Getting to Know Rebecca Kiddle

Welcome to our Tri 2 Talks on the Journal! We're celebrating our academic community in the lead up to the new Trimester.

This week we're applauding Dr Rebecca Kiddle (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi), senior lecturer in Architecture Design at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture. Her research interests include Māori place identity and participatory design processes and she is a contributing author of the BWB Text, Imagining Decolonisation - a runaway bestseller at our bookshop for over a year, that is now being used as a textbook on campus and at universities across Aotearoa. 

Learn more about Rebecca's life on campus, her advice for students and work as a bestselling author in our interview, below.


What is your day job?

Senior Lecturer: Urbanism at the Architecture School


What is your connection to Vic Books?

I hang out there looking at, and sometimes buying, the luscious books and eating the cheese scones


Imagining Decolonisation is a bestseller a year on from it's initial publication. It's also an essential textbook for ANTH315 and academic courses across Aotearoa. What's the significance of this for you?

It's been pretty humbling to see the reaction to the book and the fact that people are using it is hopefully testament to its accessibility. We were wanting to write something that would make some pretty hefty concepts, like decolonisation, easier to understand. There is so much written on decolonisation from different perspectives that we wanted to try to distill it and Ocean's chapter really brings this all together setting out the broad range of ideas. I think the fact that people are reading the book feels significant because hopefully its signalling a change in broader society around what New Zealanders think is important to know about and understand. The feedback on the book has been overwhelmingly positive that it seems that many are wanting to know more, understand our country better and how we have got to where we are, how colonisation has impacted all of us to differing extents and try to work out what they can do about it.


Has the success of the book made you more hopeful for the future?

Yes, it has. I feel particularly hopeful about the way in which young people seem to be curious, well more than curious, there's a sense of urgency from some around how we respond to injustices - climate change, social injustice, colonisation etc. etc.


Imagining Decolonisation is a collaboration between 7 authors - what is your most rewarding and enjoyable collaboration at the School of Architecture?

Last year a group of us across the Schools of Architecture and Design worked together to produce the kai for a really interesting conference entitled Social movements, Resistance and Social Change. This was kai with a difference. Each meal was designed and thought about in terms of how the meal should be served, where the recipes came from (often cookbooks from political movements e.g. the women's suffrage movement) and designed activities offering provocations to conference attendees to create discussion around particular kaupapa. Who would have thought I could legitimately cook 200 pieces of fry bread as part of my academic role?


How important do you think it was to have multiple voices contribute to the book?

Imperative really. We all come from different disciplines and personally, have different experiences of colonisation. Hopefully this fed into the book speaking to a whole range of different people with different experiences.


The book is being taught across a range of disciplines. How do you feel that is reflective of a wider range of teaching and society?

Yes I think people of all disciplines are trying to work out what decolonisation might mean for their particular sphere of influence.


What's your favourite part of campus life?

I enjoy the creativity that comes with working with others. Ideas bounce of ideas and evolve until you've got a really interesting, and sometimes even fun research or writing or teaching possibility.


One piece of advice to your students?

Failure of any kind when it comes to academic things shouldn't ever define you. Just keep trying to work out what you're passionate about, what gives you energy. And you'll always have to do stuff you don't fully enjoy so just do it and do nice things alongside - for me that's pottery.


What future writing projects do you have planned?

We're hoping to extend the work done in Imagining Decolonisation. I also hope to do a book focused around the Māori Placemaking project.


Some quick fire book recommendations please:

Panguru and the City: Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua - is one of my most favourite books (currently out of print), Ka whawhai tonu matou - Ranginui Walker, The Big Smoke - Ben Schraeder, Patrick Rothfuss series, The Call of the Wild - fiction, Ottolenghi's cookbooks - Plenty etc.


What are you reading at the moment?

To be honest, nothing but just a few days ago I bought Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart on a very strong recommendation from Max Rashbrooke so I look forward to reading that.


Hardback or paperback?



Favourite coffee?

Hot Chocolate - I don't like coffee...eeek!