Ms Julie Sera Spray

MA (First Class) in Anthropology; BA (Hons) (First Class) in Anthropology; BFA (Hons) (Second class first division); BA


Born in New Zealand, Julie appreciates the unique challenges and rewards of doing anthropology at home as her research explores the experiences of children and young people in Auckland. Her MA, also from the University of Auckland, used a biocultural approach to investigating children’s experiences of stress in relation to their peer ecologies. Julie has tutored undergraduates at the University of Auckland for a number of years in diverse subjects ranging from evolutionary theory to women’s studies, and worked as a teaching assistant for Auckland University of Technology’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies. In addition Julie has conducted research for Auckland University, the Auckland District Health Board, and various NGOs, with a special interest in health and young people. Julie is also actively involved in her local community as a phone counsellor, mentor, and group facilitator at Youthline, where she is also an NZQA accredited assessor for the National Certificate in Youth Work.

Research | Current

Thesis title: The Experience of Childhood Asthma in New Zealand

This research aims to understand how children with asthma in New Zealand understand and live with their condition, and how these experiences might in turn shape the biology of asthma in specific ways. This aim will be achieved through a two-pronged approach; Part A ‘Being a child in New Zealand’ is an ethnography based on participant observation at a low decile Auckland school, while in Part B ‘The experience of childhood asthma’ I work more closely with children affected by asthma and their families over a year. Applying the concepts of local biologies and life course theory, I will examine the way the physical asthma experience - and the way this experience is understood - co-produce each other in a shifting concert over time. As well as contributing towards a theoretical understanding of the relationships between the biological body and lived experience, this research has important practical applications. One in seven children in New Zealand suffer from asthma, making this one of the most common causes of child hospital admissions. Understanding how context-specific experiences of asthma influence the nature of the disease could therefore have important implications for health policy approaches in New Zealand.

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Susanna Trnka, Assoc. Prof. Judith Littleton.

Areas of expertise

Medical Anthropology

Anthropology of Childhood

Stress and Coping

Biocultural Approaches to Anthropology