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Muhammad Kavesh is one of nine PhDs from the School of Culture, History and Language in December 2018 ANU graduation. Kavesh reflects on his upbringing and culture, and experience of doing a PhD at ANU.
Born in a small, impoverished village in South Punjab known for its high crime rate, Kavesh’s family was poor and sometimes went hungry. His mother and brother worked hard, sold their agricultural land in order for him to have a good quality education.
The dynamic research culture at ANU with its number one ranking in Anthropology in Australia and 9th in the world, was an obvious choice for Kavesh. “Associate Professor Assa Doron liked my proposal and provided constructive comments, which led me to accept a place at ANU.”
Kavesh’s best memories during his PhD were finding a sense of community within ANU and meeting inspiring people from all walks of life. Many of his friends were animal activists and it was a rewarding experience working with them. He also fondly reflected on a thesis chapter competition within Anthropology which he hesitantly submitted.
“I was nervous as my English was not great but I won in the end! That was a pleasant surprise and a huge motivation for me, having travelled to a foreign country for the first time and especially English being my third language.”
An advocate for animal rights, Kavesh was intrigued by the popular pigeon flying activity carried out by the people in his village while growing up. He was amazed at how humans are able to direct the flight of pigeons, spend hours on rooftops and maintain a special bond with their prized possession.
Drawing on his interest in pigeon flying, he expanded this phenomenon to explore cockfighting and dogfighting in his thesis, ‘Beyond Cage and Leash: Human-Animal Relations in Rural Pakistan.’ In his fieldwork, he discovered that the animal owners derive and cultivate their ‘shauq’ (enthusiasm) from these activities and he furthered explored how they are able to achieve happiness, satisfaction and a meaningful life in the company of animals.
Throughout his research however, Kavesh has seen the injuries and sufferings of animals which were staged to fight such as dogs and roosters and he hopes to bring about more awareness on animal welfare in future.
Kavesh describes his fieldwork in 2014 as an eye-opening experience. Having grown up in South Punjab, he was confident that he knew the language, culture, customs and values well. However, his education in the big cities and overseas coupled with his urban lifestyle has rendered him an ‘outsider’. Once after an interview with a religious leader, Kavesh decided against taking his photo, assuming that ‘conservative Muslims’ would not like their photos taken. A few days later, word spread that the religious leader was furious at Kavesh for denying him the appropriate respect.
“Long-term anthropological fieldwork is full of surprises and even shocks. You have to go there, stay there, meet with the people, and participate in their activities in order to build a relationship of trust and mutual respect,” said Kavesh.
His advice to students considering a PhD is to have a positive outlook. “I personally feel that hard work, consistency, making good friends and having a positive attitude all the time is crucial. Never be too tough on yourself. There will be failures along the way but if we get tough on ourselves, we won’t be able to take further steps and be happy. Happiness leads to progress.”
Kavesh is now a sessional lecturer in Anthropology at the School of Culture, History and Language.