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About the Research

The Asia-New Zealand research cluster comprises individual and collaborative projects on the two-way process of cultural influences, transnationalism and (im)migration between Asia and New Zealand. Asian issues are an increasingly important area of study for academics, local community groups and public policy makers alike, and by identifying the historical and contemporary influences and areas of interest, the researchers offer insight into and understanding of Asia and Asian influences on New Zealand.

The objectives of the research group are:

  • To research Asia and its relevance for New Zealand.
  • To understand historical and contemporary Asian influences on New Zealand.
  • To publish individual research articles on the Cluster theme.
  • To publish collaborative research on the Cluster theme.
  • To apply for external funding for collaborative research on Asia-related themes.
  • To include further members working on the theme: Asia and its relevance for New Zealand.

The cluster has close links with



Research Projects

The cluster comprises collaborative research under the theme "Asia-New Zealand research ", while at the same time dividing into distinctive sub-themes in order to provide an overview of Asia's influences on New Zealand culture:

  1. Diaspora and Social Systems (Dr J Leckie)
  2. Visual and Performing Arts (Prof H Johnson, Dr P Voci)
  3. Medicine (Dr J-B Nie)

1. Diaspora and Social Systems (Dr J Leckie)

(i) This project will research the history of migration and settlement from the Indian subcontinent to Aotearoa. The emphasis will be on the historic experience of Indians in New Zealand and to set this against the local, national and global context. The project has been endorsed by and is a partnership with the New Zealand Indian Central Association.

(ii) Muslims and Islam in New Zealand: integration and assimilation of Muslims and the role Islam plays in these issues, maintenance of an Islamic identity, and creation of a new global or westernised form of Islam.

2.Visual and Performing Arts (Assoc Prof H Johnson, Dr P Voci)

(i) This research examines Asian Performing Arts (including music and festivals) in New Zealand over the last 10 years. It looks at the presentation and representation of Asian performing arts; how Asian artists present their work, as well as the reception of it by the Dunedin public. The research will investigate the media attention to, and portrayal of, Asian cultural events, including such areas as the Chinese New Year, Asian food and culture festivals, and Asian student organisations.

(ii) This area of research combines East Asian Studies (in particular, Chinese language and culture), film and media studies, and visual culture. In particular, recent research has focused on visual culture in contemporary China, but with this project will investigate the phenomenon of Chinese visual arts in New Zealand, their place in helping create local and transnational identities, and their history as both Chinese and New Zealand artifacts.

3. Medicine (Dr J-B Nie)

This contribution will look at Asia and medicine in the Otago region. Specifically it will investigate the introduction of traditional Chinese medicine to Otago, the qualifications and background of current practitioners, its popularity and the type and level of use within the region. This research will also take a historical look at Asian students and the Otago Medical School; its first Asian graduates and changes over the recent past. It will address future issues such as the impact of increasing numbers of students who will not practice in this country, and how the university can attract more Asian students.

Researcher Profiles

Dr David Bell

David Bell is Senior Lecturer in Art Education at the University of Otago College of Education, and also teaches Japanese art in the Art History and Theory Programme. His current research interests include the representation of Japanese art in New Zealand contexts, the theatrical saga Kanadehon Chushingura, and decadence and elegance in the work of Kitagawa Utamaro.

Dr Stephanie Dobson

Dr Stephanie Dobson is a Professional Practice Fellow lecturing in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. Her current research focuses on Muslim women in New Zealand – especially exploring women's experiences of faith, identity and expressions of culture/ethnicity, as well as Muslim and non-Muslim perceptions relevant to these areas.

Dr Jacob Edmond

Dr Jacob Edmond, Professor in the Department of English and Linguistics, is concerned with comparative approaches to literary studies and with cross-cultural encounters that take place in and through literature. He has research interests in modern and contemporary poetry in Chinese, Russian and English, and has a particular interest in Chinese-New Zealand literary relations. He has worked extensively on the contemporary Chinese poet Yang Lian, who is now a New Zealand citizen, and is currently co-editing a book of Yang's New Zealand work in English translation. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Graduate Journal of Asia Pacific Studies.

Dr Gautam Ghosh

Gautam Ghosh is Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. His research is situated in the intersections among anthropology, political theory, and cultural studies. Recent research examines – within the context of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora – issues of liberal nationalism, with attention to questions of historical periodization and, more broadly, time and temporality. He has studied these in the context of the 1947 Partition of British India as well as in “Cyberia.”

Dr Susan Heydon

Dr. Susan Heydon is Lecturer in Social Pharmacy in the School of Pharmacy. Her research focuses on changes in medicine use over time and medicines in the context of people's lives. Its focus is the broader historical, social, political and economic context in which sickness is experienced and healthcare services are provided.

Professor Henry Johnson

Dr Johnson, a Professor in the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts, studies the musics of Japan, Indonesia and India. He is currently expanding his research interests in the musics of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. He plays the koto, shamisen, sitar, classical guitar, and a number of Indonesian gamelan instruments.

Associate Professor Jacqui Leckie

Dr Leckie, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, works within anthropology, history and development studies within South Pacific and South Asian cultures - especially gender, ethnicity, and power. Current research focuses on the Indian diaspora to the South Pacific, a history of 'madness' in Fiji, and children born to American servicemen in Fiji during World War II.

Associate Professor Jing-Bao Nie

Dr Jing-Bao Nie, Associate Professor in the Bioethics Centre, has research interests in cross-cultural and international bioethics and human reproduction; Chinese perspectives on bioethics ; Chinese-Western comparative history and philosophy of medicine; and bioethical theories and methods from the standpoints of hermeneutics, social sciences, and medical humanities.

Professor Will Sweetman

Will Sweetman is Professor in Asian Religions in the Department of Theology and Religion. His research interests centre on interactions between the religions of Asia and the West in the modern period. His doctoral research examined accounts of Hinduism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He continues to work in this area and is currently engaged in a study of Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg's works on Hinduism, in particular the Genealogie der malabarischen Götter (1713).

Associate Professor Paola Voci

Dr Voci, Associate Professor in the Chinese programme of the Department of Languages and Cultures, has research interests that combine East Asian Studies (in particular, Chinese language and culture), film and media studies, and visual culture. Recent research has focused on visual culture in contemporary China and is moving towards more non-logocentric forms of expression (like videomaking, computer graphics, street and performance art).

Dr Vanessa B. Ward

Vanessa lectures in East Asian history, specialising in modern Japanese history, in the Department of History and Art History. Her current research focuses the thought and contribution of a Japanese woman to intellectual life in the 1950s, and the history of a Japanese pacifist text.


Recently completed and current research by Masters and PhD students linked to the research cluster:


  • Devadasi Women in Karnataka and the burden of HIV/AIDS: Using Religious Tradition as a Form of Empowerment (N Aaron)
  • Meaning modeling and comprehension validity - Towards a narratology of Yuan drama (Y Ao)
  • Politics, personality and poetry in the Wei-Jin period (J Cook)
  • Japanese New Religions Online Communication: a Sociolinguistic Analysis (D Giambra)
  • Constructing a Significant Malaysian Mandarin Word List for Malay Mandarin Learners in Malaysia - a Corpus Based Study (Hiang Loon Low)
  • Towards neo-post Socialism: Rewriting history and rethinking political reality in the context of Chinese "mainstream" TV drama (Weijun Ma)
  • Love in traditional China : revealed through the Gingshi (Li-Jiun Shen)
  • Manipulation in contemporary fiction translation from Chinese to English: A case study of Howard Coldbatt's translation of PRC fiction (Lin Zeng)
  • Music and Taiwanese aboriginal musical instruments (J-h. Cheng)
  • Ethical and Conceptual Issues in Complementary Medicine: The Case of Homeopath (M Clark-Grill)
  • Institutions and Faith: Building the Community of Christ in South Korea (R Jenkins)
  • Uyghur Chinese in Australia: Food, Cuisine and Migrants' Multiple Identities (Mei Ding)
  • Contemporary Kagoshima Artist-potters: Women, Gender, Tradition, and Creativity (N Earth)
  • An Enquiry into the Cultural identity of Second & Third Generation Lebanese New Zealanders (M Farry)
  • The Seams of Subjectivity and Structure: Women's Experiences of Garment Work in Aotearoa New Zealand and Fiji (C Harrington)
  • Multicultural music education and ESL teaching (F Lim)
  • Immigration and National Identity in New Zealand (J Mitchell)
  • Seeking asylum in NZ (J Robertson)
  • From Rags to Rituals: Ethnography of Menstruation among Pakeha Women ( D Swift)
  • Varieties of Fiji English (J Tent)
  • Japanese cultural values and tourist behaviour (L Watkins)


  • Khru Ba Siwichai (1878-1938) (I Treesahakiat)
  • The Central Asian Buddhist missionary An Shigao: a study of his life and work with a focus on meditation (P Kiattisak)
  • Pilgrimage and Ritual at Emei Shan (Tenzin Mullin)
  • Examination of Scientific Views of Genetic Testing and Popular Culture (T Campbell)
  • Zakat and banking (F Cutler)
  • Residue analysis of prehistoric pottery vessels from Northeast Thailand (C Haumann)
  • Pacific Women's Health and Identity in Dunedin (G Hua'kau)
  • The Literature of Ariyoshi Sawako (Y Kurosawa)
  • The Origin and the Future of Burakumin (I Laidlaw)
  • Interpreting Senior Care: Communication in Dunedin Rest Homes. (J Lander)
  • Genetic Information in Life Insurance: Legal and Ethical Implications for New Zealand (G Lewis)
  • Biculturalism and Assisted Reproductive Technology (E Mann)
  • Why Knot? An Exploration of Weddings for women in contemporary New Zealand (K Mines)
  • International Education & domestic students in NZ (S Scott)
  • Japanese Tourists in New Zealand (L Watkins)


Previous Events


Reconsidering Gender in Asian Studies: a Pacific Perspective

8 - 9 June 2012

A symposium of the Asia-New Zealand Research Cluster with the support of the Division of Humanities, University of Otago

Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Haroon Akram-Lodhi (Chair of the Department of International Development Studies Trent University, Canada)
  • Associate Professor Kalpana Ram (Department of Anthropology, Macquarie University).

This symposium asks if gender matters within current research and practices relating to Asia

  • How central is this within Asian studies?
  • How can we go beyond tropes of not only the 'seductive/submissive' 'Asian woman' but also well-established critiques and deconstructions of this?
  • How are masculinities being addressed within Asian studies?

We seek papers that are not just concerned with representation but also practice and praxis and also invite proposals for papers that address the key issue of Asian Studies research conducted in New Zealand.

As with our other symposia we anticipate a high quality publication will result from this.


  • Vanessa B. Ward (History & Art History)
  • Jacqui Leckie (Anthropology & Archaeology)

Download a copy of the programme.

Asia-New Zealand research cluster events held before 2012

Find out about events held prior to 2012.

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