Ah yes, you do need to cite me. A girl.

Maybe three years ago, I had a younger male scholar colleague write me a quick note on Facebook. He asked if I would chat to him about his PhD. I agreed, and we set a Skype meeting. We chatted in depth about my four-year research on Hillsong Music, and I sent him a copy of my MPhil, and some articles. He was doing a Doctor of Ministry — which at his university included a short research paper constructed after our conversation.

He emailed me his research. Interestingly, he’d used concepts of mine in his paper but failed to cite my work. By this I mean that there were full paragraphs written by me – with no references.

When I pointed this out, he stated “Oh. I didn’t know I had to cite you, it didn’t seem like your ideas were that serious“.

I suspected he didn’t treat his male colleagues like this, because they were all cited. And there were a lot of other signs pointing to the fact that seriousness and male were interlinked, although he didn’t realize it.

“Well,” I wanted to say, “seriousness in academics is generally measured by publication. And seeing as you’ve copied terms I’ve used in publications, then yes, you do actually have to cite where they appeared. And, although you’ve demonstrated you don’t take *me* seriously, I don’t give a Flying Fish Fritter about that, buddy. You still have to cite me like you would any scholar.

But who needs to be considered hysterical?! … So, I quickly shot back a light-hearted comment that oh yes (surprise!) he did in fact need to cite everything he had read and used.

He again disagreed. He claimed that as nobody read Australian publications, his readers would have no idea who I was… in other words, You’re not North American… *and* you’re a girl. 

So, I took all my emotion and put it in a Facebook post. It was just intended as a reminder to younger scholars like myself. Anyways, he saw the post, and ridiculously identified himself on the thread. In response I said I was sorry for the pain I’d caused him (wait, he’d caused me pain too, for which he didn’t apologize) but his actions were still plagiarism. 

It was only after he’d read the hundred or so interactions on my post, and people responded to him personally, that he changed his paper. It was submitted, he graduated, and while I’ll always forever double check his work, I don’t hold grudges.

I thought it was a ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Here goes my usual disclaimer, right? … I’ve worked with amazingly collaborative, genuinely brilliant male scholars who make ethnographic research into Christianity both fun and rewarding. And theologians I’ve worked are, koala’s honor, some-of-my-favourite-people-ever.

But I’ve also had a few encounters of the third kind.

My Seminary PhD colleagues are disproportionately male (maybe 1 woman : 6 men), and I’m sure for Senior Professors it’s much higher. Within the church, stats are even more disproportionate. For paid worship pastors in Los Angeles I’ve heard a statistic of 1 woman to every 10 men.

In my Australian denomination (last time I checked) about 3% of senior-level pastors are women. Senior roles are often described as the vision-casters, thinkers, strategists and planners. Whereas, management roles (in which women are over-represented) are the executors, builders, and practitioners. Although women can and do play higher level strategic roles, the huge imbalance often suggests to congregation members that men are God’s ordained thinkers, while women are not.

(Additionally, I should add, most ordained female theology Professors  are white. So if you know a lady theologian of color, well she deserves a high five. And for you to listen very, very carefully to her view).

Anyways, I hope this basic picture clearly iterates: it’s not all men. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the opposite is proved true, right?! I interact with hundreds of male Christian scholars, many of whom are famous authors with huge impact globally — and yet they choose to spend time with me. I find them generous. honest. prophetic. helpful. respectful. collaborative. And I get caught off guard by the reverse.

The popular author Rachel Held Evans has an awesome piece here. It’s called Why a Seminary Degree Doesn’t Have to Make you a Jerk. I recommend it for all theologians, particularly men. In many parts of the church, just being a woman and having an opinion causes an allergic reaction on the other side of the room.

I’m sure women do share elitist impulses, as it’s not particularly gendered behaviour… But generally, in higher level theology degrees, women have to work harder to be heard. In your thirties the stakes are so much higher (kids now? kids later?). We aren’t thinking “how do I dominate my peers?” we’re either thinking “who’s going to date me if I’m a Doctor”, or “oh dear God, let me pass this course before my eggs age out” or “should I express before or after the seminar?”. While men are fathers and husbands, it’s often an entirely different experience.

I have a group of really close male colleagues I adore. I recently confided in one of them about a conversation that wigged me out. A first year PhD had contacted me with a request that seemed like he was delegating work to me – and I also noticed he’d also contacted a string of other female colleagues. I wanted to know what my friend thought.

This friend was a little shocked at my interpretation of the conversation, and I felt terrible. I’d assumed he knew this was something that I had to be careful about, as it happened irregularly to me.

But he had no idea. And I felt like I threw cold iced water on him.

Months later, that friend contacted me to let me know he was submitting a paper. He’d had a dream that he plagiarized me, and when he reread his work, he thought he probably had, because it seemed based on research I had presented at a conference. So he’d decided to cite me.

This guy is a legend.

Be like this guy. Cite girls. 

And, my take-away lesson is: maybe it’s worth occasionally talking about this, even if the initial reactions aren’t great.



After I explained this blogpost to my husband, he said to me, “Tanya, when you talk about being a woman, it’s like you’re a spy and you’re explaining to everyone how your gun occasionally misfires. And we’re all looking at you thinking ‘oh wow you’re a spy?'”.

So. There you go. I’m a Pacifist, and not sure my life is *anything* like being a spy. But I recognize there aren’t too many television shows or movies that feature a scholarly woman with any character depth.

So… if you don’t speak my language and you need “spy” as the closest analogy, then so be it. There are all kinds of women, who have all kinds of experiences. This one is to amplify those of the women scholars um… serious spies.

“More than a Co-incidence”

I have quite a few posts on my mind, but I just thought that this small story might cause a chorus of unspoken and virtual “hallelujahs”… but it doesn’t start so great.

Two nights ago, while emailing, my Macbook Pro whirred to silence, and the screen went black.

Now, this is not a good turn of events for a PhD student of any sort, but my type, precariously perched between two continents, with words strung up like fairy lights in virtual post-it-notes and documents, well, made it devastating to say the least.

But I felt this incredible calm. It was weird.

Given as I am to a phenomenological analysis of my own self, I thought “you strange Pentecostal fruitcake” and proceeded to systematically deal with the problem at hand. Which was, of course, overdue papers and unread manuscripts, outstanding emails and now lost to-do lists. The pieces that were all kept by my reliable little computer were still mine to take responsibility for, although it was not responding. So, I admitted to my husband what had happened, and tearfully refuted allegations that I had mistreated the laptop…

But of course, being the most amazing and helpful husband that he is, he proceeded to run an analysis and decided that the problem may be my hard-drive. And he gave me on his laptop, leaving me scrambling through my carbonite online retrieval system, while he sourced a replacement hard-drive.

The surgery was done on our kitchen bench, while I nervously waited in the next room. I had half-finished prayers … “God… need… computer” was about how it translated. So much for the eloquent PhD candidate.

The verdict was pronounced. There were still problems, it was not the hard-drive. I was pretty sure that I was going to self-combust, that my atoms would float away from each other and lose their coherency, that I would disappear. I didn’t.

And then, Tim yelled “Honey, I think the problem is your ribbon”.

He proceeded to tell me that the ribbon was crinkled. This sounded to me like another craft project gone wrong. Not a sure thing, but a possible cause. We discussed at length the way forward. We could put the computer into an Apple store, and wait weeks for a repair, if one could be done. (having done this twice in California we knew the process intimately) Or, we could replace the ribbon.

The next bit of the story is utterly amazing …

So Tim rang a generic store in the CBD of Sydney, requesting if they had a ribbon he could purchase. The owner of the store didn’t, but he responded that he noticed on Tim’s email that he worked for a not-for-profit.

Tim, surprised, said yes, that he indeed did. (Tim works mentoring youth-at-risk, many of which are homeless).

The owner said that he didn’t usually do this, but we could borrow a ribbon, so that we could check if this was the part that was causing the trouble with my computer. He was sorry he didn’t have any in stock but he would later that week, if it proved to be the issue.

Tim thanked him profusely, and turned up today to pick up the ribbon. When he got there, he noted the shop was in front of a bus stop. At the bus-stop, was this sign:
Streetwork Poster

It was an advertisement for Tim’s not-for-profit. Ryan was a client of Streetwork. Although Tim (the manager) had signed off on the poster designs, this campaign rolled out this week without him knowing where the posters were.

So, Tim brought home the ribbon and put it in my computer, and it turned on fine. And so I am able to post this story. Except, I have a better hard-drive now so things are running faster.

As my friend and pastor Chrishan said today, things in our life often seem “more than a coincidence”.

Reflecting upon Culture: Is Disneyland Real?

I live with a constant niggling fear, not of the bad sort but the propelling sort. This fear arises from continued accusation that academics are useless, and I live with a constant thought that my PhD project may also be useless, or even worse, self-serving. But if nothing else I am glad that I have this feeling, because it makes me attempt to reorient myself towards usefulness, and helping people. At the same time, it causes me to come across as slightly… neurotic. In coming to grips with what “Australian” means, I thought I’d share a journal entry written in 2011 during my first year of study. It was written after my first visit to Disneyland.

JOURNAL  – 24th December 2011:  Yesterday, we visited Disneyland in Anaheim. It was a big day – we were given a one-park pass as our Christmas present from my parents who think I am studying too much (probably true), and want my husband and I to take a break. I was fascinated by many things, but viewing the park as an Australian was interesting, and unavoidable. It made me feel ‘outside’ of this experience in many ways, which is clearly also a celebration of America, and perhaps California. The values of the twin cities Los Angeles and Orange County (as well as Walt Disney, and the entertainment industry of L.A.) were conveyed loud and clear. It is a family-friendly park where people gather for one purpose – to have fun. But the diversity of the people drawn here is astounding! As such this is a cross-cultural experience, and I am beginning to actually see these values. In many ways, this is what I will be doing in my future fieldwork as I listen to the values of Indigenous Australians, so I welcome this experience.

Firstly, I couldn’t help notice a strange European influence in the Castle, and a Germanic influence in most of Walt’s fairy tales. I have seen no castles in America, and yet the idea of “Disney Princesses” is firmly ingrained in the American psyche. Perhaps this is due to the European heritage of many Americans, as my friend Phil Towne mentioned to me in class. He only knows he’s German because of an almost obsessive family tradition of baking cookies every Christmas. I find this strange when I contrast my experience in Germany and with Germans I have known; there are many values I think they would not want to part with; their efficiency, many other unique foods (and beer!!), their sports. This of course is stereotyping, but if there was one ceremony they kept, would it be Christmas cookie-baking? I stood looking at the castle and wondered whether Americans minimized their German-ness in the World Wars as an intentional separation from their homeland, out of fear. Did they hide their German heritage intentionally?


If so, they didn’t hide it very well… with a big pink castle! In Walt’s case, perhaps he did just genuinely admire The Brothers Grimm tales. Is this the elusive “Western culture”, I wonder? Well, as Australia has no castles at all (the movie ‘The Castle’ is a humorous statement on our homes as the “people’s castles”), it makes me wonder, are we actually Western?

Another moment of interest to me was the Enchanted Tiki Room performance. Most people would walk past this small “ride”, it is old-fashioned, and reminds me of the 1920s, with its mechanical singing flowers using vibrato tones (obviously a prerecorded track). Our continent is considered “Oceania” in my American library, and so Australia is just another island (“a bloody big one” my Aussie friends say).

Thus, I was very interested in how an ‘Islander’ is represented in Disneyland. I miss my indigenous friends and family from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji. My husband and I traveled pretty extensively through “Oceania”.  We therefore have plenty of diverse memories to draw from; as a tourist, visiting my family’s village, performing in churches and talking with church leaders, and my husband’s development work. But none of our real experiences fitted what I saw in the Tiki Room! There was firstly a mix of the many beautiful island cultures into one narrative (Vanuatu differs greatly from the two islands I’ve visited in Fiji, different again from Papua New Guinea and the autonomous region of Bougainville, different again from Hawaii). There were volcanos and hurricanes, hula dances, colourful birds and monsoon rains. This made it feel very strange! Like it was some kind of imaginary “super” island. Also, there was an almost manic happiness displayed from the Islander characters. This doesn’t fit life as I know in these places. I’ve often wondered if the laid-back attitude of islanders is a type of coping mechanism, as poverty looms on the near horizon. Unemployment can be high, and education is often low. Yet, I see dedicated commitment to traditional arts and an embrace of technology that allows many of these island nations to connect into the world in ways never before possible. But this happy mania was a strange take on island life.

By the time we got to “It’s a small world after all”, I was internally disturbed. It might have been the again, crazily happy kangaroo we saw on the way in… (has anyone ever sensed an emotion from a Kangaroo?) Thus made me ask myself — Is Disney actually a celebration of essentialism? If I don’t feel we are adequately represented by the two strange figures in the Pacific section – Australia is indicated with two grass-skirted (?!?!) “Aborigines”, is the alienation I feel a product of being a part of a ‘white diaspora’? Does the feeling say more about me, or about this foreign culture that is trying to represent me? It’s impossible to convey an experience of what it is to live in Oceania within one small moment – so, I wonder, is it even possible to share culture this way without a type of essentialism? And, through my academics will I indirectly expose Aboriginal people  to the equivalent of boat loads of tourists taking pictures and singing a simple tune like ‘it’s a small world after all’? I’m beginning to think it’s a very large world, and perhaps it is only our minds which are small.

In rereading this review from last year, I guess I’ve realized that I was shell-shocked by the cultural differences living in the States. I’ve now come to realize that Disneyland is entirely real. This is because it lives in the minds of the imagination of the Californians, and now the rest of the world. There is a difference between representations of places and the places themselves, but all I can do is recommend that, instead of (or as well as) visiting the Tiki Room, visiting Hawaii or Vanuatu – or perhaps connecting with a family from the islands that attends your church or your school. Hearing about the experience from them might broaden the take Walt Disney had. But, I realize that Walt Disney was an incredible man with a huge dream – and the fact that we can sing “It’s a small world after all” does prove that maybe, it is.

P.S. The Australian accent in the Nemo ride is clearly fake – but come on – who doesn’t still love Disneyland!!! 🙂

The Art of Research Design: Hope in the Rubble

Today I’m sitting on the couch enjoying a Saturday coffee, ready to sing at our amazing neighbour Elisabeth’s art gallery showing. Her images are the kind you get lost in – she is an explosion of colour and life. Every apartment in our block is standard, but she has even chalked her front door, and it’s beautiful. So I’m excited to celebrate creativity, which seems a theme for this week.

Yesterday, my PhD cohort (10 of us) went through a scary ‘rite of passage’. We are writing our initial research proposal in order for the faculty to give us an OK to continue in our course. On Friday, our class was taught by Sherwood Lingenfelter, Fuller’s former Provost (American word for Head Guy/Principal) and anthropologist extraordinaire, author of ‘Transforming Culture’, and seller of 100,000’s of copies of books. Sherwood has a reputation of merciless honesty, but is also one of the most creative minds I have met. Basically, the process involves submitting our proposed research to the class, who then ‘critique’ it. We ask the presenter questions like ‘how will you actually do that?’,  ‘what do you really mean?’ and ‘what if your intuition and all your reading has led you to the wrong hypothesis?’. It’s out of love for our classmates that we ask these questions… but it’s not always easy to take. And, when the student’s entire house of constructed thought has been bombed, and we’re walking away, attempting to get our invested friend out of the burning remains, Sherwood has an ability to halt the process, and scoop down and point out the life in the middle of the rubble. And suddenly, the weary student’s hope is reignited… and rebuilding starts.

One great bonus is that I’ve learnt a lot about the other PhD topics, such as how American evangelical leaders view Muslims. Also the concept of family in China, and influence of media upon church, and the self-talk of first year college students. It’s struck me that these issues give deep motivation – enough for a person to pause their life for four years to find out more about the ‘problem’. These things don’t need to be research projects for first year PhD students, but all of them become that way due to gaps – in existing knowledge, and in the way the church/university/business responds. Don’t get me wrong, that there are complex problems in the world is good for PhD students! But I’ve noticed, that actually at the core of these issues is a group of people to whom the student forms a commitment – e.g. Chinese migrant workers; American Muslims; parents of college students; church members more “mediatized’ than their pastors. I also have a deep love brewing…

I’ve selected two churches of urban Aboriginal Pentecostal Christians to investigate, from a Development Studies perspective. I will be looking at how Aboriginality is performed within worship, in the ‘stories’ of two specific communities. I will then be seeking to find out how this story affects their role in society. Does going to church actually help Aboriginal people? or does it reinforce poverty and lack of health, as anthropologists suggest? This might seem simple – not so.  Picking the topic was a big deal – selected after eight months of reading, trying to get to the heart of what will be most useful for the nation, and Aboriginal people (and finally acknowledging that if it’s not useful for the academy I don’t get the degree). Anyways, this process is like climbing a mountain, with every book another step towards a point where there is a view of the landscape… knowing that there are many mountain peaks ahead. And in the end, this proposal will be an educated guess of how I’ll climb the rest of the mountain –  supplies and further training needed – and, I guess, an evaluation of whether I have the right path, or the right mountain.

This type of intellectual creativity is emotional, physical, spiritual. It involves thinking deeply about mission – what my mission is, about the role of the Australians missions played in Aboriginal life, and what the future role (if any) of Australian mission is. Sherwood said it best on Friday when he said;

“mission is significant, because within the Bible, God sent his Son and Spirit to us. And what that means in the 21st century, we need to figure out”.

In the last months, I’ve soul searched, and asked God repeatedly to show me what mission is. It is helpful to have varied pictures to compare. The first is the biblical picture. Jesus, knowing He would die, came to bridge the brokeness of the God-human relationship. His was a radical commentary on the society at the time – a gruesome story, even. And yet, this message conveyed God’s deep, deep compassion for those same people, ending any uncertainty about His love. There are also many historical pictures – some of them flawed to say the least. Particularly in Australia – I have read account after account of the ways in which missions reinforced Aboriginal poverty, and the tragedies of the ‘Stolen Generation’. But lastly, I’ve been captured with the model of mission held by Aboriginal Christians. They are full of creativity, passion, often working from a deep sense of spirituality…

The lingering question for me is really not how to reach Aboriginal people, but for Australia as a whole – are we willing to see the Aboriginal Christians in our nation as leaders? Are we able to break the stereotypes and allow ‘Indigenous’ to mean more than just traditional, rural, impoverished? Are we willing to let them speak into our Christianity? Because I really believe we could reduce poverty in Australia in our lifetime – but spirituality is about seeing the life within the burning rubble, it is about perpetuating hope. And I think to do this, our structures and thinking needs to change, and be questioned, and even deconstructed – so it can again grow. We need to pay attention to that life, to that hope in the rubble.

A week of my life in Los Angeles

Today marks the end of week one, Spring Quarter – my fourth at Fuller Theological Seminary. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on which perspective you take), PhD quarters maximise study –  they are normally 10 weeks in length, but ours also flow over the sides and into breaks, so this is the quietest I’ve been all year. My grades are submitted (phew! I passed – A’s are compulsory in the PhD program)…. and now I’m recalibrating ready for a new mountain to ascend. I realised I haven’t yet written a snapshot of life in L.A., so this is to prevent panicked I’m-going-to-die posts as the only souvenirs of my time here. This is a week in my life….

SUNDAY: Today is Sunday, and so I walked up to Lake Avenue, the congregational church two blocks from my house. It’s where I’ve been attending, working around performances and crazy deadlines. This morning was Palm Sunday – both 9 and 11am services hold a couple of thousand people, but it’s hard to count. Today was the cutest thus far – the kids came in during the second song waving palm branches and signed deaf language symbols to Kari Jobe’s ‘Revelation Song’. Pastor Greg Waybright preached a brilliant message – he always does. I think he was formerly President of Trinity Evangelical Seminary, and I can’t fault his sermons, they are academic and popular, passionate and challenging, and always absolutely brilliant. That sounds overly effusive, but I’m telling you, Ps Greg jumps over my high standards every single time. Today was no exception… he started a series on Jeremiah – a timely reminder to the congregation to live prophetically. And as sentiment in L.A. stirs over the shootings of two young black men in the space of a few weeks (one in Pasadena last week), it was a salve on anger and a reminder that Christianity is not merely a placating drug, but a message that challenges existing world orders. I can’t do this, but Christ can do it through me. Amen.

I normally walk to Target after church. Target is a big deal for most of the students in Pasadena, and it is always crowded. today I have to buy a water filter, our is falling apart after six months and I’m sick of putrid California water combined with old apartment pipes that occasionally deliver a yellow tint to the sink. Erk. I stop in to kiss my husband – Tim works in a funky bakery, Europane, which is strict about weekends off, so I’m usually alone on Sundays if we’re not leading worship somewhere. If it’s sunny, I grab a coffee and walk around Pasadena’s 1920s style city centre, the tall palms waving towards the sky and mountains behind a constant changing palette of colours – there’s no snow today but I’m praying for it! …. I love white tips on the mountains. It has rained twice this week, which is very unusual. When it rains in Pasadena, you might as well throw a bucket of water over yourself as you leave the door – water seems to come out of the ground, from the sides, and up above. An umbrella is no use.

MONDAY/TUESDAY: My days blend into each other during the week, punctuated by blocks of classes, which I attend as an ‘Instructor in Training’. My supervisor Dr King has innovative ways of blending mission and music together – I do all the marking and also some preparation for classes like ‘Exegeting a Musical Culture’ in which the students explore their own city’s musical soundscape. I’d love students to map out Sydney’s musical cultures… maybe someday.

WEDNESDAY: On Wednesdays, Fuller has a food distribution program, so the homeless that are an ever-present reality in Pasadena arrive on campus, to wait for a box of groceries. Internationals are allowed a food box as well, and it’s good quality stuff, so we line up with the Pasadena characters to receive food. It’s humbling to stand there but it’s also a privilege – a window into the world of those that would otherwise fade invisible into the landscape. Tim has become friends with the security guards that watch over the hundred or so families. One week a lady stole Tim’s number from his back pocket, so he is ever vigilant to clasp it tight – a number such as 122 could mean you are standing there for two or more hours. We wonder if it’s worth it for a couple of cans of beans and a cucumber – but it cuts our cost of living down.

Wednesday is also chapel service – Fuller’s community meet to pray and worship together in the auditorium called Travis (Tim has only just realised this, he thought Travis was a guy with a big nose). It’s usually beautiful and bittersweet, finding a place of connection and yet also experiencing an aching of not being at home. When Hillsong’s songs come up I sing harmonies loudly… and I try to learn the other lovely melodies and follow the liturgical form.

Some Wednesdays I have class. Every class has assignments that must be uploaded, usually quite extensive, and so the days in which we do meet mean that my week’s agenda is set. This week, I don’t, and I also have no marking, so my breathing is much easier and I can enjoy the sunshine and quiet ambiance of Pasadena. The Professors are all incredible – the voice of each of them lingers in my head, they integrate faith, hope and thought so well.

THURSDAY/ FRIDAY: The end of my week means catching up on multiple things I’ve missed while freaking out about assignments. It is punctuated by a small group of friends that meets to study the bible in an apartment above us on the third floor (we love our group of eight wandering/wondering souls). Each day I try to avoid Fuller’s coffee shop, but I seem to end up there, sometimes with friends or new contacts. Fuller’s community is endless… it seems one great connection leads to another and I’m forever meeting people. I remember once an accountant told Tim how his finances improved by cutting out a daily cappuccino. Tim’s response on the way home was priceless, he said “I’d rather die than have to sacrifice a daily coffee”. We try, but we do badly in this regard.

SATURDAYS: We sing regularly in various places and venues, trying to find a balance between utter exhaustion and contributing our gifts… there are a number of churches in the L.A. region with which I have now fallen in love and feature in my prayers. I recognize the look of a weary worship pastor and try to say ‘yes’ whenever I can to help out. Last night was a Fuller showcase of musicians, each of them brilliant and are doing similar things… some gigging in pubs, some helping churches – all trying to find a balance similar to us. It was great to find solidarity.

On Saturdays, our organic vegetable box comes at 10am to the carpark next door. Having boxes twice a week keeps us out of grocery stores unless we have specific items we need. I feel quite unconnected at times, also without a car or television. But at the same time, it brings a peace that is needed right now. The vegetable box is a mix of seasonal goodies, and it takes an hour to put away – every week I read the letter from Uncle Vern the farmer… he makes me laugh with his antics… and try to figure out what to do with Collard Greens, or Flat leaf Broccoli. Usually we skype my parents on Saturday night, but occasionally we forget, which means we’re scrambling to find another time of the week that suits the sixteen hour time gap.

And then Sunday… and we’re back into things… this is what it looks like to do a PhD in L.A….