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Our researchers come from a range of disciplines including History, Māori Studies, Education, English and Gender Studies. We share a deep interest in the nature and development of colonial culture, especially in New Zealand, as well as a commitment to reflecting critically on the meaning and legacies of colonialism.

Academic staff

Professor Tony Ballantyne

Tony Ballantyne (Pro-Vice Chancellor Humanities) is Co-Director of the Centre. He has published widely on British colonialism and his work – especially Orientalism and Race (2002) and Between Colonialism and Diaspora (2006) – has frequently been identified as helping define the 'new imperial history'. Much of his recent research has focused on the cultural and intellectual history of colonial New Zealand and many of these essays are brought together in Webs of Empire: Locating New Zealand's Colonial Past (Bridget Williams Books, 2012). His most recent book is Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body (Duke University Press, 2014), awarded the inaugural W.H. Oliver Prize by the New Zealand Historical Association for most distinguished contribution to New Zealand history.

Emerita Professor Judy Bennett

Judy Bennett researches in the fields of Pacific history, environmental history and the relationships between Australasia and the Pacific Islands. Between 2010 and 2012 she was lead investigator of a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden funded project exploring the impact of American servicemen on indigenous societies during World War II. The focus of that project was tracing the fate of the children born to indigenous women and fathered by US servicemen in the South Pacific Command. In 2015, Judy began a new project funded by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant on a history of the coconut in the Pacific World.

Professor Chris Brickell

Chris Brickell (Gender Studies, School of Social Sciences) works in the areas of historical sociology and cultural history. Much of his research has addressed the history of sexuality, including Mates & Lovers: A History of Gay New Zealand (2008), several other books, and a wide range of journal articles. Histories of affect and the visual are related interests. His most recent book is Teenagers: A New Zealand History (Auckland University Press, 2017), which explores the intersections between social change and personal experience between 1800 and the 1960s.

Emerita Professor Barbara Brookes

Barbara Brookes works on areas where the history of women and the history of medicine intersect. Her most recent essay publications are concerned with asylum photography. Her most recent book is A History of New Zealand Women (Bridget Williams Books, 2016), winner of the Illustrated Non-Fiction Category at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2017. Barbara's new project concerns medicine on the colonial stage.

Emeritus Professor Tom Brooking

Tom Brooking has published extensively on comparative rural and environmental history, New Zealand political history and the historical links between New Zealand and Scotland. His current research focuses broadly on environmental transformations and the role of colonising peoples in those processes. More specifically, he is particularly concerned with farming and its economic, environmental and sociological consequences, as well as the response of Māori as indigenous people to those impacts.

Associate Professor Annabel Cooper

Annabel Cooper (Gender Studies, School of Social Sciences) researches the cultural, historical and spatial history of gender in New Zealand and the interrelations between gender, identity and nation or place. Annabel is currently working on a study entitled 'The Pākehā Wars: A Genealogy of Memory and Identity 1900-2008', which analyses film, television, and fiction as well as the formal history of what are usually called the New Zealand Wars. The project specifically addresses the ways in which these colonial wars challenge the comfort of a Pākehā identity shaped by ideals of decency and fairness, and asks how Pākehā have sought to come to terms with this legacy.

Dr Violeta Gilabert

Violeta Gilabert (History Programme, School of Arts) is an early career researcher and teaching fellow based at the University of Otago. Her primary research interests concern histories of emotion, gender, and settler-colonialism in New Zealand and the South Pacific. Having completed a PhD under the auspices of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2019, she is currently preparing research drawn from her doctoral thesis 'Labours of Love: Marriage and Emotion in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1918-1970s' for publication.

Associate Professor Anaru Eketone

Anaru Eketone is from the Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato Iwi and is an Associate Professor in Social Work, School of Social Sciences. Anaru has a background in youth work, community work, social work and health promotion. While his primary research interests are in contemporary Māori economic and social development, he also has an interest on the impact of religious movements in his tribal area and their impact on Māori economic and social development.

Associate Professor Miranda Johnson

Miranda Johnson (History) works at the interface of New Zealand and Pacific histories, focusing particularly on issues of race, indigeneity, citizenship and identity. She has explored histories of Indigenous rights and legal activism in a comparative framework (Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand), particularly in her award-winning book The Land is Our History: Indigeneity, Law and the Settler State (Oxford University Press, 2016). Her current research examines how the New Zealand state and national identity has been constituted in and through Pacific empire and its legacies.

Dr Charlotte King

Charlotte King (Department of Anatomy) is a bioarchaeologist whose research centres on colonial origins, diet and health. She has a particular focus on colonial Otago, and works with communities in south Otago and in the goldfields of Central Otago. She is currently funded by a Marsden Fast-Start grant “Planting the Soil and Panning for Gold”, in which she is working with the 'lost graves' of historic cemeteries, using chemical techniques to reconstruct the life stories of those buried in them.

Professor Liam McIlvanney

Liam McIlvanney (English Programme, School of Arts) holds the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies. In addition to being a noted fiction writer, he is an authority of Robert Burns and has published widely on the Scottish literary tradition and its global influence. Since coming to Otago he has been working on the connections between New Zealand writing and some key Scottish literary antecedents.

Associate Professor Grace Moore

Grace Moore (English Programme, School of Arts) works on many aspects of Victorian literature and culture, including Australian settler literature. She has published on fires, emotions and the environment, acclimatization and animal studies, and she is also a Dickens scholar. Grace is at present writing a book about the novelist Anthony Trollope and his representations of environmental change, while completing a project on Australian depictions of bushfires, Arcady in Flames.

Dr Hugh Morrison

Hugh Morrison (College of Education) works on New Zealand and British world religious history in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, with a focus on historiography, missionary involvement and engagements, missionary education, intersections between local and global factors, and colonial childhood identity formation with respect to religion, missions, empire and nation. With University of Otago Research Grant funding he is also working on a comparative history of late nineteenth/early twentieth-century New Zealand and Scottish Presbyterian children's engagement with the Protestant foreign missionary movement. Recent publications include co-editing The Spirit of the Past: Essays on Christianity in New Zealand History (Victoria University Press, 2011) and Mana Māori and Christianity (Huia Publications, 2012).

Emeritus Professor Erik Olssen

Erik Olssen is a graduate of Otago University (1965) and Duke University (1970). For many years he taught at Otago and published on American and New Zealand History. He also ran one of the country's largest inter-disciplinary collaborative research projects which has produced four books, two edited collections, and over 30 papers in refereed international journals. He has published over 80 articles and papers and several books. Among his most important books are A History of Otago (1984),The Red Feds (1988), Building the New World (1994), and (with Clyde Griffen and Frank Jones) An Accidental Utopia? Social mobility and the foundations of an egalitarian society (2011). His most recent publication is a photographic essay on Working Lives (2014) and he is currently working on a history of New Zealand.

Professor Lachy Paterson

Lachy Paterson (Te Tumu) has researched niupepa (Māori-language newspapers) of the colonial period, from which he has explored the social, cultural and religious discourses promulgated within these publications. In 2006 he published Colonial Discourses, a monograph on the niupepa between 1855 and 1863, and has since produced a number of articles and book chapters on this topic. He is currently engaged in writing short monograph on the history of Māori-language publications from 1815 to the present. His most recent publication is He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women's Voices from the Nineteenth Century (Auckland University Press, 2017) with Angela Wanhalla. He has co-edited a collection on Indigenous textual cultures and is currently working on a collaborative project, funded by a Marsden Grant, on the Histories and Legacies of the Māori Home Front, 1939-45.

Ms Megan Pōtiki

Megan Pōtiki is a Lecturer in Te Tumu (School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies) and graduate student researching 'Contributing factors to the the Death of the Māori Language at Ōtākou'. Her areas of research interest are based primarily on the Kāi Tahu language, with a focus on traditional waiata and haka, language death, and whakapapa and history.

Associate Professor John Stenhouse

John Stenhouse (History Programme, School of Arts) has published widely in the fields of religious history and the history of ideas. He is currently writing a book on missionary science in the modern world, and is involved in a collaborative project on an historical geography of religion in New Zealand. His recent publications include: 'The Controversy over the Recognition of Religious Factors in New Zealand History: Some Reflections,' in Geoffrey Troughton and Hugh Morrison, eds., The Spirit of the Past: Essays on Christianity in New Zealand History (2011); 'Selwyn through settler eyes' in Allan K. Davidson, ed., A Controversial Churchman: Essays on George Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand and Lichfield, and Sarah Selwyn (2011); and 'Church and state in New Zealand 1835-1870: religion, politics and race' in Hilary Carey and John Gascoigne, eds., Church and State in Old and New Worlds (2011).

Professor Angela Wanhalla

Angela Wanhalla (History Programme, School of Arts) works at the intersection between gender, race and sexuality in colonial history, with a specific focus on the social and cultural history of intimacy within colonial cultures. Her award-winning book, Matters of the Heart: A History of Interracial Marriage in New Zealand (Auckland University Press, 2013), draws together these research interests. Angela has recently been involved in the Marsden-funded Mothers Darlings (US Fathers of Pacific Children) with Professor Judy Bennett (History) and Associate Professor Jacqui Leckie tracing the fate of the children fathered by US servicemen in the South Pacific during WWII. She is collaborating with Lachy Paterson on a Marsden-funded project: Histories and Legacies of the Māori Home Front, 1939-45.

Dr Paerau Warbrick

Paerau Warbrick is a Lecturer in Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, lecturing on the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Tribunal. He is also a part-time barrister specialising in Māori land, trusts and wills and estates. Paerau's research interest is on historical and contemporary Māori issues particularly in the area of the Māori and Native Land Courts. His two main research projects at the moment involve a history of the Māori Land Court in the South Island and a small book on the Indigenous people of Britain.

Associate members

Dr Katie Cooper

Katie Cooper completed her PhD on rural New Zealand kitchens at the University of Otago in 2017. Her research examined the form and function of the kitchen space in its various configurations, and investigated rurality, race, and gender as intersecting forms of cultural difference. Katie is now a history curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and her work focuses on cultural and material histories of colonial life.

Dr Rosi Crane

Rosi Crane, Honorary Curator Science History, Otago Museum, works on nineteenth-century New Zealand science, and its various styles of expression and exposition. Her largely biographical research extends to the specimens acquired for the museum as well as the people involved—an approach that builds on her doctorate awarded in 2015. Since then she has published several research papers and, continuing in the tradition of museum work, also articles for non-specialist audiences. More broadly Rosi is interested in the nexus of colonial science, culture and art particularly as it played out in the worldwide phenomena of museum building. She is currently working on a history of the early years of Otago Museum.

Dr Jane McCabe

Jane McCabe is a Melbourne-based historian who researches race, intimacy and the place of the family in imperial and colonial histories; with a particular interest in archives and the material/cultural legacies of familial disruptions. She has published numerous articles from her “Kalimpong Kids” doctoral thesis, which examined the resettlement of mixed-race children from Assam tea plantations via Kalimpong to New Zealand, and published a monograph about the scheme with Bloomsbury in 2017 as Race, Tea and Colonial Resettlement: Imperial Families, Interrupted. Jane is completing a project, funded by a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fast-Start Grant, on cross-cultural histories of land and inheritance in rural New Zealand.

Dr Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens (History Programme, University of Waikato) was a post-doctoral research fellow working on a Marsden-funded commodity history of coconuts with Professor Judy Bennett. She completed her PhD on colonial criminal justice in New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu at the University of Cambridge in 2015. Her research focuses on comparative histories of cultural and economic exchange in the colonial Pacific (including New Zealand), working across the intersections of race, gender and law and examining both British and French colonies.

Administrative staff

Sandra Burgess

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