Three Division of Humanities researchers have been awarded grants in the latest annual Marsden Fund round. They make up part of the 23 University of Otago research projects awarded more than $13.7m in the largest ever round of Marsden Fund grants.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie warmly congratulated the Otago recipients on their outstanding performance in this year’s round.

“Our researchers’ stellar success reflects the excellence of the proposals they have put forward for this extremely competitive fund,” Professor Blaikie says.

The three projects

Dr Jennifer Cattermole (Music, Theatre and Performing Arts)

The origins and development of pre-European contact musical instruments in Aotearoa (New Zealand), Rēkohu and Rangiaotea (Chatham and Pitt Islands)
$530,000

This research addresses a significant problem of culture change in Polynesian ethnomusicology and anthropology. We aim to discover how the first southern Polynesian colonists of Aotearoa, Rēkohu and Rangiaotea – and their descendants – adapted tropical musical instruments and traditions to the new resources of a large, cool-seasonal continental island group. We ask: what stayed the same? What changed, where, how and why? In addition to employing a range of traditional research methods (ethnographic interviews, visual comparisons, archaeological dating, literary research), this research will be the first to create 3D models of taonga pūoro based on CT scan data. We will also undertake the most in-depth experimental organological research to date (based on all existing sources of evidence) to create new knowledge of Moriori musical instruments. In filling a substantial knowledge gap concerning the origins and development of taonga pūoro, our findings will have significant implications for wider studies of the history of Aotearoa,

In addition to employing a range of traditional research methods (ethnographic interviews, visual comparisons, archaeological dating, literary research), this research will be the first to create 3D models of taonga pūoro based on CT scan data. We will also undertake the most in-depth experimental organological research to date (based on all existing sources of evidence) to create new knowledge of Moriori musical instruments. In filling a substantial knowledge gap concerning the origins and development of taonga pūoro, our findings will have significant implications for wider studies of the history of Aotearoa, Rēkohu and Rangiaotea, enabling theories regarding patterns of Polynesian migration and cultural development to be tested. The comparative nature of this research, and its focus on indigenous material cultures, makes it of national and international significance.


Dr Jane McCabe (History & Art History)

Splitting up the farm? A cross-cultural history of land and inheritance in Aotearoa
$300,000 – Fast Start

The New Zealand rural sector faces a twin crisis of absentee land ownership and pressing environmental issues to which industrial farming has undeniably contributed. Settler colonial rhetoric believed that farming families provided a model for land ownership that was not only economically efficient, but socially and morally responsible. As New Zealand moves increasingly towards corporate ownership of rural land, this study asks: what is the connection between the ideology of family inheritance and care for the land?

Taking an innovative multicultural approach, the research looks beyond white settler logic and widens the definition of a “farming family” to include different ethnicities, family formations and land uses. This in-depth study engages with families and communities to ascertain the practices and problems of intergenerational land transfer in two districts in New Zealand – Hokianga in the north of the North Island, and Taieri in the south of the South Island. What does guardianship of the land mean to different cultures in these districts, and how has this shaped the landscapes and waterways of Aotearoa?


Dr Kourken Michaelian (Philosophy)

Remembering together: Collective memory and collective intentionality
$300,000 – Fast Start

Collective memory has been investigated in two distinct research traditions. Psychologists have investigated remembering in small-scale groups; social scientists and humanists have investigated remembering in large-scale groups. Humanists in other disciplines have made key contributions to our understanding of collective memory, and it is imperative that philosophers, too, begin to engage with this dynamic interdisciplinary field. Philosophical theories of collective intentionality have the potential to provide key theoretical underpinnings to collective memory research. At the same time, collective memory provides an invaluable opportunity to test and refine those accounts.

This project will carry out a sustained philosophical investigation of collective memory, producing a unified account of the nature of remembering at multiple scales. The account will have benefits both for empirical collective memory research and for philosophy. It will contribute to the theoretical sophistication of collective memory research by providing a framework capable of integrating existing findings and suggesting new lines of inquiry. It will contribute to the empirical sophistication of philosophical accounts of collective intentionality by bringing these into contact with rich bodies of empirical knowledge on the workings of collective memory.