Learn from the best

Associate Professor Alice Te Punga Somerville
Te Ātiawa, Taranaki

At its heart, Dr Te Punga Somerville's research is about texts by Māori, Pacific and Indigenous people. Her work is underpinned by her belief that Indigenous peoples are constrained when the stories about them are limited.

An extensively published writer and sought after international speaker, Dr Te Punga Somerville deliberately sought broader contexts for exploring Māori literature which led her to develop a twin interest and expertise in Indigenous and Pacific studies. To date, Dr Te Punga Somerville has secured almost $800,000 in research grants to keep her at the forefront of her field.

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An avid writer of poetry and an advocate for Pasifika at Waikato, Assoc Prof Te Punga Somerville was instrumental in developing the University of Waikato's Pasifika Plan.  She is the Associate Dean (Academic) for Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao - Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies and her office can be found jam packed with Indigenous books, toys for her toddler and paperwork that is "carefully disorganised".

Quirky Fact

When Alice was a student flatting with friends they had two goldfish and called them Tino and Rangatiratanga. Sadly, Rangatiratanga wasn’t a big enough fish to carry such a heavy name so died within a week and for the rest of the year they had to explain why they had a fish called "Very".


  • Recipient - Marsden Research Grant for the project 'Writing the new world: Indigenous texts`1900-1975' totaling $642,000
  • Awarded Best Special Issue 2017 from Council of Editors of Learned Journals, for Biography, Special Issue: Indigenous conversations about biography.
  • S.W. Brooks Fellowship 2016, University of Queensland
  • Awarded Best First Book in Native American & Indigenous Studies 2012, for 'Once Were Pacific'
  • Recipient of a Marsden Fast Start Grant ($140,000) for ‘Once Were Pacific
  • Recipient - Fulbright Graduate Award to study at Cornell University

Appointments and Positions

Professor Te Punga Somerville's research has put her in hot demand.  Below are just some of her contributions:

  • International keynote speaker
  • Selection Panel – Fullbright New Zealand
  • Judge – Māori Secondary Speech Competition
  • Judge – Commonwealth Writers Prize
  • Member - Foundation council for NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Assoc)
  • Former co-chair of SPACLALS (South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Language and Literary Studies
  • Editorial boards of Native American and Indigenous Studies, American Quarterly and The Contemporary Pacific
  • Former board member of Toi Maori National Maori Arts Board
  • Past executive of Te Pouhere Kōrero (Māori historians association)

Featured Publications

Known and recognised for her creative works, Professor Te Punga-Somerville's research publications delve into her passion for Māori, Pacific and Indigenous literature.

  • Te Punga Somerville, A., & Justice, D. H. (2016). Introduction: Indigenous conversations about biography. Biography - An Interdisciplinary Quarterly39(3), 239-247. doi:10.1353/bio.2016.0034
  • Te Punga Somerville, A. (2012). Once Were Pacific Māori Connections to Oceania. U of Minnesota Press.
  • Te Punga Somerville, A. A. (2017). I do still have a letter: Our sea of archives. In C. Anderson, & J. M. O'Brien (Eds.), Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies. Routledge.
  • Te Punga Somerville, A. (2017). The great Pacific garbage Patch as metaphor: The (American) pacific you can't see. In B. R. Roberts, & M. A. Stephens (Eds.), Archipelagic American Studies (pp. 320-340). Duke University Press.
  • Te Punga Somerville, A. (2017). Where oceans come from. Comparative Literature69(1), 25-31. doi:10.1215/00104124-3794579
  • Te Punga Somerville, A. A. (2016). Te Ao hou: Te pataka. In M. Williams (Ed.), A History of New Zealand Literature (pp. 182-194). Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014

Find more research publications by Alice Te Punga Somerville

Take the opportunity to learn from the best.  Assoc Prof Te Punga-Somerville teaches the following papers within the Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Studies:

PACIS100 - Introduction to Pacific Histories, Languages and Cultures

This paper introduces students to foundational elements of Pacific Studies, including various histories, languages and cultures and their importance to contemporary societies, surveying a number of Pacific Nations.

MAORI100 - Kōkiri: Academic Skills for Indigenous Studies

This paper will teach academic conventions in relation to citation, literacy, oration, data and academic writing via Maori, Pacific and Indigenous cultural constructs. It also provides a brief survey of research methods particular to Indigenous Studies.

PACIS201- Pacific Texts

This paper explores the diverse written, film, media and online texts of the Pacific region. The main focus is on contemporary texts; these will be contextualised by an examination of traditional Pacific textual forms and the histories of textual production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Contact details & media tools

Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao
Associate Professor Alice Te Punga-Somerville
[email protected]
+64 7 837 9550

For all media enquiries please contact:
Ngāwai Smith
[email protected]
+64 224275433

Photos available for download:

Assoc Prof Te Punga-Somerville's podcasts:

Human Nature Series - Australian Museum

Stories and Seaways - Sydney University

Books That Built New Zealand - Radio New Zealand (fourth interviewee)