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Pacific Studies Research Cluster

About the Pacific Studies research cluster

The Pacific Studies Research Cluster is a forum for facilitating research in the Pacific, providing expertise across departmental boundaries and hosting a body of Pacific expertise to comment on and provide considered advice on policy and advocacy based on quality research. This can include collaborative work that involves archaeologists, historians and ethnomusicologists, or research on current issues such as resource management or poverty which might involve joint projects between anthropologists, surveyors, historians, geographers and economists, for example, when examining issues such as changing land tenure and conflict.

The Pacific Studies Research Cluster is a network of leading Pacific scholars who both teach and research on the Pacific providing links both within Otago and with other institutions, particularly those in the Pacific.


Associate Professor Jacqueline Leckie
Head of Department, Anthropology and Archaeology
Tel 64 3 4798760

Professor Judith A Bennett
Department of History
Tel 64-03-479-8607

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Researcher profiles

Professor Tony Binns (Geography)

Tony Binns recent work has focused on community-based development initiatives in South Africa, post-war community reconstruction in Sierra Leone and urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and Vietnam. Recent research is ‘Alienation and Inequality: Exploring the role of the church and kinship in the emergence of landless Samoans’ (with Dr. A. Thornton).

Professor Judy Bennett (History and Art History)

Professor Bennett’s research interests are in Pacific History, Environmental History and Australia's and New Zealand's relations with the Pacific Islands. Her latest book, "Natives and Exotics" was published in 2009.

Her current work focuses on the Marsden funded project, entitled "Mothers' darlings: Children of indigenous women and World War Two American servicemen in New Zealand and South Pacific societies" with Professor Angela Wanhalla.

Find out more about the Mothers' Darling research project.

Associate Professor Jenny Bryant-Tokalau, (Pacific Studies, Te Tumu)

Associate Professor Bryant-Tokalau’s current research is on poverty and environmental governance in the Pacific; Urban housing and poverty and Urban environmental degradation in the Pacific. Currently working on film project on Making Poverty History; global poverty strategies and their appropriateness to the Pacific. Most recent research is on the role of the Fijian Qoliqoli legislation and the urban poor.

Dr Greg Burnett (Education)

Current funded research includes leading a partnership with a local Dunedin welfare provider investigating the experiences of newly arrived Pacific children and their families to southern New Zealand schools.
Read about the experiences of newly arrived Pacific children and their families to southern New Zealand schools.

Another funded research project involves an exploration of preservice and beginning teachers anxieties and desires for teaching as a career choice.
Read about beginning teachers' anxieties and desires for teaching as a career choice.

Other interests include postcolonial theory and schooling in the Pacific region, critical discourse analysis and cultural/identity politics.

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Dr Stephen Knowles (Economics)

Stephen's research interests are primarily in the area of empirical modelling of economic growth, including the effects of gender inequalities in education and health on economic growth, the relationship between social capital and economic performance, the effects of government intervention on economic performance and the relationship between income inequality and economic growth. His teaching interests include the economics of developing countries and introductory microeconomics. A current research project is on Measuring Trust in the South Pacific (with Prof. David Fielding of Economics and Dr Filipo Tokalau of Economics, USP).

Associate Professor Jacqui Leckie (Social Anthropologist, Anthropology and Archaeology)

Jacqui’s research interests include anthropology and history of South Pacific cultures - especially modernities and gender, ethnicity, power. Focus on Fiji but also other Pacific regions. Currently her research focuses on anthropology and history in Fiji and New Zealand with three active research projects: The history of madness and madness management in Fiji; Fiji Islanders (of all ethnicities) in New Zealand, and Migration and a history of Indian settlers in New Zealand.

Dr Greg Rawlings (Social Anthropologist – Anthropology and Archaeology )

Greg’s earlier work considered the complex relationships between urbanisation, land tenure change, wage labour and offshore finance in Vanuatu. Particularly interesting was the way property is imagined and represented as a series of cultural acts encompassed in law and custom. These divergent imaginaries have a direct impact on the ability of land to be commodified, bought and sold in an increasingly globalised market for international real-estate. This in turn complicates unilinear accounts of nationality whereby non-citizen foreign investors’ end up acquiring many of the advantages of citizenship through conversion of property. Greg’s various research interests are unified by an overall interest in the production of globalisation and transnationalism in ways that both reinscribe and transform culturally mediated notions of power, law, society and economy.

Professor Michael Reilly (Te Tumu)

Michael's primary research interests follow several inter-related themes:
The analysis and publication of historical language texts from the Island of Mangaia (in the Cook Islands); The activities and ambiguities found in the work and lives of selected European collectors of Māori and other Pacific traditions, with particular emphasis on John White (Aotearoa) and William Wyatt Gill (Mangaia, Rarotonga), as well as indigenous scholars, such as Mamae of Mangaia; The qualities required of chiefly forms of leadership in eastern Polynesia; Traditional Maori historical narratives, especially looking at the language of emotion. These particular themes are linked by an abiding interest in understanding the nature and form of traditional narratives within the eastern Pacific, and in those individuals who collected them. The underlying ideas found in these traditional texts point towards a shared inheritance, often expressed by Māori of Aotearoa as "ngā taonga tuku iho".

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Ms Michelle Schaaf (Pacific Studies, Te Tumu)

Michelle’s research interests include Pacific Islands women and education, and the representation of Polynesian female body image with particular reference to sport in New Zealand.

Professor Glenn R Summerhayes (Archaeologist – Anthropology and Archaeology)

Glenn’s research interests are in Pacific archaeology, in particular Melanesia; the archaeology of trade and exchange; the development of social complexity; the archaeology of East Asia; archaeometry; cultural heritage management; archaeology and the school curriculum in Papua New Guinea.

Associate Professor Tim Thomas (Archaeologist – Anthropology and Archaeology)

Tim’s research interests include Archaeology and historical anthropology of Oceania, with a focus on island Melanesia and Polynesia; Material culture of the Pacific region; Socio-cultural landscapes, Exchange and personhood, Cross-cultural contact in Oceania, The archaeology of colonization, Social networks and technology, and Human diversity

Associate Professor Richard Walter (Archaeologist – Anthropology and Archaeology)

Richard’s research interests are the Prehistory and archaeology of Oceania with a special interest in Melanesia and Polynesia; material culture analysis; history of archaeological method and theory; ethnoarchaeology; and faunal analysis.


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Past events

Militarisation during War and Peace in Oceania

3–4 November, 2011

Conveners: Jacqui Leckie & Judy Bennett

Download a PDF of the programme (115 KB)

Details about events prior to 2011

See details of events prior to 2011, including an online tribute to 'Epeli Hau'ofa