Woman Macintyre, Martha (1945 - )

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Anthropologist and Historian

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Martha Macintyre was born in 1945 in Melbourne. After attending school at Maribyrnong High School and Mac Robertson Girls' High School, she graduated with a degree in History from the University of Melbourne in 1970 before moving on to postgraduate study in anthropology at Cambridge University. In 1983 she gained her PhD from the Australian National University and the following year took up a position as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology at Monash University. Since then, Macintyre has also held positions at the Australian National University, La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne, where she was senior lecturer in Medical Anthropology at the Centre for Health and Society from 1998 to 2010.

The main focus of Macintyre's research since 1979 has been social change in Melanesia and the Pacific, to which she has brought a number of innovative approaches. Her groundbreaking work, much of it conducted in Papua New Guinea, has combined anthropological and historical research to great effect. She has focused particularly on the lives of women, the quality of which she has also worked to improve in practical ways through work as a policy advisor and consultant to the PNG government, aid agencies and corporations. She is a leader in both anthropological research and the applications of that research, and has been particularly influential in recognising the significance of gender as a central social relation in all societies.

Macintyre's early work address issues of matrilineal kinship and exchange in PNG, based on long-term ethnographic research in the Milne Bay Province. In 1986, she undertook a social impact study of the goldmine on Misima in Milne Bay Province with Rolf Gerritsen, which led to ongoing research and consultancy around the impact of mining and social change, which has included preparing social risk assessments and annual reports. These interests are reflected in her most recent publications, including Human Rights and Gender Politics: Perspectives on the Asia Pacific Region, edited with A. Hilsdon, V. Mackie and M.Stivens: Women Miners in Developing Countries: Pit Women and Others, 2006 edited with Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt).

Throughout her career, Macintyre has maintained her concerns with how social, economic and cultural changes associated with colonisation and capitalist economic development in Melanesia have persisted and developed over they years. Gender equality has always been a central theme of her analysis, and much of her writing has focused on issue of gender, human rights and violence against women in the Pacific region. Her research in these areas has been enhanced by her use of various strands of anthropology, including medical and environment anthropology, and in her use of photography and ethnographic representation. She has also been an inspirational teacher and role model for the many students she has taught and supervised.

Macintyre is currently an associate professor and honorary senior fellow in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor at The Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at The University of Queensland. She was president of the Australian Anthropological Society in 2005 and 2006, and was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2012. Among many other roles, she is a long-term board member of the International Women's Development Agency and editor of The Australian Journal of Anthropology. Her most recent book is Managing Modernity in the Western Pacific (co-edited with Mary Patterson, 2011).

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