Dr Maria Bargh (Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa) is Tumuaki/Head of School, Te Kawa a Māui/School of Māori Studies and is a Senior Lecturer in the School. Maria studied at Victoria University of Wellington before completing her PhD in Political Science and International Relations at the Australian National University in 2002. She has worked for iwi organisations such as Ngāti Awa Research and Archives Trust and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatāne before beginning work at Victoria in 2005.
Maria is co-editor of the MAI Journal: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, a member of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Council, the Editorial Board of the New Zealand Political Science Journal, the Counterfutures Advisory Board, Canadian Research Chairs, College of Reviewers and the All Universities Working Party on Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy.
She has supervised PhD and MA theses on topics including how Pākehā work as allies with Māori, Māori land issues, Māori rights and identity. Maria is active in providing commentaries to the media and community groups about Māori politics and issues around Māori rights.
Enjoy five minutes with Maria Bargh!
What are you reading at the moment?
Gurkha. Its one of those books you get at the airport bookshop when your plane is delayed - engaging and passes the time.
Is there a book that you’ve never read but wish that you had?
Sometimes its hard to find time but if I really want to read a book I usually get a copy and just read it.
Why did you write A Hidden Economy?
I was a little disappointed with analyses of the Māori economy which continue to make assumptions about what constitutes the Māori economy without acknowledging that those assumptions rest on even broader assumptions about who Māori people are, where they live and how they connect with their communities. I wanted to point out that Māori live and work in many parts of the world and contribute to the Māori economy in many ways - sometimes with money, sometimes by supporting their families or their marae and sometimes by simply being role models in particular industries.
Do you have a bucket list? What’s the craziest thing on there?
No I don’t have a bucket list. I think that if there are crazy things you want to do then you should thread them into your life. If they are acts you believe in deeply, then you should consider what their consequences will be.
Do you have a book that you always go back to?
Michael Leunig, The Prayer Tree. This book was given to me by a dear friend while we were completing our PhD’s at the Australian National University. The concept that the human experience, necessarily includes both sorrow and happiness, darkness and light, just like nature, is both a troubling but also comforting reflection for me. It is not possible to always have happiness, but after each dark night a new dawn rises again.
Which writers inspire you?
For non-fiction it is generally gutsy writers like Noam Chomsky who have thoroughly researched their topics and just set out their facts powerfully, uncomfortable though they may be.
For fiction it depends on my mood. I used to love thoughtful and moving books like Eva Luna and Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Saramago’s Blindness. For the last couple of years however I have relied on light reading that absorbs me - Jack Reacher novels are my ‘go to’ in that regard.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Getting the balance right between ensuring that the book said what I felt needed to be said but also ensuring that the stories of the people in the book were conveyed in a manner that those people were comfortable with. I think it's always nerve-wracking to have part of your life story published, in black and white print and, even if your real name is not used, sometimes it's worrying trying to determine what the consequences of that might be.
What would be your superpower?
I’ve always loved the idea of having powers like the Avatar - the ability to bend all the natural elements, earth, water, air, fire. I must admit to also being tempted by Obi Wan Kenobi’s ability to wave his hand and use Jedi mind control!
Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I think literary villains fall into three categories. There are those that are pure evil, like the Dark Lord Morgoth in Tolkien. Then there are those villains that are essentially benign because they are incompetent, like Gargamel in the Smurfs. The third type, and my favourite type, are those who may be evil and nasty but redeem themselves in some way to show some glimmer of good within, like Darth Vadar. I guess that's the optimist in me - hoping that people have the capacity to change and do good.
Author photograph copyright VUW