Dr Phyllis Sharon Herda

BA (Arizona), MA (Auckland), PhD (ANU)

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Senior Lecturer

Research | Current

  • Late 18th- and early 19th-century Tongan arts and their legacies
  • The Malaspina and Bruni d’Entrecasteaux voyages to Tonga, 1793
  • Quilting in Polynesia

Phyllis Herda’s work has always been across the traditional disciplines of Anthropology, Pacific History and Women’s/Gender Studies.

She began working in Polynesia in the early 1980s and continues to research, publish and teach on Tongan ethnography, European explorers in Polynesia, Polynesia art and material culture, Tongan oral tradition and history, gender, disease and colonialism as well as Polynesian textiles – traditional and contemporary.

She is currently leading a research team on a project funded by the Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand (Ancient Futures: Late 18th and Early 19th Century Tongan Arts and Their Legacies) on art and material culture from Tonga in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She is also working on two European expeditions (Malaspina & Bruni d’Entrecasteaux) which reached Tonga in 1793. She also continues to work on quilting in Polynesia.

She holds degrees from the University of Arizona (BA, Anthropology), the University of Auckland (MA, 1st class, Anthropology) and Australian National University (PhD, Pacific History) and has taught Pacific History at Victoria University, Wellington and Women’s Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland.

Teaching | Current

ANTHRO 358 Gender and Colonialism in the Pacific

ANTHRO 753 Practising Ethnographic Research Methods

Postgraduate supervision

Current and Recent PhD Student Supervisions

Horan, Jane, Tivaivai in the Cook Islands Ceremonial Economy: An Analysis of Value, Anthropology (co-supervised with Mark Busse)

Lythberg, Billie, Mama ‘o ‘a Folau (Far Away, But Only Travelling): Contexts and Performativity in the Making, Use and Display of Contemporary Ngatu, Art History (co-supervised with Caroline Vercoe)

Ore, Hadas, Can Home Come in a Tin Can? Senses and Emotions in Migrant Jewish-Israeli Mothers’ Foodways in New Zealand, Anthropology (co-supervised with Susanna Trnka)

Rossiter, Hannah, My Turn to Decide: The Trans Communities of Aotearoa/New Zealand, Women’s Studies (co-supervised with Maureen Molloy, Anthropology)

Uhlmann, Anja, Between and Around: Genders, Relationships, Sexualities in the Contemporary Cook Islands (co-supervised with Susanna Trnka, Anthropology)

van der Ryn, Micah, ‘The Difference Walls Make’: Cultural Dynamics and Implications of Change in Samoan Architectural Traditions and Socio-Spatial Practices (1940 – 2006), Anthropology (co-supervised with Veronica Strang)

Weinroth, Orna, Trending Spirituality Among Urban Pakeha Women Over 50 (co-supervised with Caroline Blyth, Theology)


Current and Recent MA & BA Hons Student Supervision

Bentley, Alysha, The Gen Y Experience: The Social Construction of Success Among Young Pakeha Woman in New Zealand, Women’s Studies (co-supervised with Maureen Molloy)

Fu, Mengzhu, ‘Moving On’: Structural Violence and Age(ncy) in Young South Asian Women’s Lifeworlds Post-family Violence in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Anthropology (co-supervised with Maureen Molloy)

Futter-Puati, Debbie, Maki Maro: Tuberculosis in the Cook Islands: A Social History, 1896-1975, History (co-supervised with Linda Bryder)

Mueller, Amy, Pacific Island Diasporic Communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Anthropology (co-supervised with Maureen Molloy)

Pomona, Milika, The Recognized Seasonal Employer Program Diaspora: An Investigation of Tongan Seasonal Migrants’ Experiences on New Zealand Horticultural Farms, Anthropology

Ramlu, Charlene, An Overview of the Indian Diasporic Experience in Fiji During the Late 1800s, Anthropology (co-supervised with Susanna Trnka)

Resture, Setapu, Te Maama Pala: Continuity and Change in Coping With Tuberculosis in Tuvalu, History (co-supervised with Linda Bryder)

Sahu, Rita, Solomon Islands’ Objects in the Auckland Museum, Anthropology (co-supervised with Peter Sheppard)

Walter, Dawn B., Warrior Soldiers: The Construction of Masculinity in the New Zealand Army, Anthropology.

Areas of expertise

  • Social Anthropology,
  • Women's/Gender Studies
  • Pacific History
  • Polynesia
  • Tonga
  • Oral tradition
  • Cultural history and constructions of the past
  • European expeditions of exploration in Polynesia
  • Gender
  • Disease and colonialism
  • Art
  • Material culture
  • Traditional and contemporary Polynesian textiles
  • Quilting in Polynesia

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Herda, P., Lythberg, B., Mills, A., & Taumoefoloau, M. (2017). What's in a Name? Reconstructing nomenclature of prestige and persuasion in late 18th-century Tongan material culture. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 126 (4), 443-468.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/50146
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Billie Lythberg, Melenaite Taumoefolau
  • Herda, P. S., & Lythberg, B. J. (Eds.) (2017). "Cultural change in Tongan bark-cloth manufacture": The scholarship and legacy of Maxine J. Tamahori Auckland: Department of Anthropology, The University of Auckland.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Billie Lythberg
  • Herda, P. S. (2017). Chance meetings and significant exchanges: The Bruni d'entrecasteuax and Malaspina expeditions in Tonga, 1793. In K. Stevenson (Ed.) Trading traditions: The role of the Pacific's expansive exchange networks (pp. 9-22). Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific Press.
  • Herda, P. (2016). Significant exchanges/ Artefacts of encounter. Paper presented at The Pacific Arts Association XII International Symposium, Auckland Museum, Auckland. 14 March - 17 March 2016.
  • Herda, P. (2016). Tivaevae: Some thoughts on origins, history and Cool Island agency. Paper presented at The Pacific Arts Association XII International Symposium, Auckland Museum, Auckland. 14 March - 17 March 2016.
  • Lythberg, B., & Herda, P. S. (2016). Ngatu’uli: exhibiting the fine art of contemporary Tongan black barkcloth in New Zealand. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 29, 131-151.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Billie Lythberg
  • Herda, P. (2015). Significant exchange: Eighteenth century Tongan arts and their legacies [Keynote speech]. Paper presented at Pacific Chapter Conference, Pacific Arts Association, Nuku'alofa, Tonga. 29 September - 4 October 2015.
  • Herda, P., & Lythberg, B. (2014). Featherwork and divine chieftainship in Tonga. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 123 (3), 277-300. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Billie Lythberg

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 4, Room 405
New Zealand