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Prestigious early-career award recipient announced

8 December 2008

Prestigious early-career award recipient announced

University of Otago history researcher Dr Angela Wanhalla is the 2008 Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal recipient.

Dr Wanhalla’s field of interest is the histories of cultural encounter in New Zealand’s colonial past, specifically gender, race and colonialism in 19th century New Zealand. She is also interested in the indigenous history of the North American West, and the history of intimacy, particularly interracial relationships.

Dr Wanhalla was last year awarded a highly competitive and prestigious Marsden Fast-Start Grant for a two-year project on the history of interracial intimacy in New Zealand between 1769 and 1969.

The Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal recognise outstanding research performance of early-career staff; they are accompanied by a $5000 grant for personal scholarly development.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Geoff White says Dr Wanhalla is an excellent researcher who has a productive record of high quality publication.

“Dr Wanhalla’s research achievements at this early stage of her academic career are impressive. She has a promising future."

Of Kai Tahu and Pakeha descent, Dr Wanhalla graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Canterbury in 1999. She completed an MA and PhD, also at Canterbury, in 2001 and 2004 respectively. In 2005, she was appointed lecturer in Otago’s Department of History. Her research output is described by her Head of Department, Dr Alexander Trapeznik, as “exemplary, highly innovative and pioneering”. She has published articles in numerous leading national and international journals, including Visual Anthropology, the Journal of Women’s History and Ethnohistory.

Her first book, In/visible sight: the mixed descent families of southern New Zealand, is due to be published in August next year. She is co-author of a second book – a history of Maori in images – also due out next year. The book represents another aspect of Dr Wanhalla’s work, visual representation and its meanings. A third book is scheduled for 2010, which will result from her Marsden-funded work. She is also involved in the organisation of a symposium, Interracial Intimacies: New Zealand Histories, to be held in June 2009.

Dr Wanhalla says she is “deliriously happy” to be this year’s medal recipient.

“It’s really nice to have some recognition for my work. It’s not just my award – it recognises the good training I got at Canterbury and the support of my department here at Otago. I get wonderful advice and support from the senior members of staff – this showcases my great department."

Dr Wanhalla developed her interest in history thanks to her Maori father, Stan.

“I love history because of the stories my father told me growing up. When I began considering a PhD topic, my supervisors encouraged me to look at my own family and their community at Taieri."

Her father helped with the research for her PhD and he learnt a lot more himself about the family’s history. He died suddenly in 2006, aged 61, as a result of a stroke.

The Marsden project flows on from Dr Wanhalla’s PhD project. “It’s about gaining an insight into the diverse terrain of relationships. My PhD was a specific community study on interracial marriage and now the Marsden funding means we can consider the importance of interracial marriage nationally. If we can gain a perspective on New Zealand’s colonial history, we can get into dialogue with other colonial countries to establish if our experience is similar."

Dr Wanhalla will be presented with the Carl Smith medal when she gives a public lecture early next year.


Note to Editor:

The Rowheath Trust was established in 1964 by Carl Smith – whose family lived in the Rowheath area of England – to support the University. Mr Smith received an honorary doctorate from Otago in 1968.

The Rowheath Award and Carl Smith Medal are initiatives of the University’s Advancement Campaign, Leading Thinkers, launched in November 2002. Leading Thinkers supports outstanding scholarship in areas vital to New Zealand's future well-being, with a strategic academic research programme and scholarship scheme.

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