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Gates Scholarship paves way to Cambridge PhD

Friday 1 May 2020 5:12pm

Otago Law and History alumna Emma Gattey has received a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Emma, who gained an Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts in History (Hons) at Otago, will be doing a PhD on Māori resistance to British colonisation in New Zealand at Cambridge.

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Emma Gattey

Her aim is to highlight the role of indigenous peoples in the globalisation of anticolonial discourse.

"I want my academic work to inform and develop public knowledge and opinion, to improve race relations as well as social justice outcomes for New Zealanders."

Emma has worked as a junior barrister, law tutor and within the High Court in New Zealand, focusing on cases in the field of indigenous rights law.

That Gates Scholarship is one of the world's most sought-after academic research awards. The scholarship programme was established in 2000 after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge to fund an international postgraduate scholarship programme for students who are both academically outstanding and show a strong commitment to improving the lives of others.

What did you enjoy about Otago?

My time at Otago was wonderful for many reasons, as most alumni will tell you! But in terms of academic mentors, I was very fortunate to work closely with brilliant minds and personalities from both the Faculty of Law and History Department. In History, I was very lucky to learn from the incredible Barbara Brookes, Angela Wanhalla, Tom Brooking, and John Stenhouse.

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Professor John Stenhouse

In my final summer at Otago, I completed an internship at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, working closely with the archivist and curator. This internship spurred my History Honours thesis (on the religious practices and beliefs of the first Scottish Presbyterian emigrants to Otago), and my supervisor, John Stenhouse, has been an ongoing mentor for me.

In the Faculty of Law, I worked closely with Jacinta Ruru, who supervised my Honours thesis on the NZ courts’ recognition of tikanga Māori. A teacher of incredible mana, her scholarship continues to inspire me. Donna Buckingham, a current Law Commissioner, and John Dawson were also strong influences and mentors.

Tutoring at the Law Faculty was a real highlight for me, and this teaching was a passion I continued through tutoring at the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington. I also love the physical environment of Otago—I have very keen sensory memories of running through the Town Belt, Signal Hill, Mount Cargill, all the beautiful surrounding landscape.

What will your research explore at Cambridge?

My PhD in History will focus on indigenous resistance to British colonisation in New Zealand, seeing Māori intellectuals and activists as deeply situated within global networks of anticolonialism. Weaving Oceania into a global intellectual history of worldmaking after empire, my research reveals how Māori transformed and disseminated emancipatory ideologies and practices to resist, denounce, and alter colonial power in New Zealand and further afield. I’m passionate about highlighting New Zealand as a case study of a wider phenomenon: the role of the ‘Fourth World’ or Indigenous peoples in the globalization of anticolonial discourse, and in developing counter-hegemonic theories and practices.

It’s really important to me to historically illuminate a territory formally free of empire, but—as Māori activists and intellectuals have long realised—which remains subject to ongoing internal colonization. As well as the global cross-pollination of anticolonial ideas, my project traces the genealogy of international solidarity in New Zealand: the increasing consciousness of a shared struggle against common oppressors transcending national or ethnic boundaries.

Through this research, and with the support of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, I hope to enhance public understanding of global and imperial history, especially Māori history at a global level within New Zealand. I want my academic work to inform and develop public knowledge and opinion, to improve race relations as well as social justice outcomes for New Zealanders.