College of Humanities and Social Sciences (Albany)
[photograph: Jack Ross]

Social and Cultural Studies:
Monograph Series


  • Welcome

  • Notes on Formatting

  • List of Contributors

  • List of Titles:

    1. Peter Mataira, Pa'u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo-Lauta, Rajen Prasad, Paul Spoonley, Marilyn Waring, & Wong Liu Shueng, Cross-Cultural Research: A Symposium. Introduction by Jennifer Lawn & Eleanor Rimoldi (November 2001). viii + 44 pp. [$10.00]

    2. Grant Duncan, Pain and the Body Politic. Discussion by Victoria Grace. Introduction by Eleanor Rimoldi & Jennifer Lawn (June 2002). viii + 60 pp. [$10.00]

    3. Lily George, Different Music, Same Dance: Te Taou and the Treaty Claims Process. Introduction by Graeme MacRae (June 2004) {reprinted December 2004, with revised genealogies}). vi + 110 pp. [$10.00]

    4. Carmel Cervin & Lewis Williams, Participatory Action Research in Aotearoa/NZ (July 2004). iv + 66 pp. [$10.00]

    5. Mike O'Brien, Jennifer Lawn, Fiona Te Momo, & Neil Lunt, A Third Term?: Evaluating the Policy Legacy of the Labour-led Government, 1999-2005 (August 2005). vi + 60 pp. [$10.00)

    6. Grant Young, Michael Belgrave, & Tom Bennion, Native and Māori Land Legislation in the Superior Courts, 1840-1980 (November 2005). iv + 98 pp. [$10.00)

    7. Julee Browning, Blood Ties with Strangers: Navigating the Course of Adoption Reunion over the Long Term (November 2006) {June 2007}. vi + 62 pp. [$10.00)

    8. Jack Ross, To Terezín: A Travelogue. Afterword by Martin Edmond (June 2007). ii + 90 pp. [$10.00)

    9. Rowan McCormick, Writers of Passage. Preface by Mary Paul. Afterword by Eleanor Rimoldi (June 2008). ii + 70 pp. [$10.00]

    10. Grant Duncan, Ann Dupuis, David Ishii, Jennifer Lawn, Peter Lineham, Cluny Macpherson, Graeme MacRae, Isabel Michell, Eleanor Rimoldi, Jack Ross & Warwick Tie, 11 Views of Auckland. Edited by Jack Ross & Grant Duncan. Preface by Jack Ross (December 2010). ii + 210 pp. [$20.00]

  • Forthcoming Titles / Upcoming Events


Forthcoming Titles / Upcoming Events:

Authors Graeme MacRae, Grant Duncan, Jack Ross, Eleanor Rimoldi, David Ishii, Cluny Macpherson and Warwick Tie at the book launch yesterday. Absent were Ann Dupuis, Jennifer Lawn and Isabel Michell.
(Massey Albany: 17 February, 2011)

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Albany Campus
Massey University

are happy to invite you
to celebrate
the publication of

11 Views of Auckland

An anthology of essays
by members of the College

Volume 10 in our ongoing Monograph Series
Social and Cultural Studies

The book will be launched by
Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor
The Hon Steve Maharey

At a special launch price of $15
[RRP: $20]

In the Study Centre Staff Lounge,
East Precinct, Albany Campus, Auckland
on Thursday 17th February
from 5.00-6.30 p.m.

For directions please visit this page.

For catering purposes please RSVP to
Leanne Menzies
By Friday 11th February, 2011


Title 10:

[Cover image: Untitled, from Lounge Room Tribalism, by Graham Fletcher /
Cover design: Brett Cross & Ellen Portch]

11 Views of Auckland

Edited by Jack Ross
& Grant Duncan

Social and Cultural Studies 10
(December 2010)
ISSN: 1175-7132

from the Preface:

As with any other space, urban or otherwise, there are as many Aucklands as there are inhabitants of the city. The point of difference in this particular book, however, is that each of them is described from the point of view of a particular Academic discipline, by one of the Auckland-based members of Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (until recently grouped in the School of Social and Cultural Studies, which continues to lend its name to this monograph series).

We begin, then, at as near as possible to the beginning, with Sociologist Cluny Macpherson’s survey – and critique – of received wisdom about the Pacific history of Auckland.

Settlement is our next major topic. Anthropologist Graeme MacRae’s own personal account of his experience of living in one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs, Freemans Bay, is followed by Sociologist Ann Dupuis’s analysis of the latest trend in city living: gated communities; then by fellow-Sociologist Warwick Tie’s dazzling photo-essay on that most troubled of Auckland’s mirrorglass skyscrapers, the Metropolis building.

The theory and practice of city living moves to the forefront in the next set of essays. Anthropologist Eleanor Rimoldi, from the somewhat detached perspective of a citizen of the People’s Republic of Waiheke, records some of Auckland city’s efforts to date to create a “civil society.” Literary and Art Critic Isabel Michell comments on our urban spaces from the dual viewpoints of a mother and a pedestrian. English lecturer Jennifer Lawn prefers to quiz us through the distorting lens of Auckland’s burgeoning population of crime writers.

The North Shore, home of Masseys’s Albany campus, comes next in our list of topics. Historian Peter Lineham chronicles its long history of religious controversy and debate, while I talk about an abortive project to memorialise the Shore’s long literary history on the pillars of the Harbour Bridge from my own perspective as a writer and a lecturer in Creative Writing.

Sociolinguist David Ishii’s essay on the difficulties encountered by Auckland’s growing population of new immigrants leads us to the final piece in the book, Political Scientist Grant Duncan’s analysis of the progress of local government in Auckland, from colonial settlement to Super City – that unwieldy fusion of the region’s numerous city and regional councils which has now been legislated into becoming our civic reality.

11 Views of Auckland, then, stresses a multidisciplinary approach to this most multicultural of New Zealand cities. The serendipitous – complementary rather than contradictory – way the various essays have grouped themselves according to themes during the editing process accents another virtue we’ve come to value highly during all our years of working together on this clean green suburban campus: collegiality.

- Jack Ross

Notes on Contributors:

Associate Professor Grant Duncan has a PhD from Auckland University, and teaches applied political theory, political economy and the development of New Zealand social policy at Massey’s Albany Campus. His research and publications have covered general changes in social policy and public management in New Zealand, specialising in accident compensation legislation and policy. He has analysed the means by which policy institutions construct and administer populations, with a focus on work-capacity and chronic-pain disability, and also on happiness.

Associate Professor Ann Dupuis has a PhD from Canterbury University and teaches Sociology at Massey’s Albany Campus. Ann is an editor of the recently published book Multi-owned Housing: Law, Power and Practice (2010), which reflects her long-standing research interest in issues of the private governance and management of multi-owned housing developments. Other research and publications have examined issues of urban intensification, medium density housing, condominium living, the growth in gated communities, and the operation of bodies corporate. Ann teaches papers in NZ culture and identity, gender, globalisation and the sociology of work.

Dr Graham Fletcher is an Auckland-born painter of dual Samoan and European heritage. He has a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland. The cover image is from his 2009/ 2010 series Lounge Room Tribalism – a suite of painted interiors which are part of Fletcher's ongoing investigation of intercultural politics. Graham is represented by Melanie Roger through Anna Bibby Gallery in Auckland.

Dr David Ishii has a PhD from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. He lectures in Applied Linguistics/ESOL at Massey’s Albany Campus. His research interests include the advancement of post-Vygotskyan sociocultural theory to understanding language learning processes and collaborative approaches for providing corrective feedback on academic writing.

Dr Jennifer Lawn has a PhD from the University of British Columbia, and teaches English and Media Studies at Massey’s Albany Campus. She is co-editor (with Mary Paul and Misha Kavka) of Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture (2006) and has published numerous articles on Kiwi Gothic, New Zealand cultural studies, trauma theory, and Janet Frame's fiction. Her most recent project focuses on the critique of neoliberalism in contemporary New Zealand literature.

Associate Professor Peter Lineham was the second head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies, and has a DPhil from Sussex University, and teaches History. His major fields of research are eighteenth and nineteenth century English religious history and New Zealand religious history. He has written many articles and contributes in other ways to church and society.

Professor Cluny Macpherson has a DPhil from Waikato University, and teaches Sociology at Massey’s Albany Campus. He has longstanding teaching and research interests in Oceania. These include social and economic development in Pacific states; relations between large and small states in the Pacific region; the social and economic consequences of migration in the Pacific region; health and ethnic identity of Pacific people in Aotearoa. He has particular interests in Samoa and the Cook Islands and Fiji.

Dr Graeme MacRae has lived in Auckland (on and off) since 1975. He teaches Social Anthropology in the School of Social and Cultural Studies. He began his field research in Bali in 1993, and since then he has returned there most years and now usually Jogjakarta as well (and occasionally south India). His current research is mostly on development and environmental issues and architecture in Bali and Java.

Dr Isabel Michell teaches in the School of English and Media at Massey. She publishes on New Zealand literature, film, and art; with a special focus on Janet Frame, whose novels are the subject of her Doctorate from Auckland University. Other research interests include Romanticism; 20th Century literature; critical theory; studies in the maternal; and public space, art, and life. Most recently she has published essays on Janet Frame in The Journal of New Zealand Literature 27 (2009) and Frameworks (Rodopi, 2009), and on photography in Tanja Nola Photographic Works (Random Acts of Publishing, 2010).

Dr Eleanor Rimoldi has a PhD from Auckland University, and teaches courses in urban anthropology, the contemporary Pacific, medical anthropology and theory at Massey's Albany Campus. She did fieldwork with the Hahalis Welfare Society on Buka Island, Bougainville in the 1970s, and returned to Bougainville in 2000 at the end of the civil war to teach for five months at the Buka Open Campus of the University of Papua New Guinea, and again in 2007 for two months to study changes in Buka township.

Dr Jack Ross has a PhD from Edinburgh University, and teaches English and Creative Writing at Massey’s Albany Campus. His latest book of short fiction, Kingdom of Alt, was published by Titus Books in September 2010. Details of this and other publications can be found at his blog, The Imaginary Museum.

Dr Warwick Tie has a PhD from Massey University, and lectures in the Sociology programme at Massey's Albany Campus. His primary research interests are the politics of conflict resolution – which sees him studying the fields of human rights, restorative justice, democratic policing, and political policing – and social theory.

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Graeme Beattie, "11 Views of Auckland." Beattie's Book Blog (7 February 2011):

    The College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Albany Campus, Massey University, are happy to invite you to celebrate the publication of 11 Views of Auckland: An anthology of essays by members of the College, Volume 10 in our ongoing Monograph Series "Social and Cultural Studies."

    The book will be launched by Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor, The Hon Steve Maharey, at a special launch price of $15 [RRP: $20], in the Study Centre Staff Lounge, East Precinct, Albany Campus, Auckland, on Thursday 17th February from 5.00-6.30 p.m.

  2. Sarah Coddington, "Lecturer wants poems written on bridge pillars." North Shore Times (Tuesday, 15 March, 2011): 30:

    It seems poems gracing pillars of the mighty Auckland Harbour Bridge and telling tales of North Shore's past were never meant to be.

    Massey University English lecturer Jack Ross spent many hours collating poems for a Shore art-based project that never went ahead.
    "The first criterion to qualify for a spot was you had to be dead. It was very hard to choose poets and you needed a diversity of people with a connection to the Shore," he says.

  3. [Sarah Coddington, "Lecturer wants poems written on bridge pillars"
    (North Shore Times (Tuesday, 15 March, 2011): 30]

  4. Steve Matthewman, "Review: Jack Ross and Grant Duncan (eds.) (2010) 11 Views of Auckland. Albany: Massey University." New Zealand Sociology vol. 26, issue 2 (2011): 117-19:

    This co-edited book is the tenth in Massey University’s Social and Cultural Studies series. The series aims to collect high quality multidisciplinary work organised around a particular theme or research methodology. Here we have eleven scholars with backgrounds in anthropology, education, fine arts, literary and religious studies, social policy and sociology, offering their views of New Zealand’s most multicultural city. Each chapter has its specific point of entry and object of study: a people (tangata o te moana nui a Kiwa), a suburb (Freemans Bay), an architectural style (gated communities, skyscrapers), an island (Waiheke), literature (crime fiction, commemoration), an activity (city governance, immigration, religious practice and walking).


    As with any multi-authored collection there are a range of writing styles displayed. In this publication some are straightforwardly academic (Peter Lineham), others more personal reflection (Graeme MacRae), while yet others merge these two positions (David Ishii). Still, all fall within the scope of Massey’s series which is to offer arts scholars interesting material which avoids unnecessary jargon. Inevitably your judgement of a book will be marked by what you bring to it and what you want out of it. Approaching it as a teacher I was immediately gratified to see chapters like Cluny Macpherson’s one on ‘Auckland’s Pacific Narratives’ that I can use when stood in front of cohorts of visiting American students. Although I hope this comprehensive overview reaches a wider audience because some popular myths deserve to be punctured. As Cluny demonstrates, the Pacific migration of common sense knowledge is actually the sixth migratory wave. As a researcher I was interested to see Ann Dupuis’ work on gated communities (although my own “Gated Life” project remains stubbornly in the bottom drawer). I should also add that I found this volume as easy to read for pleasure as it was for work. Jack Ross promises the reader a ‘quick fix’ rather than ‘a complete immersion’, but I found it much more satisfying than that.


    The CBD probably wins in overall significance but there is a strong gravitation towards the Shore. Any potential criticism of Shore-centrism can be dismissed for several reasons: first, it serves as a corrective to our own publication - Almighty Auckland? - which shamefully ignored it altogether, second, the contributors work (and sometimes live and conduct their research) there, third, there is still an abundance of material from the other side of the Harbour Bridge, fourth, it matters. Jack Ross, for example, reminds us of its prodigious literary output.

    Inevitably, things will be left out. There is not much here on routine Auckland gripes: poor architecture, leaky buildings, inadequate public transport, waterfront development, infrastructural failure, endless urban sprawl and the entire notion of sustainability. Any book can only do so much. Jack Ross begins with the acknowledgement that there are ‘as many Aucklands as there are inhabitants of the city’. Jennifer Lawn aptly calls it ‘a city of cities’. The only criticism that I think can be made to stick is that there should have been more sustained attention paid to matters Māori within the city. Still, at a little over 200 pages what it serves up is something of substance and something worth savouring.

    Grant Duncan’s closing piece on the city’s governance structures, its endless growth and mergers inspired a final thought. The City of Sails has three universities serving it. Each does research on it and each teaches students about it. How about a Super Auckland Book to serve all of our constituencies?

Authors Graeme MacRae, Grant Duncan, Jack Ross, Eleanor Rimoldi, David Ishii, Cluny Macpherson and Warwick Tie at the book launch yesterday. (Absent were Ann Dupuis, Jennifer Lawn and Isabel Michell)
[17 February, 2011]

Complete Review:

Jennifer Little. "Urban myths and marvels evoked in Auckland essays." Massey University Website. (18 February 2011):

Murders, motorways and migrants are some of the subjects of a new book, 11 Views of Auckland, by Albany-based academics from the University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Edited by English lecturer Dr Jack Ross and public policy lecturer Associate Professor Grant Duncan, the book is printed and published by the University.

The essays are by no means gushing endorsements for the metropolis – home to an estimated 1.25 million people, or about a third of the nation’s population.

Each is a unique exploration on an aspect of Auckland’s past or present, its complexities and contrasts, penned by academics from sociology, history, English, linguistics, public policy, anthropology and political studies at the University’s Albany campus.

That the writers all live and work in Auckland is pertinent to the spirit of these essays, which evoke personal experiences and insights within the framework of their particular discipline.

Thoughtful commentaries on urban experiences include Dr Isabel Michell’s Auckland City: Becoming Places. She describes the pleasures and perils of being an inner city pedestrian who suffers “near hits, noise and air pollution, and the annoying experience of what might be called pedestrianas interruptus: the sudden cessation of footpath in favour of road.”

She reflects on the need for “life in or between buildings”, lamenting the lack of appealing public spaces through which a diverse muster of humanity can flow or congregate.

English and Media Studies lecturer Dr Jennifer Lawn delves into crime fiction set in Auckland as pathway into the links between real crime, place and urban experience in Soft-boiled in Ponsonby: The Topographies of Murder in the Crime Fiction of Charlotte Grimshaw and Alix Bosco.

Real crimes, reported and sensationalised in the media, can provide a backdrop or echo for imagined ones. "Grimshaw's Auckland is scarcely fit for human habitation; it is waterlogged, slimy, rotting, hostile to the scale and pace of the human frame – yet curiously sublime, even daemonic...” she writes.

Anthropologist Dr Graeme MacRae traces a fascinating history of his neighbourhood in Freeman’s Bay in The Bay that Was, a Park that Isn’t and the City that Might Have Been. He traces its evolution from community-oriented council housing to hub of commercial development and victim of “social cleansing.”

Sociologist Associate Professor Ann Dupuis reflects on the emergence of gated communities, and Dr Warwick Tie explores the link between aesthetics and economics in relation to downtown Auckland’s glass-walled Metropolis building as a symbol of precarious corporate ethos in Between Itself: The Political Economy of the Metropolis

Associate Professor Grant Duncan adds a poetic touch from the vantage point of a bus passenger in his essay The Making of the Super City. "The bus climbs steeply to the apex of the Bridge, a place where every traveller gets a fleeting million-dollar view, and this ride impresses itself as one of the great ways to experience the brutal velocities, the pounding sensations and the beautiful vistas from unexpected windows that create the way the hapless denizen takes part in the life of the city – just another body going along with the city's great lava-flows of traffic that congeal and contest within the channels designed for them by anonymous planners."

He asks the reader to look beyond the potentially "sleep-inducing boredom" that the subject of local government may invoke to the basic relevance of urban policy making; ""How do people, politics and social trends shape the places we inhabit and the ways we experience life, move about and get things done in the city?"

The book is the 10th monograph in a series started by the former School of Cultural and Social Studies.

Dr Ross’ quirky essay describes his involvement in a thwarted art project to engrave poetry on Auckland’s harbour bridge supports. He says he hopes the book will provoke readers with its “truthful depiction of how the city seems to each of us right now,” that will “grow in value as Auckland’s various futures unfold and interlock.”

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, who launched the book, praised its rich, diverse content and described it as “a time capsule of Auckland today that will become a valuable reference point for how the city changes and evolves.”

[Graham Fletcher: "Untitled,"
from Lounge Room Tribalism (2009-2010)]


Title 9:

[Cover design: Rowan McCormick / Cover layout: Jack Ross ]

Writers of Passage

by Rowan McCormick

Edited by Jack Ross

Preface by Mary Paul

Afterword by Eleanor Rimoldi

Social and Cultural Studies 9
(June 2008)
ISSN: 1175-7132


I considered the potential of ascribing ‘heroic’ significance to the events of our lives – to cast a more favourable reading on those hard times past, and yet to come.

Rowan McCormick’s monograph is based on an experimental and explorative research process - a leap of faith - from which has resulted a somewhat experimental and explorative essay. With reference to both anthropological and literary theory, a series of conversations with writers reveals the heroic nature of their existence.

This study celebrates the power of narrative to mediate a sense of the conditions of one's existence, to manipulate an audience, to affect conventions, to impress readers with notions about the other, to impress a sense of order upon a chaotic existence, to convey knowledge, and to affect a sense of connection between people.

Recognising what he calls ‘the generative and transformative power of the ethnographic process,’ Rowan's monograph examines the many ways in which we attempt to ‘write’ ourselves into significance. The result is a fresh and witty essay which combines insights from both English and Anthropology, and suggests fruitful new ways of reconciling the two disciplines.

Notes on Contributors:

Rowan McCormick is a graduate student in Massey's School of Social and Cultural Studies, majoring in Anthropology and Media Studies.

Dr Mary Paul is the Coordinator of the English Programme in the School of Social and Cultural Studies.

Dr Eleanor Rimoldi is the Coordinator of the Social Anthropology Programme in the School of Social and Cultural Studies.

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Jennifer Little. "New books reveal bold approach to writing life.” Massey News. [6/6/08]

    Writers of Passage, by social anthropology and English literature postgraduate Rowan McCormick, is ... the ninth in the school’s monograph series.

    In it, he takes the roles of ethnographer, philosopher, interviewer, writer and editor to explore the complexities of authorship and identity, and the meanings and interpretations ascribed to both. His essay is, he says, an endorsement of the heroic quality needed to pursue the writing life.

    Senior English lecturer Dr Mary Paul, in her preface, describes Writers of Passage as “fascinating.” She says Mr McCormick “simultaneously synthesises a wide range of ideas about writing, the phenomenology and hermeneutics of reading, testimony and therapy and enacts (or performs) a heroic journey of discovery; and has ‘a really good time’ doing both.”


Title 8:

[Cover photograph: Jack Ross / Cover layout: June Lincoln]

To Terezín:
A Travelogue

by Jack Ross

Afterword by Martin Edmond

Social and Cultural Studies 8
(June 2007)
ISSN: 1175-7132

from the Preface:

“Your irritation at the disunity is, justifiably or not, the effect I intend.”

So W. H. Auden to one of the first critics of The Sea and the Mirror (1944), his wartime verse commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. More specifically, to criticism of the discordant moment in the poem when Caliban addresses the audience in the urbane, prosy accents of Henry James.

The most natural style for talking about the horrors of Nazi oppression during the Second World War has come to be the clipped, gnomic phrases of Paul Celan or Nellie Sachs – both camp survivors who managed thus to refute Adorno’s famous dictum that “writing lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Whatever the possibilities for Celan and Sachs, it seems (to say the least) rather presumptuous to attempt to walk in their footsteps so many decades later.

My problem was to write “naturally” and approachably about one of the most unnatural acts of modern times – without a distinct personal axe to grind and with full awareness of my temerity in doing so. If the result seems smooth, seamless and entirely self-justifying then I will have failed. My interest is more in the questions I raise than in the answers I’ve attempted to provide. ...

– Jack Ross

Notes on Contributors:

Martin Edmond’s most recent book is Luca Antara: Passages in Search of Australia (East Street, 2006), described by J. M. Coetzee as “a book-lover’s book, a graceful and mesmerizing blend of history, autobiography, travel and romance.” His other publications include The Autobiography of My Father (AUP, 1992), The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont (AUP, 1999), Fenua Imi: The Pacific in History and Imaginary (Bumper Books, 2002), Chronicle of the Unsung (AUP, 2004) and Ghost Who Writes (Four Winds Press, 2004).

Dr Jack Ross is a lecturer in English and Creative writing at the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Massey Albany. He is the author of various books of poems, including City of Strange Brunettes (Pohutukawa Press, 1998) and Chantal’s Book (HeadworX, 2002), as well as four works of fiction: Nights with Giordano Bruno (Bumper Books, 2000), Monkey Miss Her Now (Danger Publishing, 2004), Trouble in Mind (Titus, 2005), and The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis (Titus, 2006). He also edited, with Jan Kemp, the spoken-word anthologies Classic NZ Poets & Contemporary NZ Poets in Performance (AUP, 2006 & 2007).

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Martin Edmond. "Afterword." To Terezin. pp. 84-88.

    This small and elegant work, less than ten thousand words, has a large range of reference, to Kafka and Havel as much as to the magicians of the 16th century or the malevolent necromancers of the mid-20th, to the New Europe as well as the Holy Roman Empire; it is a delightfully informative account of a trip to Prague, with many amusing moments and some piercing insights too; and a sustained meditation on how and why we write and read; but beyond that, and most of all, it is a plea for ordinariness expressed, in the very last line, as a desire for our heroes to walk on feet of clay.

  2. Scott Hamilton. "To Terezin and Back." Reading the Maps (June 14, 2007).

    In To Terezin ... Jack Ross is able to challenge the reticence many of us feel about the Holocaust, without trivialising or otherwise debasing the subject. His book is distinguished by humility as well as ambition.

  3. Jennifer Little. "Visit to Czech Nazi Camp Inspires Massey author." Massey News 9 (July, 2007): 9.

    To Terezin is an entrancing model of how travel writing can encompass a range of genres – essay, verse, images – as well as wider themes of ethics, philosophy, literature, art and history.

[Martin Edmond (photograph by Tony Carr)]

Complete Afterword:
[Reprinted by permission]

Martin Edmond, “Afterword.” In To Terezín. Poems & an Essay by Jack Ross. Social and Cultural Studies, 8. ISSN 1175-7132. Auckland: Massey University, 2007. 84-88.


I first encountered Jack Ross in the fourteenth issue of brief magazine (December, 1999). It was a piece called The Great Hunger, describing a night drive from Auckland city north past Warkworth. That’s a road I know well, having lived for a year of my youth in an old farmhouse down Puka Puka Road, near Puhoi. We had no car so used to hitch-hike back and forth to Warkworth to do our shopping, and to Auckland for weekends of dissipation. This meant a lot of time standing idly by the side of the road, as well as unexpected sojourns in small towns along the way. We would either be, if going down, in a mood of heady anticipation or, if coming back, riotously and/or tragically hungover.

The narrator of The Great Hunger is in a state of restlessness which his indulgences have failed to shift. He thinks he might drive to the end of the night but finds himself unable to carry that particular plan through. You might say he is strung out along a line of his own dissatisfaction. He considers picking up (another) hitch hiker, for what nefarious purpose he doesn’t say, only to realise, seconds later, that it is unlikely that he will see anyone on the road at this hour. In the end he turns around and drives back the way he’s come, his appetite — for what? — unassuaged.

The Great Hunger is a straightforward piece of narrative writing, concise, readable, yet evocative too; but its epigraph, from G M Hopkins, is all but inscrutable and the other accompaniments to the central text, arcane: an excerpt from a 1957 self-help book on the treatment of insomnia, a table of letters and numbers that appears to be about the resolution of some code, a reproduction of a page from a 1496 book showing Apollo Conducting the Music of the Spheres.

The text itself is interrupted by fragments that might be lyrics of songs on the radio or maybe tags of poetry rattling around in the narrator’s head. And then there is the title: is The Great Hunger a translation of An Gorta Mór, Gaelic for the potato famine? What does that have to do with a night drive past Warkworth?

I was intrigued by it in a way that wasn’t the case with a lot of what appeared in brief. Most I simply couldn’t be bothered with. I’m perhaps, like the Jonathan Franzen quoted in To Terezín, a lazy reader. I need a quick hook or I don’t go. There’s too much else to read. The Great Hunger had that hook, that drive. Afterwards, I always looked out for the work of the symmetrically named Jack Ross. Which isn’t to say I really got what he was doing, just that I was interested and paying attention.

It wasn’t until another eight or nine issues of the magazine had come and gone that the penny dropped. In the twenty-third brief (March, 2002) is a piece called Tahiti in 1978. There are several strands to it: Jack remembering his 1978 visit to Tahiti is the main line, but alongside the reminiscence are a number of other things, including diary entries that seem to have been made while he was recalling and writing down details of that long ago visit. He’s, in the present, in various parts of Auckland and North Auckland.

The memories of Tahiti come in two forms: brief prose narratives and lists of fragmentary words and images of the kind that drift up unbidden when we set ourselves to recall the past. Or are they notebook jottings from 1978? For the rest, there are a few poems, all short and perhaps fragmentary too; various quotes from other writers, many of them French, with translations; and most fragmentary and poignant of all, Jack’s grandmother’s last letter to him and the story of her subsequent death. This emerges out of the complex with some force and in a way that’s very moving.

What I understand Jack Ross to be doing in this and other pieces is giving us simultaneously both the writing itself and the tangled web of association that writing arises from. The writing is, if you like, the figure and the mass of other material surrounding it, the ground; but for the analogy is to work you have also to acknowledge that there is a figure / ground ambiguity at play.

For who is to say what is ‘writing’ and what ‘web of association’? Aren’t they both part of the whole? Of course they are; but the fact is, most writers suppress the latter in favour of the former, so that their writing appears to float freely on the white page before us. Jack doesn’t do that; he brings both figure and ground together and leaves us to sort it out in whatever meaningful way we can. I think of the method as a generosity, though others might find it frustrating or irritating.

An assumption, or perhaps a consequence, of this method is that you, the reader, will be left with a feeling that the whole cannot be comprehended in its entirety. There will always be loose ends, incommensurables, riddles, absences, gaps, losses, deaths. And entrances. This is merely true. You will never grasp, if it is doing its job, the whole of any piece of writing. Even a lyric as apparently simple as: O western wind, when wilt thou blow … witnesses an emotion that cannot be explained. You might say that the act of writing, if successful, frames a mystery that has no final solution.

Speaking of mysteries: in the year 2000 Alan Brunton’s Bumper Books published Jack Ross’s novel, Nights with Giordano Bruno. It is, by any measure, a peculiar, even intimidating book. It looks at first glance impenetrable: a page of small text on each right hand side of an opening, some piece of ferociously obscure arcana facing it on the left. And yet it turns out to be surprisingly accessible: a maze I was happy to lose myself in, which is another definition of a good book.

Nights with Giordano Bruno includes multiple narrative strands, all perfectly coherent, all of which unfold in a straightforward linear fashion as you go through the book—with one caveat. They are not continuous. You have a page of one story, then a page of another, then a page of a third. The stories are interleaved. They don’t appear to have any other intrinsic relation, apart from this: all have an element of the fantastic, or perhaps just of fantasy, to them.

The cumulative affect is extraordinary: like dream-hopping. Each time you turn a page, with the last one still lingering in your mind, you fall into another part of another dream. In this context, the arcana of the illustrations on the facing pages—they are mostly, but not exclusively, visual—emphasises the vertiginous strangeness of the reading experience. Quite a long way in, The Great Hunger re-appears and attentive readers of brief learn what is prefatory to that desperate late night ride.


What has this to do with To Terezín? Well, if I’m right about Jack’s method — include the materials of writing with/in the writing, introduce marginalia that has only a tangential relation to the main line, know that the whole of a subject will always elude you—then the decision to write about a visit to a Nazi death camp is going to, at the very least, challenge that method.

So how does he go? To Terezín is in two parts: a suite of poems and a prose essay. New Europe consists of disarmingly simple lyrics that form a travelogue of Jack’s trip to Prague, with a central prose section interpolated describing, in a very understated and low key way, the actual visit to the camp. There is no grandstanding, just a characteristic series of hesitations that edge us closer to the heart of the subject—which we reach, at the end of the suite, in that terrible moment of identity and loss at Frankfurt Airport.

The Golem, part two, the essay, is on writing as a process and can be read as a commentary on the poems in New Europe. The verses that intersperse its seven sections are divertissements, entertainments to give relief from the weightiness of the prose sections — not that they are heavy in any congestive sense. These poems are probably also about the things Jack was doing in between, or while, writing the essay; and they make a mirror of the two parts: New Europe verse with a prose insert; The Golem, prose with verse inserts.

The inception of the essay lies in one of those hilarious and unaccountable errors of the world gone wrong that come as gifts to writers, a mistake which allows Jack Ross to deliver his own brand of bent humour at full force. The notion that Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon are the same person is so improbable and so right that you want to believe it to be true, even though it obviously can’t be. Can it?

What Jack draws out of this, a theory of writing as transgression into those aspects of the world that resist interpretation, I believe to be essentially correct. His suggestion — Press on the pressure point because it hurts — is one I try to follow myself. To apply it to an aspect of the Holocaust is foolish and intrepid, crazy and sane, false and true. By doing so, and keeping to his method, Jack has managed to say something where it has been alleged that nothing more can be said.

There’s another aspect to Jack’s work. He is well read, knows several, perhaps many, languages, and has a comprehensive frame of reference for world literature, past and present. At the same time, he is enamoured of popular culture, particularly movies. Hence, in that world wide web of associations with which his works come entrammelled, there will be references to schlock-horror flicks or pornography as much as to, say, the poetry of les Symbolistes.

These are, however, extra-textual: they might be intrinsic to the writer, they aren’t necessarily so for the reader. If they are in a language other than English they will usually, though not always, be translated. If they are to a movie or to some trash piece of exploitation, then the context given will probably be enough for you to take the point. That said, the external references in this book are meticulously accounted.

But there is a question here, and in the course of The Golem, it does get asked: Is it or is it not possible to write “well” … and “accessibly” at the same time? Some people might say those two things — well, accessibly — are the same; I’m not sure that I would. In fact, I’m not sure if I’d try to answer the question at all, which doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one: maybe all the best questions are unanswerable.

What I will say is one of the qualities I admire in Jack Ross is his readability. I find him to be a writer of clarity. I like the modesty of his intentions and the way he declares those intentions. I like how his effects come, not as a result of great feats of prestidigitation, the flagrant manipulation of smoke and mirrors, or tricks of rhetoric or polemic, but out of a fidelity to the matter at hand and what can sensibly be said about it. I like the way he puts emotion, not intellect, at the heart of his writing.

I like particularly the paradox of a writer of such luminous simplicity surrounding his works with a peacock’s tail display of arcana, to ordinary mortals more or less occult, but from which, now and again, and unexpectedly, perfect shards of meaning, like eyes, detach. Witness the way the symbolical map of Europe as a virgin and its sly caption made out of an advertisement for Vampires from an Edinburgh publication reminds us of another cultural tradition with equivocal intersections in Prague.

This small and elegant work, less than ten thousand words, has a large range of reference, to Kafka and Havel as much as to the magicians of the 16th century or the malevolent necromancers of the mid-20th, to the New Europe as well as the Holy Roman Empire; it is a delightfully informative account of a trip to Prague, with many amusing moments and some piercing insights too; and a sustained meditation on how and why we write and read; but beyond that, and most of all, it is a plea for ordinariness expressed, in the very last line, as a desire for our heroes to walk on feet of clay.

I wonder which glyphs, if any, Jack Ross painted on his forehead in order to enter Terezín, and what words he kept hidden under his tongue while there; I’m pretty sure he will have erased and/or spat them out afterwards, in order to return to us as the wise, witty and generous writer he is. I know we are lucky to have him back.

[Paul Wegener: The Golem (1920)]


Title 7:

[Cover photograph: Luke King / Cover image: fern sculpture by Virginia King]

Blood Ties with Strangers:
Navigating the Course of Adoption Reunion over the Long Term

by Julee Browning

Edited by Jennifer Lawn

Social and Cultural Studies 7
(November 2006)
ISSN: 1175-7132


This is a revised version of a Masters Thesis in Social Anthropology (2005) which reports original research conducted with twenty adoptees, adopted under closed-stranger protocols, who have maintained regular post-reunion contact with their birth families for more than ten years. It examines the themes of the mothering role, family obligation and family membership to uncover how adoptees navigate their family membership within and between two families (adoptive and birth family). This study presents the thoughts, feelings and observations of the participants in their own words to convey a deeper understanding of their experiences. Drawing upon in-depth interviews, this study has sought to expand on car Her research focussing on the search and reunion and immediate post­reunion stages to examine the long-term experiences of adoptees in post­reunion.

The principal finding is that reunited relationships have no predictable pathways and are approached with varying levels of ambivalence and emotional strain, and that there is no fixed pattern of family arrangements and relational boundaries. While closed-stranger adoption will eventually cease, this research may assist in understanding the issues surrounding the reunion between anonymous gamete donors and their offspring in the future.

About the Author:

Julee Browning completed her Masters in Social Anthropology in February 2005 and then became involved in several research projects including Labour Market Dynamics, Transnational family Obligations and Growing up with a parent suffering Schizophrenia. Julee is now a Strategic Analyst for the Counties Manukau District of the New Zealand Police where her research projects are wide and varied and span from best business practice to specific crime type problems. Julee can be contacted at


Title 6:

[Cover photograph: Luke King / Cover image: fern sculpture by Virginia King]

Native and Māori Land Legislation
in the Superior Courts, 1840-1980

by Grant Young, Tom Bennion and Michael Belgrave

Edited by Graeme MacRae and Jennifer Lawn

Social and Cultural Studies 6
(November 2005)
ISSN: 1175-7132


While Maori appeals to the Treaty of Waitangi since 1840 have been increasingly appreciated in recent decades, the extent of Maori participation in the legal system in the past has received only limited attention. Not only were Maori grievances articulated in both judicial and political environments, through legal proceedings in the superior courts and petitions to parliament, Maori landowners took action to protect their property rights and maintain their customary interests. This monograph is based on a study of 610 reported decisions of the superior courts which dealt with Maori land and the legislative framework which administered Maori land from 1840 to 1980. This surprisingly high number of cases demonstrate, particularly from the 1870s, Maori engagement with constitutional processes. Maori acted to pursue their interests to the greatest extent possible within the institutions of the emerging colonial state despite the political, legal and financial constraints it imposed.

Keywords: Native Land Court, Maori Land Court, customary law, native title, legislation, colonisation.

Notes on Contributors:

Prof Michael Belgrave teaches History and Social Policy in the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Massey Albany.

Tom Bennion is a Wellington-based Barrister and Solicitor, specialising in the fields of Māori land law and Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Dr Grant Young is a researcher into Māori land titles, specialising in Treaty of Waitangi claims. He is based in the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Massey Albany.