Channelling a Haunting Deconstructing Settler Memory and Forgetting about New Zealand History at National Institutions

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Liana MacDonald
Kim Bellas
Emma Gardenier
Adrienne J. Green


The Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories curriculum will be compulsory in 2023; what and how New Zealand history will be taught is currently up for debate. An innovative approach to engaging key curriculum understandings like colonisation, settlement and power would recognise that settler sensibilities frame national histories, to make visible the ongoing structuring force of colonisation. To this end, we present a model for teaching students how to consider a relationship between national identity, collective memory, and colonial history; to read settler cultural bias embedded in national institutions. Channelling a haunting is a process whereby students are encouraged to think and feel as though absent and silenced histories of colonial violence are not resolved, and to critique how settler memory and forgetting about New Zealand history permeates exhibitions at national institutions. Findings from a small group of student teachers who were channelling a haunting at two museums housing documents of national significance show how lovely and difficult knowledge about colonial history can create a sense of embodied racial comfort that legitimises the status quo. Rather than perceive national institutions as culturally neutral, students of all ages may be taught to critically analyse how they are biased to settler perspectives.

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Public History in Aotearoa New Zealand