Carter Manny Award

  • Assembling Maori Architecture: Appropriations, Translations and Cultural Difference in an Emerging Field
    Jacob Culbertson

Earthship Collage, builder's bulletin board, Northland, New Zealand, 2011. Photo: Jacob Culbertson.

The recipient of the 2012 Carter Manny Award for doctoral dissertation writing is Jacob Culbertson, University of California, Davis, Department of Anthropology 

This dissertation is an ethnography of Maori architecture, an emerging professional field in New Zealand that draws on traditional Maori building practices and purportedly-universal architectural practices. Over the past two decades this architecture has become a crucial resource for reviving indigeneous traditions while literally rebuilding Maori communities. Grounded in three years of participatory fieldwork with Maori architects and traditional woodcarvers, the study asks how Maori architects select, combine, and translate diverse Maori and non-Maori architectural influences to comprise their unique field of practices and to differentiate it from other architectures. By exploring how "Maori villages" are designed and built as three different settings—a rural communal housing project, an urban tourist destination, and a traditional meeting grounds—the project shows how Maori practices shape twenty-first-century architectures and how contemporary architectural movements, including green design, community-based design, and the concern for "the local," shape our emerging conceptions of Maoriness.

Jacob Culbertson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. He specializes in indigenous ecologies, material cultures, and social movements in the Pacific and beyond, bringing together concepts from anthropology, architecture, and science and technology studies. Culbertson received his BA (cum laude) in anthropology from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He has lived in New Zealand off and on for over fifteen years, working in various building trades, apprenticing with Maori woodcarvers, and helping facilitate two courses in spatial design at the Auckland University of Technology. He speaks Maori and enjoys climbing mountains.