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Postgraduate research




PhD students


Hugh Bowron BA (Cant), MA (Cant), Dip Theol (Leeds), MTheol (Otago)

The Parish History of St Peter’s Caversham as an extension of the Caversham Project.

The thesis intends to extend and develop the Caversham project by using one enduring institution in the suburb’s life as a mine shaft to further explore the shape and contour of life in South Dunedin over the passage of time. A key theme will be an examination of why a particular form Anglican exotique known as Anglo-Catholicism took root in New Zealand’s first advanced industrial suburb, and how this style of Anglican identity became a defining characteristic of the parish. Its origins, contents and effects on parish life will be accounted for. The thesis will also explore the relationship of this particular Dunedin Anglican parish to its diocese and its city. It aspires to lift the writing of parish histories to a new level above the high standard set by Dr Marie Peters of the Canterbury history department with her 1986 Christchurch – St Michaels: A Study in Anglicanism in New Zealand.


Supervisors: Associate Professor John Stenhouse and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Sarah Christie BA (Hons), MA (Canterbury)

Women and Work: Clerical Workers and Gender Change in Post-War New Zealand, 1945-1972

This thesis seeks to add to the knowledge of both labour history and women’s history within New Zealand through an investigation of women’s working lives in the post-war period. The thirty years following World War II saw a number of significant changes in New Zealand women’s relationships with the labour market. This research will use the example of clerical workers to uncover how women experienced these changes and the ways in which change both drew from, and impacted on, gender roles in New Zealand. This dissertation project has received funding from the New Horizons for Women Trust’s Ria McBride Research Award.


Supervisors: Professor Barbara Brookes and Associate Professor Mark Seymour

Patrick Coleman BA (Hons), MA (Cant), DipTESOL (Trinity)

Loyalism, Fraternalism and Religious Dissent: New Zealand Orangeism, 1840-2000

Orangeism is an Irish founded semi-secret fraternal society that spread throughout the British Empire in the early to mid-19th century. Its mixture of militant Reformation style Protestantism and fierce loyalty to the British Crown drew like-minded members from a wide range of Christian denominations and ethnic backgrounds. This dissertation will make use of public and private archival holdings of annual proceedings, minute books, including material culture such as banners, regalia, certificates to determine for New Zealand Orangeism factors contributing to its spread and decline; migration patterns and ethnic composition; sectarian involvement; material culture; role of women; extent of transnationalism and networking with worldwide Orangeism.


Supervisors: Professor Angela McCarthy and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Erin Driessen, MA (Otago)

Closer Relations: Artists, Climate Change and Interdisciplinarity

This thesis explores connections between the sensibilities and actions of four American Earthworks artists (Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria, and Dennis Oppenheim) and various counterculture communities (such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and the Diggers of San Francisco) active in the United States in the 1960s. Evident across these varying modes of expression is a shared ideological and aesthetic language specific to 1960s America. This language was particularly informed by the cultural phenomenon of space exploration, which during this time was at the forefront of American thought. The associated rhetoric of escape and exploration, changing perspectives, discovery or creation of new worlds, and a final frontier informed how these artists and counterculturalists conceived new, distinctly American ways of making art and creating alternative lifestyles.


Supervisors: Dr Judith Collard and Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla


Violeta Gilabert BA, BA (Hons) (Otago)

Labours of Love? Marriage and Emotion in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1920-1970

This project explores the convergence of gender, race, and emotion in New Zealand marriages. It asks how Māori and Pākehā societies produced and upheld monogamous, heterosexual unions, and how resulting emotional cultures merged and diverged from each other throughout the long twentieth century. It contends that notions of selfhood, consumption, production, leisure, narrativity, and identity were heavily implicated in twentieth-century constructions of marriage, though husbands and wives, Māori and Pākehā, responded to them differently. Meanwhile, journals, letters, and autobiographies inform a reconstruction of long-term cohabitation, monogamy, and family formation at an experiential level—revealing how husbands and wives variously conceived and expressed their feelings to and for each other. This project has received funding from the Royal Society of New Zealand's Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Mark Seymour & Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla

Chao Guo BA (Beijing Normal University), MA (Beijing Normal University)

Aesthetic, Body and Gender: Male Dan in Chinese Theatre

This research focuses on male dan, a type of male impersonator of women in traditional Chinese theatre. Since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), male dan has shaped the aesthetic criteria and acting style of the "dan" role. However, with the modernisation of China since the early 20th century, male dan, as well as traditional Chinese theatre, was dismissed as a vestige of the moribund feudal China. Due to constant political intervention, male dan had its worst situation in the Cultural Revolution and was once at the brink of extinction. Nevertheless, in the "Global Village" of the modern era, male dan becomes a universal interest. It obscures the boundaries between men and women, tradition and modernity, east and west, refined culture and folk culture, etc. Thus, this research is not merely framed within art historiography, but also current trends of theatre and gender studies, including psychoanalysis, feminist and queer theories.

Supervisors: Professor Brian Moloughney and Professor Stuart Young (Theatre Studies)

Sebastian Hepurn-Roper, BA, BA (Hons) (Otago)

Trading Taonga: New Zealand Firearms Trade in a Pacific Context, 1807 to 1857

An examination of cross-cultural firearms trade between Māori and Pākehā in pre-colonial, and early colonial New Zealand. The focus of this thesis will be on the economic and pratical mechanisms that introduced firearms to New Zealand such as whalers and flax traders, and the genesis of resultant economies that these trade vectors caused in Māori society. By collating fragmentary archival material such as ship's logs, missionary writings, and Australian port documentation it is hoped that a data set will be generated that can provide a more substantive picture of these early trade networks. This study is thus intended to be an economic and social history rather than a military one, and will attempt to illustrate the role of New Zealand on the peripheray of empire, and as part of a broader economy of exploitation and colonisation in the wider Pacific.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Tony Ballantyne

Claire Macindoe, BA (Hons) (Otago)

The Doctor is Now In (Your Living Room): Dr H. B. Turbott and the Promotion of Public Health through Radio, 1943-1984

Radio creates a background noise to our lives, often limited to public spaces, worksites and the solitude of our vehicles, however radio once played a central role in the lives of New Zealand citizens, reflected in urban and rural populations alike. My thesis explores the use of radio to promote messages concerning public health, specifically focusing on Dr H. B. Turbott's health broadcasts between 1943-1984. From these talks we can follow overarching themes in how health information was communicated to the masses, and follow shifts in both understandings of health and social issues. Topics of discussion reflect concerns of the time, from the inception of these talks onwards. Initially implemented to address issues of health relevant to wartime, during a period when the radio was a key domestic item, the continuation and longevity of Dr Turbott's talks on health reflects New Zealand's unique relationship with radio.


Supervisors: Professor Barbara Brookes and Associate Professor Patricia Priest

Paulien Martens, BA, BA (Hons) (Canterbury)

'Our boys will do better here no doubt': Parenthood in Canterbury and Otago, 1840-1880

The microcosm of the family can reveal how a society projects and creates ideals around religion, gender, race and class. Drawing on personal correspondence, shipboard diaries and journals, photographs and objects, this project analyses the variety of personal experiences of parenthood in Canterbury and Otago from 1840-1880. It asks how parenthood was a gendered experience, what roles religious frameworks and class played in parenting practices, and in what ways Pākehā colonisation shaped Māori family life. Particular attention is paid to the sentiments, identities, language and symbolism associated with parenting during this time. With a focus on the daily lives of Pākehā and Māori families this project emphasises the nuances of the lived experiences of parents in nineteenth-century Canterbury and Otago.

This research is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Barbara Brookes

Michelle Moffat, BA (Hons), GradDipArts (Canterbury)

The Tartan Front: Public Opinion and Morale in Scotland, 1939-1945

The British home front during World War Two is a period of history that has truly captured attention. For over seventy years, historians have debated notions of ‘The People’s War’, ‘blitz spirit’, and the morale of British on the home front. However, along the way, “British” has become synonymous with “English” and little attention has been given to the experiences of those in regional areas. This thesis seeks to address this oversight by exploring the Scottish home front. What was the Scottish civilian’s experience of war? How did Scottish public opinion differ from that of the English? Were there differences in wartime features such as rationing, propaganda, evacuation, or air raids? Alongside these questions, this thesis will look at the state of Scottish morale and how this was affected by war conditions unique to Scotland.

This project is funded by the Bamforth Postgraduate Scholarship.


Supervisors: Professor Angela McCarthy and Associate Professor Mark Seymour

Radhika Raghav BA (University of Delhi), MA (National Museum Institute, Delhi)

The Iconography of Celebrity: Photography, Cinema, Nationalism and the Female Star in India (1840-1960)

This project seeks to illuminate the codes and conventions used to define and represent celebrity within Indian culture by examining the iconography associated with female stars, in particular their photographic images as these are circulated in extra-cinematic material. The project hypothesizes that these star images offered models for a new urban woman who emerges in the 1930s in which modernity and a growing nationalist movement were significant influences. By asserting her independence and identity outside of marriage and the family, the successful star constituted a challenge to a traditionally patriarchal social order, suggesting the ways in which colonial culture offered new opportunities to some women, in the context of an otherwise oppressive and exploitative political regime. As such this project contributes to an understanding of mass media, gender and nationalism in the construction of celebrity beyond Hollywood.


Supervisors: Professor Barbara Brookes, Professor Annabel Cooper (Gender Studies) and Professor Hilary Radner

Franky Strachan BA (Hons) (Otago)

Veneers and Façades: A Re-evaluation of the Status and Meaning of Napier’s Art Deco Phenomenon.

There is an assumption that Napier’s Art Deco architecture stands as a living memorial to, and celebration of, local history with its architectural significance extending internationally. But how does the intrinsic value of the buildings compare with their inherited value, and where does this place Napier in terms of the world’s Art Deco collection? This thesis re-evaluates the status and meaning of the local Art Deco phenomenon from a visual cultural perspective by focusing on the processes associated with the production, reproduction and contextualization of space, time and identity in the represented world.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Erika Wolf and Professor Tom Brooking

Steven R Talley BA (magna cum laude) (Princeton), Diploma for Graduates (Otago), MA (with distinction) (Otago)

Coconuts as Catalyst: The Historical Impact of Coconut Commodification on a New Hebridean Community

My research will investigate how the commodification of coconuts (the copra trade) affected the social structures and relations of a Vanuatu indigenous community during the Condominium of the New Hebrides (1906-1980). If one thinks of coconut commodification as a stone (or a coconut) metaphorically dropped into the middle of a particular society, as into a pond, how did that impact alter social relations as it rippled through the local economy? How did it “make history,” in the sense that it was the catalyst for social change and innovation that otherwise might not have happened?

Supervisors: Professor Judith Bennett and Associate Professor John Stenhouse


Michelle Willyams, BA Hons I, BMus, MA with Distinction (Otago)

Exploring Mental Distress related to Childbirth in New Zealand, 1860 – 1980.

This doctorate explores the intersection of gender, disease and class through an examination of New Zealand women’s experiences of mental distress related to childbirth. My project asks whether women in New Zealand have had similar or varied treatment between 1860 and up to 1980 and what factors eventually led medical and social spheres, by the 1980s, to accept ‘Postnatal Depression’ as the main diagnostic tool to identify and label symptoms of mental distress exhibited by some women after childbirth. A three-fold focus on the processes of defining the ‘disease’, the experiences of the patient once diagnosis was made, and the often confused dialogues among the emerging medical professionals to construct and agree on the symptoms and treatment of women provides the framework to examine societal expectations of motherhood. Mental Asylum and Hospital records, Plunket, Department of Health publications and Preventive Medicine Dissertations inform this thesis, providing answers to how cases of mental distress related to childbirth were investigated, managed, and experienced in New Zealand, enlightening our understanding of the changing roles and experiences of New Zealand women between the nineteenth and twentieth century.

This research is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.
Supervisors: Professor Barbara Brookes and Associate Professor Rachael McLean

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Master of Arts (MA) students

Alison Breese, BA (Hons) (Otago)

How Convenient are our Conveniences? Changing attitudes and demise of the underground facilities in Dunedin 1910-1980s

Nineteenth and early 20th century public conveniences in New Zealand are becoming a rare and endangered part of our wider cultural and built heritage. These often-overlooked facilities are more than just reminders of a common public service, but provide direct evidence for changing social attitudes to the provision of public conveniences and evidence for changing architectural and aesthetic approaches to their design, construction and visibility. This thesis aims to examine the little-known demise of the undergrounds through the perceptions and attitudes (from both the public and the local authorities view) towards the public conveniences, using examples from the city of Dunedin’s rich history and heritage

Supervisors: Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik and Dr Judith Collard

Emma Campbell, BA (Hons), LLB, (Otago)

'The State of History': Oral History, Collective Memory, and 'State-sponsored History' in New Zealand, 1945-1995

This thesis examines the ways the state has used oral history as a research methodology to shape collective memory of the Second World War. In New Zealand, oral history is a research methodology with considerable links to the state, and the vast majority of major oral history projects related to the history of New Zealand’s participation in war, are state-sponsored. Through the provision of funds the state also actively influences the production and promotion of national history and such projects are conscious attempts to shape public memory. This thesis proposes that the oral history projects carried out by the War History and Historical Publications Branch reflect a conscious effort of collective memory-making. This research will discuss the extent to which the state has ‘sponsored’ the development of oral history in New Zealand, which oral histories were selected for publication, and what national narratives about the Second World War they have helped promote and authorise.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Dr Jane McCabe

Angel McNamara BA (Hons) (Otago)

Stanhope Andrews: Ten Years Leading the New Zealand National Film Unit

The aim of this thesis is to examine Stanhope Andrews' role as producer at the New Zealand National Film Unit (NFU), which led to the development of the Weekly Review series in 1941. Andrews followed a Griersonian approach to filmmaking and oversaw the expansion of the government film unit by setting up the Weekly Review. He was interested in how film could be used as a tool to educate New Zealanders in a modern democracy and was influenced by John Grierson’s approach to filmmaking. Andrews’ role at the NFU is significant, however, not much has been written in depth about his achievements in New Zealand. By looking at Andrews’ direction with the NFU, it will expand our knowledge of New Zealand’s early film history and contribute to an understanding of how the NFU was established.


Supervisors: Professor Tom Brooking and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Jeffrey Roger, BA (USP), BA(Hons) (Otago)

Rivers in Otago and Southland from 1890 to 1920

An inquiry into the ideas and attitudes towards rivers in Southern New Zealand. Exploring the debates between environmental conservation and environmental exploitation of river through both government and public discourses. How environmental viewpoints of New Zealand's rivers developed and interacted over the 30 years between 1890 and 1920. I consider the Liberal and Reform Governments' policies, public awareness through newspapers, and other sources of knowledge creation and implementation in the region, with national and global comparisons for greater context. Issues covered include goldmining, mining, silting, irrigation, agriculture, natural resource use, abuse, and management, conservation ethics, riparian rights and environmental law.


Supervisors: Professor Tom Brooking and Professor Judith A Bennett

Sam Stevens BA (Hons) Diploma of Teaching (Otago)

A study of the aesthetics of light and light theories in the Middle Ages and its impact on the development of the Gothic style and selected art works.

The aim of this thesis is to discuss the importance of light to the Medieval aesthetic and art forms. The development of theological and scientific theories of light in the Middle Ages will first be considered by analysing the theological works of the Pseudo Dionysus and Medieval theorists such as St. Thomas Aquinas and the scientific works of Pecham, Grosseteste and Bacon.
The second part will look to show the theological and scientific aspects of light theories in practise from selected art works of the Middle Ages. The development of the Gothic style and the great cathedrals and their use of stained glass will form the basis for this discussion. The architectural program of Abbot Suger (Saint Denis), Chartres and Lincoln Cathedrals, and King Louis’ Sainte Chapelle will be some of the examples of art work used.

Supervisors: Dr Judith Collard and Professor Takashi Shogimen