Susanna Trnka

Susanna Trnka
University of Auckland · Department of Anthropology

PhD Princeton University, 2002

About

92
Publications
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Introduction
I am a social anthropologist whose primary research areas are the body, citizenship, and subjectivity. My specific interests include the politics of the body; embodiment and affect; new health technologies; gender and family; childhood and youth; history, memory, and the senses; and political violence. I have long-standing research interests in the Czech Republic, also conduct research in New Zealand, and have in the past worked in Fiji. My most recent project is a phenomenological ethnographic examination of our ways of seeing, experiencing, and moving through the world and the kinds of persons we become through them, a process I refer to as traversing. My book on this subject will be published by Cornell University Press in early 2020.
Additional affiliations
February 2003 - present
University of Auckland
Position
  • Professor (Associate)

Publications

Publications (92)
Article
Abstract On May 19, 2000, armed rebels stormed the Fiji Parliament, unleashing months of political turmoil and military and civilian violence. Indo-Fijians were among the hardest hit as racial violence targeting their communities spread rapidly across the nation. Among the variety of their responses to these traumatic events were moments of spontan...
Article
Two decades after the dramatic conclusion of socialist rule in Czechoslovakia, Czechs’ personal recollections of the 1989 Velvet Revolution offer a counter-point to official histories of this period by downplaying the revolution’s role as a catalyst for political and economic modernization to focus on its affective, sensory and other bodily dimensi...
Article
Full-text available
This paper draws from interviews with 21 young New Zealanders, ages 16-24, to examine how health apps shape young people's experiences of themselves as agentive subjects in relation to their physical and mental wellbeing. Focusing on the intended and unintended effects of health apps, I examine how digital care technologies recast the spatiality an...
Book
Full-text available
Radical changes in our understanding of health and healthcare are reshaping twenty-first-century personhood. In the last few years, there has been a great influx of public policy and biometric technologies targeted at engaging individuals in their own health, increasing personal responsibility, and encouraging people to "self-manage" their own care...
Article
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic reached Aotearoa New Zealand, stringent lockdown measures lasting 7 weeks were introduced to manage community spread of the virus. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study examining how lockdown measures impacted upon the lives of nurses, midwives and personal care assistants caring for community-ba...
Article
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Background: Many public health experts have claimed that elimination strategies of pandemic response allow 'normal social life' to resume. Recognizing that social connections and feelings of normality are important for public health, this study examines whether, and for whom, that goal is realized, and identifies obstacles that may inhibit its ach...
Preprint
Full-text available
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic reached Aotearoa New Zealand, a stringent lockdown lasting seven weeks was introduced to manage community spread of the virus. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study examining how lockdown policies impacted upon the lives of those caring for community-based patients. The study involved nationwide...
Preprint
Full-text available
Objectives To investigate how successfully SARS-CoV-2 elimination strategies fulfil their promise of allowing a return to a "normal" social life, and to identify obstacles and challenges that may inhibit the realisation of this goal. Design Qualitative cross-sectional survey. Setting New Zealand community cohort. Participants 1040 respondents enter...
Article
During the COVID-19 emergency, people around the world are debating concepts like physical distancing, lockdown, and sheltering in place. The ethical significance of proximity—that is, closeness or farness as ethical qualities of relations (Strathern 2020)—is thus being newly troubled across a range of habits, practices, and personal relationships....
Article
Citizens do not merely respond to states of emergency; in democratic societies, they help constitute them. This essay analyzes New Zealanders’ engagements in ethical reasoning during the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown. Specifically, I examine how we can understand a variety of public responses to emergency measures—including breaching regulation...
Article
This paper draws together work on therapeutic assemblages, geographic assemblages, and therapeutic landscapes to develop the concept of “multi-sited therapeutic assemblages.” Assemblage theory has been productively used in health research since it achieved prominence in the social sciences two decades ago. One facet that, however, remains as yet un...
Article
Social media has provided an important forum in which young people can express distress and seek support from their online peer networks. This study aimed to develop a typology of supportive and unsympathetic responses to expressions of distress in youth social media networks. An online survey was conducted with 385 university students (aged 17–21...
Article
International media have praised Aotearoa New Zealand for its response to the coronavirus pandemic. While New Zealand Police played a fundamental role in enforcing pandemic control measures, the policing landscape remained plural. This article employs Loader [2000. Plural policing and democratic governance. Social and legal studies, 9 (3), 323–345]...
Article
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Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been widely shown to heighten care burdens within households and ‘bubbles.’ Responsibility for meeting such burdens often falls disproportionately upon women. It is nevertheless important for research on gendered inequalities during COVID-19 to attend to the particularities of how such care work...
Article
Full-text available
Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been widely shown to heighten care burdens within households and ‘bubbles.’ Responsibility for meeting such burdens often falls disproportionately upon women. It is nevertheless important for research on gendered inequalities during COVID-19 to attend to the particularities of how such care work...
Article
New Zealand’s 33-day, ‘level 4 lockdown’ in response to covid-19 invites anthropological reflection across a number of themes. What follows are extracts of an online anthropological diary examining the first month of the crisis as it unfolded, suggesting how social and political responses to the pandemic invite reflection upon anthropological conce...
Article
COVID-19 stories, especially from Aotearoa New Zealand as one of the leading nations ‘winning’ over the virus will be important historical documentation. The ‘team of 5 million’ is writing its narratives of life with/out COVID-19 – stories of ‘living in bubbles’, of ‘being kind’ and ‘being in it together.’ These are narratives of success which need...
Article
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Over forty-nine days of Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown, residents of Aotearoa New Zealand were subject to ‘stay home’ regulations that restricted physical contact to members of the same social ‘bubble.’ This article examines their moral decision-making and affective experiences of lockdown, especially when faced with competing obligations: to adhere...
Chapter
Abstract When New Zealand embarked on its Covid-19 lockdown, the world saw the emergence of a new social form: the “bubble.” This chapter examines bubbles for the social dynamics they enabled and elided, as well as for what the bubble metaphor suggested but did not always deliver. During level 4 lockdown, most New Zealanders (with exceptions such...
Article
Full-text available
Scholarly examinations of states of emergency frequently underscore how the crisis imaginary is employed to rapidly and unjustifiably expand state power. This line of analysis affords great insight into the misuse of state power. It also, however, tends to depict the citizenry as either weak and overwhelmed or at best, duped by the workings of the...
Chapter
This chapter describes the world of sex and the erotic. It discusses movement and interrelationality by means of observing ballroom dance lessons, which is a required part of coming of age for many Czech youth. Following a daughter and her mother through the first steps of becoming a cultured ballroom dancer, the chapter looks at how sexuality, mal...
Chapter
This chapter discusses another core facet of familial and social life. It analyzes technologies of food and drink and the ways in which they are used to foster particular senses of sociality, time, and space through the cultivation of interrelational pleasures. The chapter centers on the centrality of moods in Martin Heidegger's depiction of being-...
Chapter
This chapter begins by traversing the streets of Prague, following in the footsteps of pilgrims and city dwellers alike as they celebrate the religious holiday of Saint Václav, also known as “Good King Wenceslas.” Going through time, national identity, and state politics, the chapter examines the phenomenological dimensions and symbolic meanings of...
Chapter
This chapter gives an analysis of reproduction and the role of new technologies in creating and recreating contemporary families. It takes into account both Martin Heidegger's depiction of society as an alienating force and Jan Patocka's emphasis on the social foundations necessary for individuals to engage in “caring” for their “souls.” The chapte...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the world of digital dwelling. It assesses how virtual space enlarges but also condenses the spaces and temporalities of everyday life. It analyzes what it is like being online with young people, the middle-aged, and the elderly. The chapter also examines how school humiliations are offset by international sniper games, diff...
Chapter
This chapter outlines the ways of seeing, experiencing, and moving through the world and the kinds of persons people become through them. It explains the process known as traversing, which was drawn from philosophical concepts developed by two phenomenological philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jan Patocka. With the ethnographic analyses of the liv...
Chapter
This chapter concludes with an analysis of Martin Heidegger, Jan Patocka, and Václav Havel's exhortations on actively envisioning and embracing a world without advanced technology. Indulging in the many pleasures of the great outdoors, the chapter also examines how nature and “the natural” give a different sort of bodily knowledge of who people are...
Book
This book is about our ways of seeing, experiencing, and moving through the world and how they shape the kinds of people we become. Drawing from concepts developed by two phenomenological philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jan Patočka, and putting them in conversation with ethnographic analysis of the lives of contemporary Czechs, the book examines...
Book
Full-text available
Traversing is about our ways of seeing, experiencing, and moving through the world and how they shape the kinds of people we become. Drawing from concepts developed by two phenomenological philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jan Patočka, and putting them in conversation with ethnographic analysis of the lives of contemporary Czechs, Susanna Trnka ex...
Article
Full-text available
Article
Online interventions are viewed as having great potential for reaching youth in distress, but little is actually known about how well these interventions fit with young people's own priorities and practices with online support. This New Zealand-based research explored young people's use of social media to give and receive support in informal, peer...
Article
Since the concept of ‘local biologies’ was proposed in the 1990s, it has been used to examine biosocial processes that transform human bodies in similar and different ways around the globe. This paper explores understandings of biosocial differentiation and convergence in the case of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the Czech Republic. Specifi...
Article
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Across many advanced liberal societies, there has been an ostensible reduction in the variability of temporal perspectives, affecting a wide range of facets of contemporary life. With respect to chronic illness, illness and health trajectories are increasingly articulated through the imperatives of self-management programs and evidence-based medici...
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A. L. Cochrane's Effectiveness and Efficiency frequently appears as a key reference in debates over, and a justification for, contemporary evidence‐based medicine. Cochrane's concern in this text with the equality of care as the ultimate rationale for why effectiveness and efficiency of cure are needed has, however, largely disappeared from debate....
Article
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Medical guidelines define asthma as a chronic lung disease usually treated with daily, preventative medication. A significant proportion of asthma sufferers, however, reject understandings of asthma as chronic, based on their experiences of bouts of breathlessness that are frightening but often episodic and short-lived. This paper considers the exp...
Article
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As evidence-based medicine has increasingly become the standard for assessing the efficacy of health care, the Czech Republic finds itself in a dilemma, with centuries of sanatorium-style spa treatments resisting easy categorization. Despite some critics' contentions that spas are "pointless holidays" and reductions in government funding of health...
Article
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In India, where children’s care of ageing parents is seen as practical and sacred, animated by notions of seva (selfless service), the outsourcing of elder care causes considerable concern. Meanwhile, carers’ work in old-age homes is treated as transactional, and their moral claims about this work are either overlooked or criticised. While gendered...
Book
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Assumptions about the intrinsic value of self-responsibility increasingly pervade social life, underpinning new forms of governance, subjectivities, and collective relations. Despite, however, the pervasive and diverse deployments of neoliberal rhetorics of responsibilization, in everyday practice, responsibility entails a much broader range of mea...
Article
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Ethnography is becoming an increasingly popular research methodology used across a number of disciplines. Typically, teaching students how to write an ethnography, much less how to undertake “fieldwork” (or the ethnographic research upon which ethnogra-phies are based), is reserved for senior- or MA-level research methods courses. This arti-cle exa...
Chapter
The Czech nation was born out of a nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ?national revival? movement (n?rodn? obrozen?) whose proponents portrayed themselves as ?awakening? long dormant, primordial Czech identities that had been suppressed through centuries of foreign rule. Two hundred years later, the revivalists' efforts continue to inspire nat...
Article
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The term nostalgia was initially coined to describe a newly recognized form of homesickness so acute it was considered often fatal. Over time, the medicalized origins of nostalgia have disappeared and it would be unthinkable today to find medical professionals diagnosing patients with this condition. Nonetheless, contemporary usage of the term cont...
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In the context of rapid neoliberal reform, both anthropology as a discipline and the social and cultural phenomena it studies are undergoing profound changes. In this article we develop June Nash's concept of “peripheral vision” to show how peripheries, and the politics of “peripheralization”, can illuminate processes of neoliberalization and the i...
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Ideas of responsibility pervade social life, underpinning forms of governance, subjectivities,and collective relations. Inspired by current analyses of neoliberal projects of ‘responsibilisation’ , this paper examines modes of responsibility that extend, challenge,or co-exist with neoliberal ideals. Our aim is twofold: first, we wish to broaden cur...
Article
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In this article, I examine the self-positioning of many New Zealand mothers of children with asthma as parent-experts whose authority supersedes that of implementing the self-management strategies advocated by medical professionals. In a socio-political context that emphasizes neoliberal values of autonomy and self-responsibility, these parent-expe...
Article
The last two decades have witnessed a phenomenal expansion of scholarly work on collective memory. Simultaneously, increasing anthropological attention is being paid to collective visions of the future, albeit through a range of disparate literatures on topics including development, modernity and risk, the imagination, and, perhaps ironically, nost...
Article
Twenty years after the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, numerous public and private acts of remembrance both hail the end of state socialism and rally Czech society to be on guard against its possible return. This article compares three sets of remembrances—official commemorations sponsored by the state and/or private corporations, activist...
Book
What does disgust have to do with citizenship? How might pain and pleasure, movement, taste, sound and smell be configured as aspects of national belonging? Senses and Citizenships: Embodying Political Life examines the intersections between sensory phenomena and national and supra-national forms of belonging, introducing the new concept of sensory...
Book
Combining rich personal accounts from twelve veteran anthropologists with reflexive analyses of the state of anthropology today, this book is a treatise on theory and method offering fresh insights into the production of anthropological knowledge, from the creation of key concepts to major paradigm shifts. Particular focus is given to how “peripher...
Article
Despite the near elimination of caste in Fiji, Indo-Fijian Hindus widely adhere to pollution ideologies that were once associated with caste hierarchies. In this paper, I analyse how such ideologies have been transformed from demarcating caste status to indexing Hindu identity. Examining a hotly contested community debate that took place when membe...
Article
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In New Zealand, familial responses to childhood asthma largely pivot around the role of the parent-expert who takes primary responsibility for both the management and normalisation of their child’s condition. Based on a preliminary analysis of cultural texts and interviews with parents, healthcare professionals, representatives of asthma societies...
Article
This paper traces how the Fiji police force has been transformed from a secular institution into an overtly religious one. Drawing from scholarly work on charismatic leadership and its routinization in institutional forms, much of it inspired by Max Weber's early work on these themes, my overarching aim is to grapple with the significance of Commis...
Article
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In addition to the analysis undertaken by Professor G. Raumati Hook in his two target articles (Hook, 2009a; 2009b) our understanding of the complex social factors that influence conviction and incarceration rates can be enhanced by the use of ethnographic and other qualitative social science methods.
Book
How do ordinary people respond when their lives are irrevocably altered by terror and violence? Susanna Trnka was residing in an Indo-Fijian village in the year 2000 during the Fijian nationalist coup. The overthrow of the elected multiethnic party led to six months of nationalist aggression, much of which was directed toward Indo-Fijians. In State...
Article
Full-text available
Medical personnel in public clinics in Fiji routinely contend that state-funded medical resources are misallocated on patients who complain of, but do not actually experience, physical pain. Frequently, these patients are identified as being Indo-Fijian women (i.e., women of South Asian origin in Fiji). In this article, I examine clinical interacti...
Article
Since the coup of May 2000 an estimated 24,000 Indo-Fijians have left Fiji, the majority of them moving to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. Those who remain in Fiji have faced increasing marginalisation as the government of Prime Minister Qarase has proposed significant reforms to both the administration of land and Constitutional arrange...
Article
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An extensive literature exists on the relationships between body pain, language, and social communication, much of it focused on the disparities between patient experiences and medical classifications of 'real' pain. A similar tension exists in Fiji where medical personnel in public clinics routinely contend that Indo-Fijian women patients complain...
Book
This work is about the lives of young "ordinary" Czech women who came of age in the aftermath of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The book contains a collection of interviews with 14 women of similiar age and education, but with varying work, marital and childbearing experiences. Three additional chapters outline the design of the study, the social and...
Chapter
Katka and I met in her apartment on the outskirts of Prague. It was small and simply furnished. We spoke in the living room. From the beginning, Katka seemed quite defensive and almost critical. Early on in the interview she skilfully pointed out the imbalance between us by asking me back the very same question I asked her. Once the tape recorder w...
Chapter
Monika and I met at a popular restaurant/bar in the city centre. At first, we had some trouble recognizing each other. When I first saw her she was chatting with the bartender and I assumed she was a friend of his. She looked like she was in her late twenties, not twenty-four, probably because she was heavily made up. Monika stared at me and looked...
Chapter
When Renata and I met, she wanted to get down to the questions right away. Once the interview was over, she was friendly but didn’t seem very interested in continuing the conversation beyond the ‘official’ questions. Off tape, she discussed her current job a little more, speaking generally about problems with discipline, mood changes, and violence...
Chapter
Lenka is a very relaxed, confident and eloquent woman. Unlike many of the interviewees, she gives the impression of being very ‘professional’ — both in her appearance and in the directness of her speech. We met at a tea house and spoke for two and a half hours, until the tea house closed. Out of all the women I interviewed, Lenka stood out for her...
Chapter
Helena and I met in her apartment on the outskirts of Prague. The interview took place in her living room which was adorned with paintings, vases, and a large, decorative metal plate on the wall. Helena’s toddler-age son was present during the interview and was busily vying for attention. At first, he was crying. Then he was tired and wanted to go...
Chapter
The women interviewed in this book were born and went to school during the communist period, but their adult work and family identities were forged under the very different circumstances of the post-communist transition to a market economy and a democracy. They represent the first group of young adults who are old enough to participate in societal...
Chapter
The interview took place at the Velryba kavárna, a — usually — quiet, low-key restaurant, coffee-house and bar that is frequented mainly by young Czechs and expatriates. But on the Monday evening that Kamila and I met, the coffee-house was packed and the crowd was a bit rowdy. In the middle of our interview, a fight broke out. It was a ‘fight’ in t...
Chapter
My interview with Petra took place in a cafe in the centre of town. She was dressed very fashionably, with plenty of makeup and perfectly groomed hair. She seemed very bright but a bit bored by the questions, and after the interview, as I waited for her to finish her drink, conversation lagged.
Chapter
Olina and I spoke for over three hours, but the time flowed so smoothly that it seemed much shorter, and I was surprised when the cafe we met in cut us off by closing up for the night. She seemed to really enjoy the interview, and told me that she delights in spending an evening out of the house, talking about something other than her domestic duti...
Chapter
Zdena arranged for us to meet at her favourite restaurant in the centre of town. She had already cancelled one interview, and when she didn’t show up in the first half hour, I gave up on her. I ordered some lunch and sat back with my newspaper. But she came running in forty minutes late, apologizing that she’d been kept late at work at the hospital...
Chapter
Having read the fourteen interviews, the reader is invited to draw his or her own conclusions. In this final chapter, our aim is to outline our own perspective on the data. Our analysis is based not only on the interviews presented in this book, but also on the nine interviews not included in the book.
Chapter
Sometimes an interviewer and a subject develop an almost instant rapport. Other times, such an understanding takes longer to develop. And sometimes, it just doesn’t happen at all. Such was my interview with Veronika. From the first minute we met, it was clear that any attempts at communication between us were going to be fraught with difficulties.
Chapter
Magda and I met on Václavské náměstí, the central square in Prague, which is always teeming with shoppers, students, and what, at any given moment, seems like hundreds of American and German tourists. Perhaps the crowds swarming around us inspired her because within minutes of meeting each other, Magda declared how much she hates Americans and tour...
Chapter
The interview took place in a small town in Moravia where Alexandra lives. She met me at the central bus stop and drove us to a local restaurant where we had coffee. Once the ‘official’ interview questions were completed, she suggested we have lunch. In total, we spent three hours together.
Chapter
Normally when I meet an interviewee, we spot each other right away. But when I was waiting for Milena in the metro, she walked up to me and I assumed she was someone asking for directions or for change for the ticket machines. Her demeanor, the way she carried herself, her clothes, all made her appear much more mature than a woman in her twenties....
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Princeton University, 2002. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 398-415). Photocopy.

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