Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

History of Auckland Sociology Department (Together with AUT)

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

History of Auckland Sociology Department (Together with AUT)

Article excerpt


The Auckland sociology department came slightly later than others in the founding period rush, and took an elite form of offering only postgraduate studies to begin with. When founding Professor Duncan Timms returned to the UK a group of staff at Waikato University moved north and established wildly successful undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, sustaining an interesting range of staff, several of whom had anthropology backgrounds, researching topics, including ethnicity and migration and class, pertinent to both Auckland and New Zealand. A fairly stable moderate-sized department staffed largely by New Zealanders with local research interests gradually expanded and changed as more overseas staff who tended to be more research orientated were recruited. The department's involvement with New Zealand sociology more generally was ambivalent. By the turn of the century, the cohort of staff which had sustained the department over the previous 30 or so years had begun to retire or had moved elsewhere and the department became larger, loosened the compulsory component of the curriculum structure, introduced criminology and lost its independent status. The article is underpinned by some summaries of data on staff, postgraduate student and research outputs, and includes comments on the development of sociology within a more generic social sciences context at next-door Auckland University of Technology.


Information basing this account comes from the public domain: university calendars for staff details; bibliographical work for outputs; library catalogues for theses and university histories for contextual material. And from material not in the public domain some Reports, Reviews etc. are drawn on and comments garnered from various (ex) members of the department have been used.


Sociology came slightly later to University of Auckland than to most other New Zealand universities, beginning with a huge burst of activity and once established has remained a high volume, popular and now very large department. Since the turn of the century it had remained the last autonomous sociology department in New Zealand. This account is provided immediately after the department's absorption in 2014 into a broader School of Social Sciences: Te Pokapu Putaiao Papori.

Professor Sinclair's history argues that "the 1960s saw a greater number of 'new developments' than any other decade in the University's history" (p. 249). Political Studies were at last introduced in 1964 and Sociology was not too far behind. It was awarded a chair in 1966 but did not appoint until 1968 (an auspicious year!). Sociology was both sponsored and opposed by the professors of neighbouring disciplines. Prof. Robert Chapman of Politics who was, inter alia, an expert in political ecology, took some credit as he wanted to expose the social context of political behaviours studied in Political Studies. Sinclair notes however, that "there was still a lingering suspicion of the subject, especially among senior academics, including the Vice-chancellor. Some of them held - as they had with anthropology - that is should be a Postgraduate subject. It was decided that D W G Timms as the first professor should hold a research chair, at least for some years. In the event, no classes were held for undergraduates until the 1970s" (249). The undergraduate sociology, such that it was taught, was through Anthropology, Education, Law and Maori Studies.

Timms was a social geographer who came to AU from the University of Queensland and while in Auckland he wrote (or completed the writing of) one of the leading expositions of social area analysis - the Urban Mosaic: Towards a Theory of Residential Differentiation in August 1975. (Oddly enough in the same year another social geographer - Ron Johnston who was briefly domiciled in Christchurch - also produced a major text in this area.) The staff expanded to include Dr Henry Heald (1971) and Dr Ranginui Walker. …

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