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Study Pacific Islands Studies at Otago

Rediscover the Pacific.

New Zealand is the world’s largest Polynesian country, and the number of institutions and businesses needing employees with knowledge of Pacific cultures and societies is growing rapidly.

Excellent employment prospects await graduates who have knowledge of issues affecting Pacific peoples and skills in intercultural communication in the Pacific context.

What is Pacific Islands Studies?

Pacific Islands Studies is a unique, multidisciplinary programme that examines contemporary issues of importance to Pacific peoples, including New Zealanders, within their broad cultural context.

The course covers the geographical area contained within the Polynesian Triangle defined by Hawai’i, Rapa Nui, and Aotearoa as well as the islands of Melanesia and Micronesia. The focus of the programme affirms New Zealand’s location within the Pacific and its acknowledged political, intellectual and diplomatic links in the area.

Pacific Islands Studies at Otago

Pacific Islands Studies combines well with other papers from a wide range of subjects, including Anthropology, Sociology, Politics, Indigenous Studies, Geography, Planning, Management, and History. We help you to interpret these different disciplines from a Pacific Islands point of view.

The major comprises 9 papers from within Pacific Islands Studies, plus an additional 11 papers either from within Pacific Islands Studies and/or from other subjects. You can choose from a broad range of papers on Māori, Pacific and other indigenous societies, and from a range of departments to suit your areas of interest.

Pacific Islands Studies can be studied as a major or a minor subject within the three- year Bachelor of Arts degree. Further study in this area is available at a postgraduate level (masters, PhD). There is also an option to undertake a jointly supervised postgraduate degree with other University departments.

Throughout your degree you will be challenged to analyse and critique the world in which we live and to design and conduct research that will encourage open-minded solutions.

Areas of learning

A particular strength of this subject area is its cross-disciplinary nature, readily combining indigenous knowledge with a range of other disciplines. Papers in the programme cover topics such as Pacific people’s issues, Pacific education, Pacific leadership, Pacific prehistory, Pacific history, Pacific religion and church history, Pacific art history, intercultural film and media studies as well as Māori culture and history.

You are required to do core papers in Pacific Islands Studies in combination with papers offered in participating departments that have a particular indigenous focus. These departments/subject areas include:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Geography
  • History
  • Indigenous Development
  • Māori Studies
  • Media, Film and Communication
  • Music
  • Politics
  • Social Work
  • Theology
  • Religion

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this major, you can tailor your own programme of study by choosing papers that suit your interests and career needs.

Why study Pacific Islands Studies?

“Growing up in Samoa I took my culture for granted, but my studies made me realize how much I still had to learn about Pacific people and their past. Culture is not a static entity, and our future depends on understanding those around us.” (Malia Lameta, MA graduate, Pacific Islands Studies)

Whether you want to promote the interests of Pacific Island peoples locally or around the world, a major in Pacific Islands Studies will help you achieve this.

In this programme of study you will learn the value of indigenous knowledge, and how it can be preserved, transferred and adapted to suit the needs of modern indigenous communities.

These communities exist in a constantly changing environment. Being able to track the effect of these changes provides insights into how to formulate better, relevant and more inclusive policies and plans for future development.

Knowledge of Pacific Island cultures has its place in every aspect of society. No matter your interest, Pacific Islands Studies complements many courses of study:

  • climate change
  • environmental sustainability
  • resource management
  • agriculture
  • policy development
  • education
  • language revitalisation
  • primary health care and preventative medicine
  • economic wellbeing and independence
  • community development
  • religion/church

Career opportunities

Our students are equipped with an understanding of Pacific Islands and indigenous cultural philosophies that are relevant in a myriad of employment situations.

A background in Pacific Islands Studies creates opportunities for international careers, not only in the Pacific, but also with Pacific peoples in the Americas, Asia and Australia. Knowledge gained in the course is applicable to issues affecting indigenous peoples anywhere in the world.

Graduates with a background of study in Pacific Islands Studies bring to employers a wide range of skills. The multidisciplinary focus of the course provides a wide perspective giving graduates:

  • An understanding of contemporary Pacific people’s issues combined with an understanding of, for example, history, archaeology, cultural expression and environmental concerns.
  • An awareness of ethical issues in relation to Pacific Islanders in the context of past and present colonial practices, gender relations and society and culture.
  • Skills in intercultural communication in the Pacific context.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Pacific Islands Studies

Level Papers Points

PACI 101  Pacific Societies

One of:
ANTH 103  Introduction to Anthropology
ANTH 105  Global and Local Cultures
HIST 107  New Zealand in the World from the 18th Century
MAOR 102  Māori Society
MFCO 102  Understanding Contemporary Media
PACI 102  Pacific Dance: An Introduction
PACI 103  Languages and Cultures of the Pacific: An Introduction




PACI 201 Contemporary Pacific Island Issues

ANTH 204 Pacific and New Zealand Archaeology

One of:
ANTH 205  Anthropology and the Contemporary Pacific
ANTH 206  Anthropology of Globalisation
GEOG 278  Geographies of the South Pacific
HIST 208  Pacific Islands to c. 1900
MAOR 207  Ngā Kōrero Nehe - Tribal Histories
MFCO 212  Media and Intercultural Communication
MUSI 268  Performance in Asia and the Pacific
PACI 210  Special Topic: Pacific Education

or approved Special Topic papers relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR





PACI 301 Gafa o Tagata Pasifika - Pacific Diaspora in New Zealand

Three of:
ANTH 327  Anthropology of Money
GEOG 378  Geographies of the South Pacific
HIST 337  Environmental History of the Pacific
INDS 307  Ancient East Polynesian Histories
MAOR 307  Te Tūtakitanga o Ngā Ao e Rua
MFCO 318  Indigenous Media
MUSI 368  Performance in Asia and the Pacific
PACI 305  Peace and Conflict in the Pacific
PACI 310  Special Topic
SOWK 303  Communities and Organisations - Analysis and Theory
SOWK 304  Kaupapa Māori, and Indigenous Approaches to Social Work
THEA 322  Theatre of Australasia

or approved Special Topic papers relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR




198 further points; must include 54 further points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Pacific Islands Studies

The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in Pacific Island Studies is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).

Minor subject requirements

Pacific Islands Studies as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points

PACI 101  Pacific Societies

One of ANTH 103, ANTH 105, HIST 107, MAOR 102, MFCO 102, PACI 102, PACI 103




PACI 201  Contemporary Pacific Island Issues

One of ANTH 204, ANTH 205, GEOG 278, HIST 208, MAOR 207, MFCO 212, MUSI 268, PACI 210,
or approved Special Topic papers relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR


One of ANTH 316, GEOG 378, HIST 337, INDS 307, MAOR 307, MFCO 318, MUSI 368, PACI 301, PACI 305, PACI 310, POLS 320, SOWK 303, SOWK 304, THEA 322,
or an approved Special Topic paper relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR

Total   90

Key information for students

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