Contact | College of LLL | The Writing Center

Alice Te Punga Somerville

Associate Professor

Alice Te Punga Somerville
He uri ahau o Te Ātiawa. Born in Wellington, I was raised in Auckland and lived in the United States for five years in order to pursue doctoral studies. After teaching Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Literatures in English at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) for several years, I came to the University of Hawai‘i- Mānoa to take up a position teaching Pacific Literatures.

My first book, Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania(Minnesota) was published in 2012 and I am working on two book projects at present: Kānohi ki te kānohi: Indigenous-Indigenous Encountersand Ghost Writers: the Māori books you’ve never read.

At its heart my research is about locating, contextualizing, and analyzing texts produced by Māori, Pacific and Indigenous people. My work is underpinned by my belief that we (Māori, Pacific and/ or Indigenous peoples) are constrained when the stories about us are limited. In my scholarship, I therefore focus on texts as evidence, sites and foundations of stories that are far more complex than those that are told about us by other people or even those that are generally told by ourselves. My MA (Auckland) and PhD (Cornell) focused on the written literatures of my own Māori community, and as I deliberately sought broader contexts for exploring this work I developed a twin interest and expertise in Indigenous and Pacific literary and cultural studies.

I have served on the executive of Te Pouhere Kōrero (Māori historians association) and the foundation council for NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Assoc), and have co-chaired SPACLALS (South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Language and Literary Studies). I am on the editorial boards of Native American and Indigenous Studies, American Quarterlyand The Contemporary Pacific.I also write the occasional poem.

Office Hours

I am presently away from UHM campus on leave without pay.



Once Were Pacific: Maori connections with Oceania.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

"Unpacking our libraries: landlocked, waterlogged and expansive bookshelves." American Quarterly.67(3): 645-652."Nau mai, hoki mai: Approaching the ancestral house." Huihui: Rhetorics and Aesthetics of the Pacific.Eds Brandy Nālani McDougall, Georganne Nordstrom, Jeffrey Carroll. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 2014: 71-88.

“Living on New Zealand St: Maori presence in Parramatta.” Ethnohistory.60(4): 655-669.

“Reading ‘Parade’ in the twenty first century.” Covering ‘Parade.’Wellington: Wai-te-ata Press. 2012: 11-18.

“Neither qualitative nor quantitative: Kaupapa Maori, methodologies, and the Humanities.” Kei Tua o te Pai: The Challenges of Kaupapa Maori Research in the 21st century.Eds Jessica Jutchings, Helen Potter, Katrina Taupo. Wellington: NZ Council for Educational Research. 2011: 62-66.

“Maori Cowboys, Maori Indians.” American Quarterly.62 (3). 2010: 663-685.

“Not Emailing Albert: a priceless legacy of collection, connection, community.” The Contemporary Pacific.22 (2). 2010: 253-270.

“‘My poetry is a fire:’ Wineera and Sullivan writing fire from Hawai’i.” Indigenous Identity and Resistance: Exploring the Diversity of Knowledge.Eds Brendan Hokowhitu et al. Dunedin: University of Otago Press. 2010: 37-54.

“I belong to that stock: Te Rangihiroa’s application for US citizenship.” The Racial Politics of Bodies, Nations & Knowledges. Eds Barbara Baird & Damien Riggs. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. 2009: 211-227.

“The Historian Who Lost his Memory: A Story about Stories.” Te Pouhere Korero 3. 2009: 63-82.

“I can hear you making small holes in the silence, Hone.” Ka Mate Ka Ora: Hone Tuwhare Memorial Issue. 6. 2008: np/online.

“Asking that mountain: an Indigenous reading of LOTR?.” Studying the Film-Event: The Lord of the Rings.Eds Sean Cubitt, Thierry Jutel, Barry King & Harriet Margolis. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2008: 249-258.

“Poetic Justice: Writing (as) the Struggle.” Terror in Our Misdt? Searching for Terror in Aotearoa New Zealand.Ed. Danny Keenan. Wellington: Huia. 2008: 223-237.

“If I close my mouth I will die: Writing, Resisting, Centring.” Globalisation and Maori.Ed. Maria Bargh. Wellington: Huia Publishers. 2007: 85-111.

“The Lingering War Captain: Maori Texts, Indigenous Contexts.” Journal of New Zealand Literature.24 (2). 2007: 20-42.

“He korero e pa ana ki te toa takitini.” New Zealand Journal of Media Studies.10 (2). 2007: 31-36.

Areas of Interest

Māori, Pacific and Indigenous writing in English
Māori, Pacific and Indigenous cultural production
writing and history
Māori diasporas
Indigenous Humanities
Cultural Studies, Pacific Studies, Indigenous Studies, Postcolonial Studies, New Zealand Studies

I have supervised graduate students on the following topics:

Māori moko as signatures
Belauan architecture as a form of cultural and political production
Marshallese oral and written tradition
Nineteenth century Maori writing in Ōtaki
Creative Writing - Moriori/ Māori novel
Representing Indigenous first encounters with writing in Australian novels
Alice Tawhai’s short fiction
Witi Ihimaera’s collection Dear Miss MansfieldRoma Potiki and ‘Mana Wahine Maori’ poetry
Nineteenth century writer Te Rangikāheke
JC Sturm’s early writing
Māori language short fiction
Te Ātea, the first Māori language novel
Hulme, Brash and discourses of authenticity
Poetic form in the work of four Maori poets
Intertextuality in Wendt’s Adventures of Vela
Cook Islands Māori writing in New Zealand
Three Pasifika poets; poetry about Parihaka

Samoan writers in Sāmoa, New Zealand and Australia


  • NAISA Prize: Best first book in Native American and Indigenous Studies, for Once Were Pacific
  • University of Toronto Inaugural Visiting Professor of Indigenous Studies, 2011-2012
  • Macquarie University Warawara Dept of Indigenous Studies (Australia) visiting scholar, 2009
  • Marsden Fast Start Grant (for 'Once Were Pacific'), 2006
  • Fulbright Graduate Award, 2000


PhD, Cornell University (English and American Indian Studies)
MA, University of Auckland (English)
BA, University of Auckland (English and History)


Spring Semester 2014

Course Title Time  

Fall Semester 2013

Course Title Time  
ENG 352(1) 20C Novel in English TR 1:30-2:45 Edit
ENG 371(1) Lit of the Pacific (XL PACS 371) TR 10:30-11:45 Edit

Session 2 2013

Course Title Time  
ENG 271(2) Post Colonial Literature MTWRF 9:00-10:15

Spring Semester 2013

Course Title Time  
ENG 371(1) Lit of the Pacific (60; XL PACS 371) MWF 12:30-1:20 Edit
ENG 770(2) Sem Cultural Studies (Asia Pacific) (CSAP/LSE/AP) F 3:30-6:00 Edit

Fall Semester 2012

Course Title Time  
ENG 270(1) Intro to Lit: Lit History (World Literature after 1700) MWF 8:30-9:20 Edit
ENG 272(3) Intro to Lit: Culture (Pacific Short Fiction) MWF 9:30-10:20 Edit
ENG 371(1) Lit of the Pacific (XL PACS 371) MWF 11:30-12:20 Edit