Research aims and accolades

We are the highest ranked school of social sciences in New Zealand, thanks in large part to our exceptional research.*


Much of our research and creative work is motivated by social justice, concerned with the critique of power and inequality, and investigates alternative ways of understanding and organising society.

Our research is global in scope, encompassing contemporary and ancient Pacific cultures; American, Asian and European political and military powers; and social structures here in Aotearoa.

Respect for the Treaty of Waitangi, the rights of the tangata whenua and the ongoing struggle for tino rangatiratanga are a key basis of our research practice.

Our research has impact through shaping public debate, influencing policy and working with communities.


  • Professor Cris Shore was recognised as "the nation’s pre-eminent social scientist" by the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2017, with the award of the Mason Durie Medal Award for advances in the frontiers of social science. Cris has pioneered anthropology of policy and institutional power.
  • Professor Annie Goldson, ONZM, described as "New Zealand's most awarded documentary filmmaker" has won over 50 national and international awards, including international festival audience awards for Punitive Damage (1999) and Georgie Girl (2002), and New Zealand film awards for best documentary 2008 for An Island Calling and best documentary director 2011 for Brother Number One.

Marsden Awards

The Marsden Fund is New Zealand’s most prestigious and competitive 'blue sky' research fund. Our high success rate is testament to the excellent quality of our research.

Recent highlights include:


  • Dr Alice Mills '"Going Straight Home": a mixed-methods approach to explore the potential role of stable housing in turning ex-prisoners away from crime'.
  • Associate Professor Avril Bell '"Learning the trick of standing upright here": exploring the views and experiences of non-Māori who work in Treaty partnership relations with Māori'.
  • Dr Ethan Cochrane 'Uncovering the origins of the Polynesian chieftains: land agriculture in ancient Samoa'.


  • Professor Thegn Ladefoged '"The making of Māori society: An archaeological analysis of social networks and geo-political interaction": sourcing and dating obsidian artefacts to better understand how Māori society has changed and evolved over time'.
  • Dr Robert Webb and Associate Professor Tamasailau Suaalii-Sauni "Māori, Pasifika Youth and Justice: International Comparisons": Māori and Samoan experiences of youth justice across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the USA'.
  • Associate Professor Steve Matthewman 'Power Politics: Electricity and Sustainability in Post-Disaster Ōtautahi (Christchurch)'.
  • Dr Phyllis Herda 'Ancient Futures: Late 18th and early 19th century Tongan arts and their legacies'.
  • Dr Julie MacArthur 'Power to the People? Investigating the politics and resilience of community energy initiatives in New Zealand, the UK and Denmark'.

*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021