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MICHAEL HARCOURT


Traces of the New Zealand Wars lie within the landscape serving as persistent reminders of
these brutal conflicts between the colonising power and Māori iwi, or tribes. In this paper I
explore how three teachers and their students navigated these nineteenth century
conflictscapes during history field trips. Using a critical-ethnographic methodology, I found
that teachers successfully deployed field trips as counter narratives, challenging the
ignorance of colonial violence characteristic of settler societies. Teachers and their students,
however, also used sites to invoke a dominant ‘emotional regime’ that encouraged feelings
of empathy for Māori as victims of colonisation. This regime of empathy – embedded within
a broader national politics of biculturalism and reconciliation – made it difficult to connect to the present, it supported an oversimplification of complex historical
narratives and made it harder to use sites as places for difficult yet important conversations
about history, power and colonisation. I suggest that for teachers to capitalise on their
successes they need more support to theorise field trips as highly complex ‘spatial
narratives of history’ always embedded within broader systems of settler colonial myth-
making. I propose critical pedagogies of place and pedagogies of discomfort as two
frameworks for teachers and educators to use as they work to develop field trips as a
distinct contribution to history education in societies like New Zealand still grappling with
the legacy and ongoing practices of settler colonialism.

Encountering colonial violence where it happened: History field trips and emotional regimes of empathy in a settler society