• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Economics, Engineering, Asian Studies More...

While aviation continues to inspire our imaginations, the traveling public is often eluded by the geo-political, technical, and cultural complexities of this massive industry in the Asia-Pacific region (and beyond). This course consists of three major sections: human-machine relationships, aviation labour, and finally aviation consumers/passengers. Drawing upon engineering history and human-machine relationships, using critical theories from social geography and anthropology, this course considers how aviation developed in relation to other forms of transportation and surveillance, as well as how “human factors” discourses are used to assess aviation disasters. Next, it will examine aviation labour, with approaches from gender studies, to consider the highly sexualised, sometimes Orientalised icon of the flight attendant. Even though they are marketed as paragons of femininity, how do Thai Airways flight attendants use Buddhist philosophy to cope with the stresses of their job? Finally, the consumers of aviation: passengers and cargo. How has the container revolution changed our tastes in foods? How have the demographics of the flying public changed? How have marketing strategies and loyalty programs sought to segment elites? How has the COVID pandemic affected supply chains as well as aviation labour and consumerism? Through this course, students explore the histories, laws, economies and cultures as they come together in the machines, labour, and consumers that form the aviation industry today. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Analyse transportation networks and how they relate to globalisation in the Asia-Pacific
  2. Develop a nuanced interpretation of how airline work and iconography relate to national identity and gender role expectations.
  3. Illustrate the ways in which aviation infrastructure construction is controversial and has led to social resistance.
  4. Observe the tensions between global standardisation of operation with cultural differences in specific Asian contexts
  5. Articulate how logistical infrastructure is also related to larger socio-cultural issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

Indicative Assessment

  1. In-class analysis exercises (20) [LO 3,4]
  2. Essay 1 (1,500 words) (20) [LO 1,3]
  3. Essay 2 (2,000 words) (30) [LO 2]
  4. Independent Research paper (2500 words) (30) [LO 2,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Weekly: Two hours of lecture plus one-hour tutorials, plus seven hours' independent work outside of class. These include completion of readings/video assignments, critical summaries, prescribed essay assignments, and one independent research paper. The total workload for the course is 130 hours. 

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed 24 units of courses.

Prescribed Texts

Arratee Ayuttacorn. 2016. "Winyann and Affective Performance among Female Thai Flight Attendants" The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology. 17(1): 50-65.
Ferguson, J. M. 2014. Terminally Haunted: Aviation Ghosts, Hybrid Buddhist Practices, and Disaster Aversion Strategies Amongst Airport Workers in Myanmar and Thailand. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 15(1), 47-64.
Fuller, Gillian and Ross Harley. 2006. Aviopolis: a book about airports. London: Black Dog.
Raguraman, K. 1997. "Airlines as instruments for nation building and national identity: case study of Malaysia and Singapore" Journal of Transport Geography. 5(4); 239-256.
Salter, M. B. (Ed.). 2008. Politics at the Airport. U of Minnesota Press.
Whitelegg, Drew. 2007. Working the Skies: The Fast-Paced, Disorienting World of the Flight Attendant. New York: New York University Press.

Preliminary Reading

Barry, Kathleen M. 2007. Femininity in Flight: A history of Flight Attendants. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Batteau, Allen W. 2001. "The anthropology of aviation and flight safety". Human Organization. 60(3). pp 201-212. 

Bauman, Z., & Adey, P. 2009. Facing airport security: affect, biopolitics, and the preemptive securitisation of the mobile body. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27, 274-295. 

Bowen, John. 2000. "Airline hubs in Southeast Asia: national economic development and nodal accessibility" Journal of Transport Geography. 8: 25-41. 

Corn, Joseph J. 1979. "Making Flying Thinkable: Women Pilots and the Selling of Aviation 1927-40". American Quarterly. 31(4). pp 556-571. 

Dreze, Xavier and Joseph C. Nunes. 2004 "Using Combined-Currency Prices to Lower Consumers' Perceived Cost" Journal of Marketing Research. 49 pp 59-72. 

Evans, Alona. 1969. "Aircraft Hijacking: Its Cause and Cure". The American Journal of International Law. 63 (4) pp 695-710. 

Ferguson, Jane M. 2013.“Thai Airways Flight Attendant” and Country editor, Thailand. In Erik Harms, Johan Lindquist and Joshua Barker, eds, Figures of Modernity in Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 

Freud, Sigmund. 1997. Writings on Art and Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Fuller, Gillian and Ross Harley. 2006. Aviopolis: a book about airports. London: Black Dog.Gordon, Alastair. 2008 (2004) Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Gupta, Akhil and James Ferguson. 1992. "Beyond Culture: Space, Identity and the Politics of Difference" Cultural Anthropology. 7(1) pp. 6-23. 

Hooper, Paul. 2005. "The environment for Southeast Asia's new and evolving airlines" Journal of Air Transport Management 11: 335-347. 

Kim, Byung-Do et al. 2001. "Reward Programs and Tacit Collusion" Marketing Science. 20(2) pp 99-120. Kirn, Walter. 2001. Up in the Air. New York: Random House.Law, J. 2002. Aircraft stories: Decentering the object in technoscience. Duke University Press. 

Raguraman, K. 1997. "Airlines as instruments for nation building and national identity: case study of Malaysia and Singapore" Journal of Transport Geography. 5(4); 239-256. 

Rimmer, Peter J. 2000. "Effects of the Asian Crisis on the geography of Southeast Asia's air traffic." Journal of Transport Geography. 8: 83-97. 

Rosler, Martha. 1994. "In the Place of the Public: Observations of a Frequent Flyer" Assemblage 25: pp 44 - 79. 

Salter, M. B. (Ed.). 2008. Politics at the Airport. U of Minnesota Press. 

Salter, M. B. 2008. Imagining numbers: Risk, quantification, and aviation security. Security dialogue, 39(2-3), 243-266. 

Santino, Jack. 1988. "Occupational Ghostlore: Social Context and the Expression of Belief" The Journal of American Folklore. 101 (400) pp 207-218 

Whitelegg, Drew. 2007. Working the Skies: The Fast-Paced, Disorienting World of the Flight Attendant. New York: New York University Press. 

Yano, C. R. 2011. Airborne Dreams:“Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways. Duke University 

Assumed Knowledge

Students with experience and background in Asian studies, law, development, gender studies, archaeology, anthropology or engineering will be able to benefit from the course.

Areas of Interest

  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Asian Studies
  • Asia Pacific Studies
  • Asia-Pacific Studies


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4080
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $5280
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8670 21 Jul 2025 28 Jul 2025 31 Aug 2025 24 Oct 2025 In Person N/A

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