Jim Williams was born in Fairlie and was educated at Fairlie District High School and Timaru Boys’ High. He worked in insurance and data processing industries until 1988. From 1983 he worked on part-time papers at Victoria University completing a B.A. in Māori Studies in 1990 and B.A. (Hons) in Māori Studies and History in 1991. In 1997 he was awarded an M.A. and in 2004 completed a PhD. In 1992 Williams worked in the Māori Studies Department at Victoria on a research unit and an assistant lectureship. During this time he coordinated a new stage-one paper presenting a Māori science perspective in coordination with the Science Faculty. He presented the traditional Māori point of view, then a lecturer from the Science Department would give the conventional scientific view. This paper was pioneered with a view to getting more Māori students to do science papers in subjects such as geology and physics. In 1993 Williams was appointed to the Māori Studies Department at Otago University where he teaches Contemporary Māori Society. His speciality is traditional Māori society pre-contact with an emphasis on the South Island. He has written waiata and poetry; his poetry is composed in te reo Māori and English.
- Interview and correspondence with Dr Jim Williams: 23 Mar. 1993, 4, 9 and 10 Nov. 2004.
- "South Island Idioms." Te Karanga: Canterbury Māori Studies Association 2.2 (Aug. 1986): 19.
- Williams suggests that Te Karanga establish ‘as a regular feature...a section for traditional South Island idioms’.
- Tii Raakau: Maaori Perspectives on the Cabbage Tree. J. Williams and T. Chrisp. Wellington, N.Z.: Dept. of Conservation, March 1992.
- "Property price rise on the coast." Planning Quarterly 158 (2005): 10-13.
- Co-authors C. Freeman, C. Cheyne, P. Ding, N. Ellery and J. Williams.
- The impact of rising property prices on coastal settlement communities. Dunedin, N.Z.: Department of Geography, University of Otago, 2005.
- Co-authors C. Freeman, C. Cheyne, P. Ding and N. Ellery.
- "Resource management and Māori attitudes to water in southern New Zealand." New Zealand Geographer 62 (2006): 73-80.
- "Southern Māori stories: c. 1920s." Kā Taoka Hākena: Treasures from the Hocken Collections. Ed. S. Strachan and L. Tyler. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press, 2007.
- "Kai Tahu hāpu: 1848." Kā Taoka Hākena: Treasures from the Hocken Collections. Ed. S. Strachan and L. Tyler. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press, (2007): 40.
- "Declaration of ownership of Ruapuke: 1840." Kā Taoka Hākena: Treasures from the Hocken Collections. Ed. S. Strachan and L. Tyler. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press (2007): 34.
- "″O ye of little faith″: Traditional knowledge and Western science." Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 39.4 (2009): 167-169.
- "New Zealand's Performance Based Research Funding (PBRF) model undermines Maori research." Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 39.4 (2009): 233-238.
- Co-authors T. Roa, J. R. Beggs, J. Williams and H. Moller.
- "Review of the book Tāhuhu Kōrero." Journal of the Polynesian Society 119.3 (2010): 319-320.
- "Review of the book Handbook of Polynesian mythology." Journal of the Polynesian Society 119.4 (2010): 415-416.
- "Mahika kai: The husbanding of consumables by Maori in precontact Te Waipounamu." Journal of the Polynesian Society 119.2 (2010): 149-180.
- "Towards a model for indigenous research." Williams, J. Indigenous identity and resistance: Researching the diversity of knowledge. Ed. B. Hokowhitu, N. Kermaol, C. Andersen, A. Petersen, M. Reilly, I. Altamirano-Jiménez and P. Rewi. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press,(2010): 107-124.
- "Learning about the environment in early colonial New Zealand." Seeds of empire: The environmental transformation of New Zealand, London: I. B. Tauris (2011): 34-50.
- Co-authors P. Holland and V. Wood.
- "Ngāi Tahu kaitiakitanga." MAI Journal 1.2 (2012): 89-102.
- "Juxtaposed narratives of the Battle of Crowheart Butte." Ethnohistory 60.4 (2013): 567-579.
- "Puaka and Matariki: The Māori New Year. Journal of the Polynesian Society." Journal of the Polynesian Society 122.1 (2013): 7-19.
- "He Aitua nā Tamatea." Te Pouhere Kōrero 7 (2014): 47-56.
- "Pioneer settlers recognizing and responding to the climatic challenges of Southern New Zealand." Climate, science, and colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand. Ed. J. Beattie, E. O'Gorman and M. Henry. Palgrave Macmillan (2014): 81-96.
- Co-author P. Holland.
- "Food and the Maori." Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures. Ed. H. Selin. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2014.
- "Nga Reo A Iwi: Some Observations On Dialectical Differences in Māori Language from a Predominantly Southern Perspective." Conference Proceedings of the AULA Conference in February 1993 at Otago University. Dunedin, N.Z.: Australasian Language and Literature Association, U of Otago, 1993.
- At the AULA Conference Williams presented this research paper which argued that the Southern dialect might be older than other dialects.
- "Mauri And The Traditional Māori Environmental Perspective." Environmental Perspectives 14 (Mar./Apr. 1997).
- "Whakarongo e Te Rau." Journal of the Polynesian Society 106 (Dec. 1997).
- "Would The Real Tahu Please Stand Up: Examining Biases In Māori Oral Accounts." Pouhere Kōrero 2000. No further details.
- "Towards An All-Embracing Model For Research On Traditional Topics." NIRF 2000. No further details.
- National Indigenous Reseachers’ Forum held a conference in Adelaide in 2000.
- "An Environmental Ethic For Te Wai Pounamu: Some Kai Tahu Experience." Pacific Ecologist 2 (Winter 2002).
- "Nga Hekenga Waka – Canoe Migrations." In Ki te Whaiao: An Introduction to Māori Culture and Society. Ed. Tānia M. Ka’ai, John C Moorfield, Michael P.J. Reilly and Sharon Mosley. Auckland, N.Z.: Pearson, 2004. 26-35.
- "Papa-tuā-nuku – Attitudes to Land." In Ki te Whaiao: An Introduction to Māori Culture and Society. Ed. Tānia M. Ka’ai, John C Moorfield, Michael P.J. Reilly and Sharon Mosley. Auckland, N.Z.: Pearson, 2004. 50-60.
- "Traditional Māori Images of Geographic Space." Glimpses of a Gaian World. Ed. Geoff Kearsley and Blair FitzHarris. Dunedin, N.Z.: School of Social Sciences, U of Otago, 2004. 271-283.
- Rev. of Whenua: Managing Our Resources, ed. Merata Kawharu. Journal of the Polynesian Society 112.4 (Dec. 2003): 420-421.
- Journal of the Polynesian Society
- Rev. of Te Whānau Moana, by McCully Matiu and Margaret Mutu. Journal of the Polynesian Society 113.1 (Mar. 2004): 104-106.