethnographic data concerning food security, urban agriculture, gender, and mobility in Vanuatu. Like many researchers, the pandemic required me to pivot.

In the meantime, I have been engaged in research that has examined issues of health information accessibility — first in the circulation, adaption, and integration of COVID-19 health messaging for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Victoria.

I’m curious as as whether digital technologies can create more accessible, culturally contextualised, and timely health information for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Reaching understanding through story

I spend a lot of time talking to people about their lives and their experiences of the world. I love that I am able to work with storytelling and narrative, both by examining the stories my research participants tell about themselves and their lives, but also in working to understand discourses and narratives that circulate within and about communities. I really believe in the power of storytelling and that it can reveal much about the choices that individuals make.

The term “capacity” is used quite a lot in Development Studies, but what I find most compelling about working on these topics is that I am constantly reminded about communities’ capacities to effect change. I find it inspiring to be reminded of everyday innovations that I regularly encounter in my work.

Weighing the climate crisis on a personal scale

Global and national policies are clearly important to addressing the climate crisis. But is equally important to understand how individuals and communities understand climate change, how it impacts their behaviours, how they adapt to it in the everyday lives, and the choices, motivations, and strategies that they employ in the face of the climate crisis. I believe that Anthropology, in particular, is well-placed to investigate the nuances of these important micro-responses. Understanding myriad individual and community-level responses can result in better policy and, ultimately, in better outcomes.

The multifaceted effects of gendered expecations

My work is very much concerned with understanding the ways in which gendered expectations, roles, and identities impact on the experiences I study— from food security to health and wellbeing to gender-based violence. By breaking down understandings of identity categories, we are better able to comprehend the lived experience of inequality—and develop multilayered solutions that work for more people.

Questioning the establishment & imagining a new future

In terms of scholars, I find the work of Uma Kothari, Arturo Escobar, and Michael Jackson to be inspiring. Recently, I have also been engaging with the work of Sara Motta. These scholars all call into question established power hierarchies and all, in slightly different ways, offer frameworks for imagining alternative futures.

More broadly, though, I am inspired by the resilience and creativity of my research participants and partners at community organisations, who work each day to deliver critical services and respond to community needs in sensitive and imaginative ways.

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