Featured HRAF Global Scholar: Sandi James

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HRAF Global Scholar: Sandi James
Title: PhD Candidate, Public Health and Social Policy
University Affiliation: La Trobe University, Australia and Universiti Malaysia, Sabah
Research Topic: Exploring Alcohol use in Sabah, Malaysia: Preliminary results from an ethnographic study in the Kadazandusun culture.

Sandi JamesSandi James is a PhD candidate in Public Health and Social Policy at La Trobe University in Australia. She is researching the patterns and meanings of alcohol use in Sabah, Malaysia. Her research project is based on ethnographic fieldwork which involves extensive visits to small communities in Borneo. The project is currently self-funded. Sandi is using anthropological data and ethnographic research from eHRAF World Cultures to further facilitate her study.

According to Sandi, there has been limited ethnographic research exploring drinking practices in indigenous cultures with a tradition of local alcohol production. The ways alcohol is used has been well documented in Western and upper-income countries, but is under-researched in low-to-middle-income countries. Sandi’s study explores perceptions of alcohol in the Kadazandusun culture of Borneo in Sabah, Malaysia where alcohol has a key place in cultural ceremonies and has been brewed in the home, using traditional methods, for centuries. Her research considers cultural changes over time with the impact of colonization and tourism and explores the implications of this for the communities. The introduction of factory-made alcohol has been linked to increasing levels of alcohol-related harm. Sandi argues that typical Western-style public health programs have been ineffective in dealing with these problems. Therefore, it is extremely important to develop effective and culturally relevant harm reduction programs.

Below is a poster detailing Sandi’s research:

Sandi James PosterSandi has identified links between cross-cultural research on alcohol production and consumption, and public health initiatives aimed at reducing the harm caused by this activity. As stated in the conclusion of her poster:

Understanding the meaning of and reasons for alcohol consumption across cultures can help inform more effective alcohol-harm minimization programs. Implications for public health include a recommendation to change from the didactic western style of educational workshops and brochures, to a culturally appropriate and relevant approach that allows for the traditional cultural beliefs and includes discussion of cultural changes.

HRAF is honored to welcome Sandi James as one of our HRAF Global Scholarship winners. We wish her continued success with her research.

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