MASS Conference 2012 Report - Research, Reconnect, Rebuild

Event Date: 
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The MASS Exec would like to thank all those who attended and presented at the MASS 2012 Conference: Research, Reconnect, Rebuild held at the University of Canterbury 28-30 November 2012.

We had a total of 98 registrations, 52 presenters and six keynote speakers.

The theme for the conference evolved from the impact of natural and “unnatural‟ disasters in Aotearoa, however, it did not solely focus on disaster and repair. While rupture reveals the socially patterned form of inequalities, it also presents opportunities to rekindle connections, lay down new foundations and build lives characterised by creativity, strength and purpose. Research Reconnect Rebuild was an invitation to rebuild and reconnect through research.The theme of the conference drew from recent experiences of disaster in the Canterbury region but also called for expressions and understandings of disaster from both natural and unnatural perspectives. Continuing from previous MASS conferences there were also a number of other sub-themes to showcase the array of research being undertaken by Māori social scientists around the country. Over the course of the three days over fifty papers were presented by academics, emerging researchers and community groups from around the country.

There were also a number of challenging and inspiring keynote addresses given by Mark Solomon (TRONT), Arihia Bennett (He Oranga Pounamu/TRONT), Professor Sir Mason Durie, Sacha McMeeking (Ministry of Awesome and UC Alumni), Sir Tipene O’Regan and Professor Lewis Gordon (Temple University, Philadelphia).

The first day opened with a mihi whakatau followed by an opening address from Mark Solomon and Arihia Bennett. Throughout the day a number of subjects were presented ranging from Christchurch earthquake resilience to the impacts of social media on te ao Māori. The day’s presentations were capped off with a keynote address from Professor Tā Mason Durie, who reminded us of the intellectual legacy that we have inherited and laid out a challenge to consider how Māori will engage with the social sciences moving ahead.

The second day began with an inspiring keynote address from Sacha McMeeking, who put forward the challenge of expanding networks and being more ambitious in the way we, as Māori, engage with the world. The final keynote address was delivered by Professor Lewis Gordon. Professor Gordon’s address was about theorizing disaster and examining the normativity of ideas such as justice in times of post-disaster - which proved to be stimulating and thought provoking. The second day concluded with a conference dinner and entertainment at the Clearwater Resort.

The final day of the conference concluded with a panel discussion including Professor Gordon, MASS Chairperson Associate Professor Peter Adds and UNSW scholar, danielle davis. Discussion focussed on the importance of organisations like MASS and the future direction of the organisation.

The calibre of presenters and keynotes ensured that the conference was as an outstanding success. The collaboration between MASS and Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies provided the platform for continuing the development of relationships between MASS and Māori departments within tertiary institutions. The success of the event can be largely attributed to the diverse and unique range of papers, research, and presentations that were delivered by community presenters, postgraduate students, institutional researchers and academics. A positive aspect at this year‟s conference was the involvement of researchers and community people who are working amongst Māori communities in various projects. The bringing together of people to reflect upon the research and communities offered the rare opportunity to examine the spectrum of thought and understandings on areas relating to the overarching theme of “Research, Reconnect, Rebuild”.

The projects, perspectives and ideas raised at the MASS Conference resounded long after many of the presentations. The conference environment provided a sense of connectivity amongst presenters and delegates, and enabled discussion to happen over morning tea or lunch. Presenter feedback was positive about the way that their projects and research were warmly received by audiences. Presenters also noted that there was a strong sense of whanaungatanga throughout the conference. Feedback from delegates was highly positive and supportive of the range and depth of presentations, and was encouraging of the ideas being discussed. Delegates were also supportive of the opportunity to network and connect with each other, which was another valuable outcome of the conference.

The MASS Committee is pleased that the biennial MASS Conference was able to provide a key platform for Māori social science knowledge exchange, and we are very thankful for the sponsors who supported this event, namely Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies (UC), the office of the AVC Māori UC, PVC Māori Victoria, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, Te Akatoki (UC), GNS Science. Thanks also to our wonderful kaimahi, Julian Philips, Emma Maurice, Ema-Haley Walker, Roberta Tainui and Emma Hipango, and the staff of Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies. Finally to all of our amazing keynote speakers and to all who attended and presented at the 2012 conference - ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

The next conference will be held in 2014 so keep an eye on the MASS website for further details.