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Thursday, May 04, 2006

AU talking to me?

Yesterday I picked up a stray Auckland University convocation booklet - listing this season's graduates - that was left by one of the begowned, trenchered intellectual elite... at the pub.

It's fascinating. The achievements of each doctoral student especially so. There is some amazing work being done in the field of eyesight/vision/optics - although the wider purpose of "The Avian Entopallium" is not clear apart from the student gaining employment "in Dr Wild's laboratory, investigating aspects of sensorimotor integration in songbirds." Dr Wild himself has a DSc for his work on the avian brain. There's a b-grade movie in there somewhere.

Other work ranges from the seemingly irrelevant/wanky/indulgent, "Constructing the 'Other': On being a Man and a nurse" to the utterly perplexing, "An in vivo Investigation of Oxaliplatin- and Paclitaxel-induced Peripheral Neuropathy" and let's not leave out "Supramolecular Fullerene Porphyrin Assemblies" - stuff you couldn't really bullshit your way through a job interview about. Then there's the startlingly simple "Video Surveillence" of Dr Qi Zhang, following her break-through "Robot Vision" paper of 2001. It sounds as much like a sci-fi comic as it does a cheesy b-grade movie!

GENDER

It is interesting to note the large amount of doctoral theses by women, about women:

"Recognising Women's Responses to Heart Disease Symptoms: Different Groups Respond in Different ways"
"'Their Stories, Our Stories, My Stories' The Intersectionality of Age and Gender Through the Voices of Mid-life Sportswomen"
"'Mr Jones' Wives': World War II War Brides of NZ Servicemen"
"TV Love: Television and Technologies of Intimacy" (the Mary Tyler Moore Show seems to be a major focus)
"Aroha's Granddaughters: Representations of Maaori Women in Maaori Drama and Theatre 1980-2000"

But also the nature of some of the topics that women pursue:

"...Parents of Pre-school Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Issues of Access"
"The prediction of functional outcome after stroke"
"Transcending Cancer: Narratives of Long-term Survivorship"
"Improving Outcomes for Suicidal Adolescents"
"Therapeutic Effects of Massage on Coping with Stress and Migraine: A self-regulatory Perspective"
"Inter-country Adoption of Eastern European Children in NZ: Issues of Culture"
"Emotional Control and Breast Cancer: Implications for Coping..."

Psychology and Education are probably weighted to females anyway, but it is interesting the sorts of subjects covered and the description. The word "coping" appears at least twice. There are probably equal numbers of male and female doctorates - and the sort of issues that females are interested in are generally different than the males.

Men's topics include:
"Effects of the Argentine Ant... on NZ Native Forest" (Eradication on Tiritiri Matangi island reserve seems to have worked well)
"Is the Decline of Democracy in Papua New Guinea Inevitable? A Democratic Audit of Papua New Guinea"
"NZ Defence Acquisition Decision-making: Politics and Processes"
"Darkness, Death and Distortion: A Sociological Examination of Moral Panic Theory and the Gothic Subculture"

And can you tell this guy was a journalist: "The Matrix Ate My Baby: Play, Technology and the Early Childhood Subject"

I am of course drawing on the ones that contribute to my idea that men and women value different things. I am always astounded by the immense amount of work and intelligence that makes up the Univeristy of Auckland. Even the time and effort expended on issues I would consider of minimal utility is still a great credit to the student undertaking it.

ASIANS

Not so much in the doctoral roll but in the vast amount of undergraduate students. When I graduated BA in 1995 there were hardly any Asians, and I mean maybe only a couple of dozen, from the Arts Faculty. I put this down to (and this is a decade ago I must emphasise) the composition of the Asian students (and they totalled at least 20% even then) being almost entirely overseas students studying commerce. Nowdays the migrant community is probably sending their kids through like the normal Pakeha middle class people they are supposed to be. I still can't see parents in Asia sending their kids to Auckland to study for a BA unless it was a conjoint degree with something practical!

But it isn't just the dry wasteland of commerce that attracts high Asian numbers, Science and Engineering are especially popular. The Education Faculty is almost entirely deviod of Asians - there might be five (and two Indian names) out of the 300+ graduating. Less than 2%. Now let's look at the names for BCom: out of about 800 graduating, maybe a third. No doubt most of these are international students.

The names must be a nightmare. Some are so similar - some identical.

My theory of Chinese names is that they are the most efficient manner of, well not so much naming as numbering, the vast population. With a well founded, multi-millenia history of bureaucracy and record keeping I think they developed the easist way of keeping track and recording millions of individuals. You can't have a roll call with names like Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten Windsor or Henare Whakahuehue Te Kariatiana Kahurangi Ngakawa-Smith times 1.3 billion - it is utterly impractical. It also doesn't fit with the Chinese view of the cheapness of human life (massacres/human rights abuses/prisoner organ harvesting/executions etc.) it is far to individualistic to have such long names, especially if you're going to be charged, tried and executed all within 48 hours for doing something the corrupt official running your district doesn't like. What's the point of spending all that time filling it out on the death orders when Cha Phi Win or He Wha Nga will suffice. It's like (to an outsider) they have a list of only 100 basic names with very slight variations permissable perhaps with a small fee. Maybe if you live past 20 you get a middle name?

Efficiency. Data input effeciency. That's what it looks like. Like the language generally: there aren't any joining words in Chinese - it isn't "Do you have the time please?" it's just "time!" or perhaps on a really formal occasion "time now!". It sounds incredibly rude and abrupt to English-only/NZ ears.

So with that totally unresearched series of assertions in mind check out the problems that our almost entirely non-Asian, non-Chinese academic and general staff have to deal with nowdays on a personal and administrative point of view and imagine if these guys all turned up in the same class:

From the list of this year's BCom graduates alone:

Jia Wang
Jiajing Wang
Jianing Wang
Jingjing Wang
Jia Yu
Jiaying Yu
Jia Liu
Jing Liu
Jingjing Liu
Yi Liu
Ying Liu
Yu Liu
Yujing Liu
Yun Liu
Jingyi Liu
Yue Lu
Jing Luo
Yuan Tian x2
Dan Li x3
Qi, Qian and Qin Zhang

And it goes on and on and I haven't got time, but the old Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" routine springs instantly to mind. Yu talking to Mei?

11 Comments:

At 5/5/06 11:20 am, Blogger stef said...

Chinese names are actually more complex than they sound Tim. The characters usually represent a particular trait that the parents feel is important for their child.

In the case of Korean names they tend to also have 'generation markers.' For instance, I have a kid in 3rd grade Kim Yeon-Geun, and his brother is Kim Yeon-Ho.

But I agree it can be hard for us. There aren't that many surnames and the given names are

Jae-Woo.
Jae-min
Jae-yeong.
Gi-yeong.
Yeong-min.
Min-gi.
Min-Ho.
Ho-su.
Su-mi
Su-jin.
ARggggggggggggh!

Argghh!

 
At 5/5/06 2:48 pm, Anonymous RR said...

why don't they just use numbers and be done with it?

 
At 5/5/06 3:15 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

RR:
... or like microchipping dogs? Maybe Chinese population officials can study it.

Stef:
The names might be meaningful to the people involved but my point was that the order and compilation and shear brevity of them is very efficient. So in that way I am comparing them to numbers. Like simple bar codes? Three different syllables with many different inflections and tones etc.? We do it all the time too eg. Stef and Tim. (but not Ste and Ti)

"There aren't that many surnames" - I was under the impression that Koreans were divided equally into two surnames: Park and Kim :) How true is this?

 
At 5/5/06 3:19 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

And then there are Indian names...

 
At 6/5/06 12:40 am, Anonymous deano said...

Enjoy your blog Tim.

I graduated MA in 1996...I can't remember any Asians in my master's classes. Actually, there was one hot Chinese chick I chased for a while. But she was NZ born.

Incidentally...I used to work the door of the Uni Club. I could tell you were going to be a semi-famous shit-stirrer even back then!

 
At 6/5/06 10:16 am, Anonymous Kate said...

What upsets me is when the audience laughs at the names especially when there are similar ones called in a row. It happens often in the engineering and commerce ceremonies.
Asian names are something that is not widely understood- I think it would be nice to understand the names before we laugh at them. I like to think that maybe some Asian names have more meaning than my name.

 
At 7/5/06 9:54 pm, Blogger peterquixote said...

know what you mean you seen one fijian you seen the lot,

 
At 8/5/06 10:49 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

Deano: Still living it down, mate.

Kate: I guess the laughing is a reflex to the unexpected and the unfamiliar. Maybe in Chinese graduations they might titter in a similar manner when non-Chinese names are called in a row? But I would expect more self control - if they had read the names in the booklet beforehand would have helped.

 
At 8/5/06 12:02 pm, Blogger stef said...

Actually Tim some kids are just given numbers. There was this gym teacher at school Called Lee Chil-Gu which means 2,7-9. His cellphone number even ended with 279. I doubt he got hassled much, as that guy was meaner than a snake.

Kim and Lee are very commmon surnames (25% of my classes tend to be Kims, and about 20% Lees). Bak (Park), Jo (or Cho), Choi, Han, Im/Lim, Kwan/Gwan, Jeong/Jong, Shin are also pretty common.

 
At 8/5/06 7:53 pm, Blogger peterquixote said...

off subject sorry,
i thinking you TJ maori bloke do not like asian because there two zillion of them and they take over world, but then i can be wrong and it dont matter and i ask yous to send out more financial data, i dont can't find email address or links things, we give you 25% of all profit on money from you publicly advise, you can pay for win on trial this way and lot more besides, ,

 
At 9/5/06 1:04 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

PQ:
OK. I'll have to put my thinking cap on.

 

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