Course syllabus

Contact Information

Course director & lecturer – Dr Avril Bell

HSB Rm922

Office hours

Wednesday, 2-3pm

Thursday, 10-11am

Course timetable

Lectures – Monday, 10am-12, Old Govt House (102), Rm G36

Tutorials - Refer to SSO

What is this course about?

  • How are we to understand ‘cultural difference’ and the power relations and inequalities that operate between cultural groups – ethnic, national, indigenous, ‘racial’, migrant and native-born?
  • How did these differences become key themes in the construction of identities and the focus of division and conflict?
  • How do ideas of ‘race’ and ‘culture’ intersect and diverge?
  • How are cultural identities constructed, negotiated and put to use in our everyday lives, discourse and practice?
  • How can we make sense of our own cultural identities in terms of 'race', ethnicity and national identity?

We will explore these questions initially through looking at the history of the development of ideas of primitivism, race and nation as ways of defining ‘a people’ and how these histories are intertwined with the history of modernity and European colonialism. We will relate contemporary concepts of ethnicity and indigeneity back to this history and explore a range of key contemporary issues in the politics of ethnicity and peoplehood. The course will draw on international research and examples and, where possible, relate the key ideas to the New Zealand context 

Throughout the course these key themes will recur:

  • The construction of cultural identities in discourse
  • The relationship to place in constructing types of peoples
  • The role played by ideas of time in constructing types of people
  • The practices of negotiation, boundary-making, inclusion & exclusion

Learning goals

On the successful completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Explain the connections and differences between the concepts of primitivism, race, nation, ethnicity and indigeneity;
  • Use these concepts to analyze contemporary instances of contestation between cultural groups, including within New Zealand society;
  • Identify the use of these concepts in examples of identity claims;
  • Analyse your own ethnic and national biography in light of concepts taught in the course.

To achieve a good understanding of the material covered in this course and a good grade in the course assessments you will need to:

  • Attend all the lectures and tutorial sessions (unless you are ill)
  • Read all the core readings - and additional material for assignments
  • Take your own personal notes on the key points in lectures and from the core readings
  • Take an active part in class discussions
  • Complete the course assignments on time


Go to Modules to see the course timetable.

Course summary:

Date Details