In July 2018, I went on a life-changing experience to Manama, Bahrain, where I attended the 42nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. While I was at the conference, I was exposed to a whole new way of viewing the world. From small things like reading right-to-left to hearing the call for prayer around the city, being in a predominantly Muslim city opened my eyes to other people’s history and worldviews.
At the same time, I was working on my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) postgraduate degree in History at the University of Auckland. During this degree, we were challenged to think about what it means to be a historian and to practice history. Is it only academic articles in peer-reviewed journals that count as “legitimate” history? What about film, art, or television? Do you need to have a postgraduate university degree to be a historian? Who is excluded from these definitions of “legitimate” history and historians? Together with my experience in Bahrain, my postgraduate degree challenged me to think about the multitude of different ways of seeing the world, doing history, and being a historian.
After reflecting on my experiences in Bahrain and my studies, I decided that I wanted my fellowship volunteering to focus on creating a blog and podcast website to share stories and information about history and heritage. I created Tāhuhu Kōrero alongside a fellow postgraduate student, Michaela Selway. The blog side of our website shares short, easy-to-read pieces of history, usually written by staff, students and alumni from the University of Auckland. The blog posts can be original work written exclusively for us, and sometimes it consists of student assessments that have been transformed into blog posts. We also have a podcast, which can be found on our website and on other streaming services including Spotify. On the podcast, we invite people to chat about their work, particular historical topics, and other themes like preparing for university study. Having a blog as well as a podcast means that people can engage in history through a variety of different mediums, all designed to be accessible and interesting for a range of audiences.
We chose the Te Reo phrase ‘tāhuhu kōrero’ to be the name of our website not only because it translates into ‘history’ in English, but because of the meaning of the word ‘kōrero’. According to the Māori dictionary, ‘kōrero’ can be translated to mean ‘speech, narrative, story, news, account, discussion, conversation, discourse, statement, information’. We felt that this multitude of definitions also captured the various methods and perspectives involved in the study of history. Most importantly, ‘kōrero’ emphasises the importance of the conversation element of the blog and the practice of history more broadly. To be a historian is not just to study the past; it is to engage in a conversation with other historians about the meanings of these events and their relevance. We hope that this blog can be a platform for conversations about our histories and what they mean for us today.
Through the website, we are pushing the boundaries of what is considered “legitimate” history and inviting people from different worldviews into the conversation about our shared history. For us, it is important that history is accessible, inclusive, and engaging not only for staff and students in the Department of History at the University of Auckland but for the wider public. If the study of our past is restricted to an elite group of individuals trained in the Western traditions of history, then we risk closing ourselves off to all the different ways of seeing and understanding the world. In so doing, we lose an important part of our history. While it is only a small step, I hope that Tāhuhu Kōrero can help spark the change that is critical for keeping the study of history alive and relevant.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.