Take 5 with...Dr. Cybèle Locke

Jason Schulman's picture

Take 5 with...Dr. Cybèle Locke (Senior Lecturer, History, Victoria University of Wellington)

1. What's your favorite course to teach?

My Honours course, ‘Oral History: Method and Practice.'  We examine different methods of creating, interpreting and presenting oral history, review critical developments in the field internationally and oral history-making in Aotearoa/New Zealand more specifically.  Methods include: ‘recovery’ oral histories such as labour, gender, family, ethnic minorities and indigenous studies; the defence of the subjective; subjectivity as a historical subject in its own right; and oral history as advocacy for marginalised communities.  Māori oral history is a central component of this course.  What brings it to life are the wonderful projects my students choose.  They design their own research topics in NZ history, conduct interviews, and interpret and produce their own oral history work utilising the Oral History collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library. 

2. What's your favorite primary source to use in class?

I really enjoy playing an extract from an oral interview and asking my students to listen and interpret.  Drawing on work by Anna Green, I ask students to listen for metanarrative, logic of the narrative, moral language, emotion and myths.  The discussion afterwards is always subjectively rich, as well as poignant.

3. What's your favorite place to do research?

My favourite place is the Alexander Turnbull/National Library of New Zealand in Wellington.  The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, the collections are wide-ranging and the coffee at the café downstairs is excellent. I spent a year writing my book there and the staff became like family. 

4. Other than yourself, who is a scholar you think is doing really interesting work these days?

I’m a big fan of Melissa Matutina Williams’ historical work. Her award-winning book Panguru and the City: Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua An Urban Migration History draws on oral histories of Panguru migrants to capture the complexities of coexistent home-places and being Māori in the City in the mid twentieth century. She has just won a Judith Binney Writing Award to write Wāhine Māori: Women Who Moved Us – a collaborative project which will illuminate how Māori women’s lives have shaped the past and continue to influence us today.

5. If you weren't where you are now, how might you use your PhD?

When I decided to begin a PhD it was about becoming a writer and so wherever I am, I would find a way to write people’s stories of Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring the ways we are related to our pasts. I would possibly have ended up working in the not-for-profit community sector doing educational or campaign work, seeking justice for those most exploited by capitalism.


Scholar Bio: Cybèle is a Pākehā New Zealander, born in Auckland, and studied History and te reo Māori at Otago University, gaining her BA Hons in 1995.  She completed her PhD, supervised by Dame Judith Binney, at the University of Auckland in 2000.  Her doctoral study of the organised unemployed in Aotearoa New Zealand was extended to an analysis of the roles women, Māori and Pasifika workers have played in working-class organisations and protest in her first book, Workers in the Margins: Union Radicals in Post-war New Zealand (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2012). She has published a range of articles and book chapters exploring how race, gender and class operate in labour history; oral history is a key methodology. Her research and historical work for iwi claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal inform her teaching. She has taught at Auckland, Massey and Otago universities, and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. She gained her position at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. Her current project is a biography of Auckland communist trade union leader Gordon (Bill) Harold Andersen.

Categories: Interview
Keywords: Oceania, Take 5 With