Dr Sue Abel

BA , MA (Hons), PhD


I am a former secondary school teacher, teaching English and Media Studies at Selwyn College.  I tutored part-time on the first paper in Film and Television at this University, and continued tutoring through my MA (1992) and much of my PhD (2005). The only job available when I was near completing her PhD was at Victoria University, Wellington, and so I moved there for three years teaching in their Media Studies programme.

I have had a long-time interest in the power that the media has in maintaining the normalcy of the "dominant" culture and marginalising or stereotyping others.  I have been particularly interested in issues around Māori and media since my MA research in 1990/91, which analysed the television news coverage of Waitangi Day 1990. (This was later updated and published by Auckland University Press in 1997 as Shaping the News: Waitangi Day on Television). At Victoria University I initiated and then convened a course ‘Māori and Media’, which was co-taught by staff from Māori Studies, Media Studies and English.

In 2008 The University of Auckland set up a position to teach a similar course, which involved the lecturer working 50% in Māori Studies and 50% in Film, Television and Media Studies. I have been here since December 2008 and am enjoying the position very much. I teach papers in both departments, and a basic requirement of these papers is that they are cross-creditable to a major or minor in each Department.

Research | Current

I was drawn to media studies because of an interest in the role that media plays in society, and in particular the power that it has to marginalise some groups and some values, and make other groups and other values seem “normal”. 

While this can be applied to a range of areas of contention, I am most interested in issues of ‘race’ and the media, and particularly indigenous peoples and the media. I  have also become increasingly interested in the related subject of the normalisation of “whiteness” in our media.

My secondary interest follows on from my beliefs as set out above:  critical analysis of the news media in all its forms.

Current research

I have a book contract with a colleague Folker Hanusch for a book about Māori journalism, from its beginning to all its forms in the current day (such as blogs and other online news, and magazines).  Folker and I are also co-editing a book on international indigenous journalism with Lia Markelin. 

I am interested in whose histories and memories are told in our media, and have some work underway which considers the contribution that Māori Television shows such as 'Behind the Brush' make here, as well as a comparison of the coverage that Anzac Day gets in our media compared with our own Land Wars. 

I am also working with data collected during a research project with Jo Smith on Māori Television, particularly the responses from focus groups and interviews.

Teaching | Current

MEDIA 210 Race, Indigeneity and the Media

MEDIA 325 Race, Indigeneity and the Media

MĀORI 271 Māori and the Media / Te Ao Pāho

MĀORI 370 Māori and the Media / Te Ao Pāho

Postgraduate supervision

MA Completed:

Alex Edge 2013.  Indigenous journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Case Study of Māori Television’s news and current affairs. 

Maddy King 2012. The Flesh Coloured Bandaid: Whiteness, dominance and Pākehā cultural normativity in television news.

MA Current:

PhD Completed:

Emma Kelly 2015.   The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis, A Biographical Study of the Founding Director of the New Zealand Film Archive.

Jani Wilson, 2012.  Whiripapa: Taniko, Whānau and Kōrero based Film Analysis

Ruth Lysaght, 2010.  Teanga & Tikanga: A Comparative Study of National Broadcasting in a Minority Language on Māori Television and Teilifís na Gaeilge.


PhD Current: 

Susan Nemec. What potential does Māori Television have to facilitate the creation of New Zealand citizens and subjects amongst migrant groups?

James Obenshain. Social Media Kaitiaki: The role of Facebook in Māori political engagement around environmental issues.

Ian Randall.  A study of the nature of the relationship between the science of palaeontology and the popular media.

Sami Siddiq.   Constructing and Contesting American and Pakistani News Frames of the US ‘War on Terror’ inside Pakistan.



Postgraduate Advisor, Māori Studies

Library Liaison, Media Film and Television

Staff-Student Liaison, Media, Film and Television

Areas of expertise

* Māori and media

* Race and media

* Journalism Studies

* Audience studies

* Whiteness

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Rankine, J. M., Moewaka Barnes, A., McCreanor, T., Nairn, R., McManus, A.-L., Abel, S., ... Gregory, A. (2014). Content and source analysis of newspaper items about Maori issues: Silencing the 'natives' in Aotearoa?. Pacific Journalism Review, 20 (1), 213-233. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jenny Rankine
  • Abel, S. M. (2013). Indigenous news: 'Telling our own stories' and/or 'Advocacy'. Paper presented at Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Annual Meeting, Saskatoon, Canada. 13 June - 15 June 2013. Related URL.
  • Abel, S. (2013). Māori Television, its Pākehā audience and issues of decolonialization. Studies in Australasian Cinema, 7 (2-3), 111-121. 10.1386/sac.7.2-3.111_1
  • Abel, S. M. (2013). Māori Television, ANZAC Day, and Constructing "Nationhood". In B. Hokowhitu, V. Devadas (Eds.) The Fourth Eye: Māori Media in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 201-215). Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Abel, S. M. (2013). Māori, Media and Politics. In B. Bahador, G. Kemp, K. McMillan, C. Rudd (Eds.) Politics and the Media. Auckland: Pearson.
  • Abel, S. M. (2013). Māori Television, its Pākehā audience and issues of decolonialization. Studies in Australasian Cinema, 7 (2-3), 111-121. 10.1386/sac.7.2-3.111_1
  • Abel, S. M., McCreanor, T., & Barnes, A. M. (2012). Reporting Te Tiriti : producing and reproducing the colonial society. In M. Hirst, S. Phelan, V. Rupar (Eds.) Scooped : the politics and power of journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 65-79). Auckland: AUT Media. Related URL.
  • Abel, S. M. (2011). Whitestream media and issues of cultural competence. Paper presented at ACRAWSA (Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association) Conference "Directions and Intersections", Surfers Paradise, Australia. 7 December - 9 December 2011.