Alice Te Punga Somerville

Te Āti Awa

1975 -

Alice was born in Wellington, grew up in Glen Innes, Auckland and her qualifications include a BA in English and History, and an MA (with 1st class honours) in English from Auckland University, and a PhD from Cornell University. She is a lecturer in English at Te Kawa a Māui – School of Māori Studies and the English Programme at the University of Victoria, Wellington. Alice ‘specialises in Māori, Pacific and Indigenous writing in English. In her research and teaching, she brings Literary and Cultural Studies together with Indigenous Studies, because she agrees with Cherokee writer Thomas King when he says "the truth about stories is that's all we are." She also writes the occasional poem.’

In 1997 she was awarded a University of Auckland Māori and Polynesian Masters Scholarship and in 2000 received a Fulbright Graduate Award. She was the recipient of a Cornell University Sage Fellowship in 2002 and In 2006 she received a Marsden Fast Start award. In 2009 she was a visiting scholar at the Macquarie University Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies. Her first book, Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania (Minnesota) was published in 2012.

At its heart Alice's research is about locating, contextualizing, and analyzing texts written by Māori, Pacific and Indigenous people. Dr Te Punga Somerville's work is underpinned by her belief that (Māori, Pacific and/ or Indigenous peoples) are constrained when the stories about them are limited. In Alice's scholarship, she therefore focus on written texts as evidence, sites and foundations of stories that are far more complex than those that are told about us by other people or even those that are generally told by ourselves. Dr Te Punga Somerville's MA (Auckland) and PhD (Cornell) focused on the written literatures of her own Māori community, and as she deliberately sought broader contexts for exploring this writing she developed a twin interest and expertise in Indigenous and Pacific studies.

"Alice has served on the executive of Te Pouhere Kōrero (Māori historians association) and the foundation council for NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Assoc), and have co-chaired SPACLALS (South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Language and Literary Studies). Alice is on the editorial boards of Native American and Indigenous Studies, American Quarterly and The Contemporary Pacific."

Biographical sources

  • “Alice Te Punga Somerville.” Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English. Ed. Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland UP, 2003. 215.
  • “Dr Alice Te Punga Somerville.” Te Kawa A Maui – School of Måori Studies.
  • 10 September 2016


  • Ngā Take Atawhai: Report On Learning Support Programmes for Māori Students, Massey University Albany. [Auckland, N.Z.: Student Learning Centre, Massey University, Albany, 1999].
  • "In the (Brown) Neighbourhood: An Aotearoa-Based Oceania." Span 54/55 (Apr. and Oct. 2005): 68-75.
  • "He Kōrero E Pa Ana Ki Te Toa Takitini." New Zealand Journal of Media Studies 10.2 (2007): 31-36.
  • "If I close My Mouth I Will Die: Writing, Resisting, Centring." Globalisation and Māori. Ed. Maria Bargh. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia, 2007.
  • "An Introductory Conversation." JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature 24.2 (2007): 12-19.
  • Conversation between Alice Te Punga Somerville and Chadwick Allen.
  • "The Lingering War Captain: Māori Texts, Indigenous Contexts." JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature 24.2 (2007): 20-43.
  • "Asking That Mountain: An Indigenous Reading of LOTR?" Studying the Film-Event: The Lord of the Rings. Ed. Sean Cubitt, Thierry Jutel, Barry King and Harriet Margolis. Manchester, UK.: Marchester UP, 2008.
  • "I Can Hear You Making Small Holes In The Silence, Hone." Ka Mate Ka Ora: Hone Tuwhare Memorial Issue. Ed. Robert Sullivan. 6 (Sept. 2008): 168-173.
  • "The Historian Who Lost His Memory: A Story About Stories." Te Pouhere Kōrero 3 (2009).
  • "Not E-mailing Albert: A Legay of Collection, Connection, Community." Contemporary Pacific 22.2 (2010): 253-270.
  • "Māori Cowboys, Māori Indians." American Quarterly 62.3 (Sept. 2010): 663-685.
  • "‘Kia Rongo Mai Koutou Ki Taku Whakaaro’: Māori Voices in the Alexander Turnbull Library." Turnbull Library Record 43 (2010/2011): 96-105.
  • Co-authors Paul Meredith and Alice Te Punga Somerville.
  • "Poem: the measure of a man's worth." Under the eye of the law : mobile peoples in the Pacific. Ed. Nan Seuffert and Tahu Kukutai.. Wollongong, N.S.W. : Legal Intersections Research Centre, University of Wollongong, 2011.
  • Once were Pacific : Māori connections to Oceania. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, c2012.
  • "Shine bright like a moko : the history of Rihanna's tattoo," Tell you what : great New Zealand nonfiction 2015. Ed. Jolisa Gracewood & Susanna Andrew. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University Press, 2014.
  • "Nau mai, hoki mai: approaching the ancestral house" Huihui : navigating art and literature in the Pacific. Ed. Jeffrey Carroll, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Georganne Nordstrom. Honolulu : University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2015.
  • Extraordinary anywhere : essays on place from Aotearoa New Zealand. Ed. Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey. Wellington, N.Z : Victoria University Press, 2016.
  • "This collection of personal essays, a first of its kind, re-imagines the idea of place for an emerging generation of readers and writers. It offers glimpses into where we are now and how that feels, and opens up the range and kinds of stories we can conceive of telling about living here. Contributors include Tony Ballantyne, Sally Blundell, Alex Calder, Annabel Cooper, Tim Corballis, Martin Edmond, Ingrid Horrocks, Lynn Jenner, Cherie Lacey, Tina Makereti, Harry Ricketts, Jack Ross, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Giovanni Tiso, Ian Wedde, Lydia Wevers, and Ashleigh Young"--Publisher's information.
  • Poetry

  • "Dishevel (a verb)." Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English. Ed. Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland UP, 2003. 215.
  • "You’re Peering Into My Face." Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English. Ed. Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland UP, 2003. 215.
  • "Whose Home?" Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English. Ed. Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland UP, 2003. 216.
  • "Mauri." ibid. 216-217. Rpt. in Pacific Studies 30.1/2 (2007): 34.
  • "Just like that" Broadsheet (Night Press : Online) (May 2012): 28-29.
  • "Five poems" Te Punga Somerville, Alice Ora nui (2012): 104-109.
  • Contains: 100 cousins, Fleet,Driving home both ways, The measure of a man's worth, The radical act of sleeping.
  • "Fleet." Broadsheet (Night Press : Online), 9 (May 2012): 28-29.
  • "100 cousins." In ""Five poems." Ora nui, 1 (2012): 104-109.
  • "The radical act of sleeping." In "Five poems" Ora nui 1 (2012): 104-109.
  • "Driving home both ways" In "Five poems" Ora nui 1 (2012): 104-109.
  • "Two poems" Te Punga Somerville, Alice. 4th floor literary journal (Online), 2013
  • "Four poems." Ora nui 1 (2014): 160-164.
  • Puna wai kōrero : an anthology of Māori poetry in English. Ed. Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri. Auckland, N.Z. : Auckland University Press, 2014.
  • "Love poems." Takahe (Apr 2016): 7-8.
  • "Close to you." Takahe 86 (Apr 2016): 7-8.
  • Reviews

  • Somerville, Alice, Tony Simpson. "Self-help Or Help Yourself; Knowing What We’re About." Rev. of Pakeha and the Treaty: Why It’s Our Treaty Too, by Patrick Snedden. New Zealand Books 15.1 (2005): 9-10.
  • "Reviews (books)." Rev. of Pacific Muse, by Patty O’Brien. New Zealand Journal of History 42.1 (2008): 126-127.
  • Rev. of Decolonizing Cultures In the Pacific, by Susan Y. Najita. Contemporary Pacific 22.2 (2010): 486-488.
  • Theses

  • "Nau Te Rourou, Nau Te Rakau: The Oceanic, Indigenous, Postcolonial and New Zealand Comparative Contexts of Māori Writing In English." PhD Thesis, Cornell University, 2006.


  • Chalmers, Anna. "The Liquid Continent." Dominion Post 11 Oct. 2006. B.6.
  • "Māori Lit Promoted." Dominion Post 16 Feb. 2005: B.7.