Dr Kirsty Wissing’s research on Ghana

Kirsty Wissing is a recent ANU postgraduate from the School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia the Pacific, ANU. She received her PhD on July 16th, 2021, although the Graduation Ceremony has been postponed.

Specialising in anthropology, her topic was ‘Permeating purity: Fluid rituals of belonging in Ghana’.

Her research focused on customary rituals and socio-religious attitudes to and uses of water and other fluids in relation to ideas of cleanliness and purity, resource control and morality. For her PhD, Dr Wissing undertook 14 months of field research in the Akwamu Traditional Area of southern Ghana in 2016, 2017 and 2019. She considered how influences including colonialism, Christianity and the hydro-power industry have affected local attitudes and uses of these fluids and asked how multiple co-existing ideas of cleanliness and purity can become politicised. Through this research, Kirsty brought local Akwamu values into dialogue with larger national issues of energy production, environmental resource responsibility and socio-political power in Ghana.

Dr Wissing has also conducted research into and managed programs about the petroleum, mining and energy industries in Ghana for the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). She is currently employed as a CSIRO Early Career Research Postdoctoral Fellow where she is researching Indigenous Australian biocultural knowledge and attitudes to the emerging field of synthetic biology as part of CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform. During her PhD, Dr Wissing was the recipient of two Endeavour Leadership Awards, funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and was an Endeavour Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology and the University of Cologne’s Global South Studies Center.

Dr Wissing’s research was brought to the attention of other ANU Africanists when she was awarded the AfSAAP/Cherry Gertzel Prize at the 2017 Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AfSAAP).

The thesis abstract is available online by searching for ‘Kirsty Wissing’ in ANU Library Catalogue. Due to local governance sensitivities in her field site, full access to the thesis is currently restricted. However, Dr Wissing’s research can be publicly accessed in the following articles published during her PhD.

• Wissing, K. 2019, “Assistance and Resistance of (Hydro-)Power: Contested Relationships of Control over the Volta River, Ghana.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Vol 37(7), pp.1161–1178. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263774X18807482
• Wissing, K. 2019 “Environment as Justice: Interpreting the State(s) of Drowning and Undercurrents of Power in Ghana.” Australasian Review of African Studies, Vol 40(1), pp.12-30. https://doi.org/10.22160/22035184/ARAS-2019-40-1/12-30
• Apoh, W., Wissing, K., Treasure, W. and J. Fardin 2017, “Law, Land and What Lies Beneath: Exploring Mining Impacts on Customary Law and Cultural Heritage Protection in Ghana and Western Australia.” African Identities, Vol.15(4), pp.367-386. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14725843.2017.1319752
• Treasure, W., Fardin, J., Apoh, W. and K. Wissing 2016, “From Mabo to Obuasi: Heritage and Customary Law in Ghana and Western Australia.” Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, Vol. 34(2), pp.191-211. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02646811.2016.1133986

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