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Our Projects

Centre members are engaged in a range of collaborative projects supported by external funding. 

Current Projects

Constant Coconuts

Coconuts provide food, drink, medicines, cosmetics, fuel and fibre. Yet despite its commonness, no commodity history of the coconut exists. Supported by a Royal Society of New Zealand Standard Marsden Grant, Professor Judy Bennett is investigating how products from the ‘nut’ became commodities from 1840 onwards, including how production and consumption of coconuts affected individual communities and their culture, economies and environment within the Pacific and beyond.

Global Dunedin

This collaborative public engagement project examines Dunedin's historical development and its changing economy, social life, and cultural pattern. The project team of Professor Tony Ballantyne, Professor Angela McCarthy, Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Dr. Jane McCabe are interested in how the city has changed over time and the ways in which its pasts have shaped its current and future prospects. It disseminates reflections on the city’s history and life here now through its blog, Facebook page and Twitter account. 

The Politics of Intimacy

Led by Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla, this five-year archival-based project aims to trace the evolution in the practice, politics and meaning of marriage in New Zealand from the nineteenth century and up to the present day. It is supported by a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship that funds several postgraduate scholarships on projects exploring the emotional labour of marriage, Māori marriage, and marriage law reform.

Splitting up the farm?

In her Royal Society Te Apāranga Marsden Fast-Start project, Dr. Jane McCabe is investigating the connection between the ideology of family inheritance and care for the land in New Zealand across cultures and generations. The project widens the definition of a “farming family” to include different ethnicities, family formations and land uses and seeks to ascertain the practices and problems of intergenerational land transfer in two districts in New Zealand – Hokianga in the north of the North Island, and Taieri in the south of the South Island. What does guardianship of the land mean to different cultures in these districts, and how has this shaped the landscapes and waterways of Aotearoa? Keep up to date on the project by following Jane's blog.

Te Hau Kāinga: The Histories and Legacies of the Māori Home Front, 1939-45

Māori participation in World War II was significant. Nearly 16,000 Māori enlisted for overseas service and around 3,600 served. By March 1943, one-third of the Māori population were contributing to the war effort, many of them civilians. For Māori, the experience of war instigated significant social, economic and demographic transitions, and stimulated calls for equality of treatment in all areas of life in the post-war decades. Yet, the wartime experience is one of the least understood changes in Māori society. This Marsden project, co-led by Angela Wanhalla and Lachy Paterson, will offer a sustained examination of the Māori home front from the perspectives of women, young people, whānau and communities who experienced the war at home. Utilising archival research and personal testimonies, the projects seeks to address how ordinary Māori mobilised for wartime economic needs, and made a distinctive contribution to post-war aspirations for political and economic self-determination and aims to place Māori experience into a global framework and generate new knowledge about Indigenous experiences of global war.

Completed Projects

He Reo Wāhine

This project, a collaboration between Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla, sought to illuminate the extent and nature of Māori women's writing in the colonial period. Supported by a University of Otago Summer Scholarship, this archive-based project uncovered over 500 examples of women's writing across a number of genres, including letters, petitions, autobiography and creative expression. A key outcome of the project is a co-written book, He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women's Voices from the Nineteenth Century (Auckland University Press, 2017).

Mining Marsden 

In this collaborative project, the Centre worked with the University of Otago Library to create the Marsden Online Archive to provide the metadata and a platform to make the letters and journals of Christian Missionary Society leaders and workers in the Hocken Collections available to a wide range of communities and researchers.