Pacific Studies staff are recognised internationally for their academic publications and experience in consultancies. We are also active in external research projects funded by organisations such as government ministries and district health boards. Our findings inform politicians and policy advisers.
We encourage our students to engage in supervised research that fits their interests and career goals.
Richard Moyle has just completed a book examining myth and belief on the Polynesian outlier of Takū, where the community banned Christian missionaries and churches more than 40 years ago. Takū is arguably the only Polynesian community still practising its traditional religion, led by the sole ariki. Moyle, only the third researcher permitted on the island and the first to publish his findings, spent 20 months on Takū between 1994 and 2008, and has already published a bilingual anthology of its oral tradition, a music ethnography, a CD of traditional singing, and a grammar and dictionary. Adopted by the island’s supreme religious leader, he enjoyed daily access to the man charged with communal wellbeing and spiritual protection, as well as to clan elders and the adult community itself whose smallness (c.600) allowed regular interaction with most residents and permitted well grounded generalisations and conclusions. This major study represents a departure from academic theorising and a return to solid ethnography, foregrounding indigenous thinking and allowing Taku to express themselves as they speak candidly of their own understandings and ignorances, their pride and fears, their confidence and concerns – contextualised by the all-enveloping presence of what is believed but not seen. By examining the religious procedures, the artefacts, the principal actors and the many categories of spirit beings, Moyle portrays a small community constantly strategising to preserve pride of self-identity amid the hardships of remoteness, and a determination to perpetuate the beliefs underpinning their extensive ritual life which alone, they believe, allow them to continue to exist. Publication details will follow soon.
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