Associate Professor Yvonne Te Ruki-Rangi-O-Tangaroa Underhill-Sem

BA, BA(Hons) (VUW), PGDip, MA (Hawaii), PhD (Waikato)

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Associate Professor


  • Director, New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research, 2017-
  • Deputy Chair, Inaugural Pacific PBRF Panel, 2016-
  • Chair Marsden Social Science Fast Start Panel 2018
  • Member, Marsden Social Science Panel, 2016-
  • Co-Chair Advisory Research Group, Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development 2017-
  • Member International Geography Union, Gender and Geography Commission 2016-
  • Fulbright Campus Advisor (Maori/Pacific Advisor), 2014-

Co-Chair Oxfam NZ, (2015-18, Board member from 2009); Director, Development Studies, (2008-14); Research Fellow, Department of Human Geography, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University (2002-03); Expert, Rural Development, Food Security and the Environment, The Secretariat of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Brussels (2001-02); Independent Scholar, Apia, Samoa and Bonn, Germany (1997-2001); Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Papua New Guinea (1990-96)

Research | Current

  • The Maire trail: flowers, floriculture, festivals and funerals (Cook Islands, NZ, Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Niue, Tonga). Towards a feminist post-colonial development of the Pacific 
  • Flowers, floriculture and free trade: post-colonial connections across continents (Africa, Europe, North America. Asia)
  • Feminist theories of democracy and solidarity for the Pacific (Pacific)
  • Demography: feminist and post-structuralist leanings (PNG, Global)
  • Maternities: towards a critical geography of fertility
  • Marketplaces, citizenship and diverse economies (with Anita Lacey)
  • The audacity of the ocean: post-colonial geographies of Oceania

Teaching | Current

DEVELOP 701 Development Praxis

DEVELOP 702 Gender and Development

DEVELOP 705 Contemporary Issues in Gender and Development

DEVELOP 709 Theories of International Development

Postgraduate supervision

PhD Thesis in progress

2015, Ema M. Golea Tagicakibau : Gender and Militarization in Fiji (with Steve Ratuva)

2017, Sochanny Hak: Gender Roles in a Highly Contested Upland Cambodia: A Case of Land Grabbing in Indigenous Communities (with Andreas Neef)

2014, Inaz, Ahmed: Tourism and climate change and vulnerability: the case of the Maldives (with Nick Lewis)

2014, Christine Newport:  Policy space, climate change and migration: thre case of the Cook Islands (with John Hay)

2013, Maine Estonitas: Gendered dimensions of that recognised seasonal employment programme in the Pacific (with Christina Stringer)

2013, Jacqueline Fa'amatuainu: Climate Law in the Pacific (with Andreas Neef)

2013, Kara Muller: Relational documentation and methodology as indigenised agency in creative practice (with Deirdre Brown)

2013, Suzanne Loughlin: Civil-miltary relations: NZ in Afghanistan (with Anita Lacey)

PhD Theses completed

2016, Sue Crabtree, “Maternal health and rights in Papua New Guinea: What good is applying a feminist human rights lens?” (with Anita Lacey)

2014, Tufuoa Panapa, "Education, health and mobility: looking at TB in Tuvalu" (Co-supervisors Associate Professors Julie Park and Judith Littleton)

2013, Evelyn Marsters, "Health and Mobility: The Cook Island route to health services" (Co-supervisor: Ward Friesen, Julie Park)

2013, Faheem Mohammed, "Property Rights, Contracts, and Development: A Study of the Traditional Institutions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan  (Co-supervisor: Ken Jackson)

2013, Tulia Thompson “Queer lives in Fiji’ (Co-supervisor: Vivienne Elizabeth)

2013, Hilary Tolley, "Complexities of Education Sector Wide Approaches in Pacific Island States" (Co-supervisor Eve Coxon)

2012, Sheila V. Siar, "Homeland-diaspora ties for development through knowledge exchange networks: The case of highly skilled Filipino migrants in New Zealand and Australia" (co-supervisor: Ward Freisen).

MA Theses in progress

2918 Kimberly Kretschmar Moving forward:Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Accessing and Leaving Higher Education in Fiji

2018 Kayt Bronimman Wakabaut Long Pawa: The Bougainville Community Government Act.

MA Theses completed

2016 Reuben Garrett-Walker: Humanitarianism and development: from camps to jobs?

2015 Lauretta Ah Sam: Yours, mine, ours: exploring social relations, siapo and the protectiom pf tradiational cultural experssions in Samoa

2015 Heather Masaki: Exploring climate change, gener and transnationalism: perspectice of Pacific women in Auckland.

2013 Sanela Smolovic Jones: Feminist Soldarity Building and working with Difference: the case of the Women's Soldairy Movement in Fiji

2013 Rachel Faleatua “An Analysis of the Construction of Teenage Pregnancy in Samoa through the Conceptual Frameworks of Human Rights and Female Empowerment’

2011 Nicky Spicer Care and social protection: a case study of professional women in Port Moresby, PNG.

2011 Jaclyn Bonnici Women market vendors as citizens.

2011 Tim Oh, "Dengue and public private partnerships" (Co-supervised with Dr Jude McCool).

2011 Konrad Read, "Social reproduction and care economies" (Co-supervised with Dr Kathy Smits).

2011 Margie Aglid, "Shell trade between Asia and the Pacific" (Co-supervised with Dr Claudia Bell).

2011 Carolyn Rickards-Rees, “Philanthropy without Borders: Foundations for Development?”

2011 Tim Baice, "Youth citizenship in South Auckland, Samoa and Tonga" (Co-supervised with Associate Professor Ann Sullivan).

2011 Jane Victor, "Youth wellbeing in the Seychelles".

2010 Yardena Tankel, "Gender, citizenship and in security in Northeast Brazil" (Co-supervised with Dr Anita Lacey).

2010 Marni Gilbert, "An exploration into peasant agency within agrarian reform in the Phillipines".

2009 O'neal Mendoza "Procure The Cure : Exploring 'Monopsony' in Pharmaceutical Procurement as a Strategy to Improving Access to Essential medicines in the Western Pacific" (Co-supervised with  Professor Peter Davis)

2009 Cathy Bolinga "Sustainability of HIV/AIDS Preventive Programs By NGOs In Papua New Guinea" (Co-supervised with Associate Professor Chris Bullen)
2009 Martin Child "Residual Weapons And The Politics of Insecurity" (Co-supervised with Ass Prof Ken Jackson)

2008. Andre Degenkolb "Blossoming Businesses – Brighter Futures: An explorative case study into private sector led development initiatives in Papua New Guinea" (co-supervisor: Dr Christina Stringer).

2008. Dwain Hindriksen "Barefoot Patrols: the paradox of post-conflict development and the role of the NZDAF in Solomon Islands".

2008. Rebecca Kahn "Voices of Fair Trade Coffee Consumptio" (co-supervisor: Dr Mike Lee).

2008. Kosala Krishnan "Child Poverty: to what extent does primary education make a difference".

2008. Jennifer Margaret "Learning in social movements: experiences in the Pakeha Treaty workers movement"
(co-supervisor: Assoc Prof David Williams).

2008. Sara Mulville "Carbon credits in Bolivia".

2008. Maria del Carmen Perez "Breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty: Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) programmes in Paraguay" (co-supervisor: Dr Antonio Diaz).

2008. Jenna Phillips "International civil society responses to complex humanitarian emergencies: contribution or complications in Rwanda" (co-supervisor: Dr Anita Lacey).

2008. Friederike Schubert "Participatory budgeting as a 3rd way in water management in Porto Alegre" (co-supervisor: Dr Brad Coombes).

2008. Maria Rita Toledo "Financing for Development: the challenges of raising funds for development in the Third Sector in Brazil" (co-supervisor: Dr Antonio Diaz). 


Pacific Island Visiting Fellowship, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge 2018

Māori and Pasifika Scholarship to attend the New Zealand Women in Leadership Programme, Funded by Universities, New Zealand,  2012

Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, City University of New York Graduate Centre, New York, USA, 2010/11

World University Network (WUN) Award, offered by University of Washington, Seattle, USA, 2010

Association of Pacific Rim Universities Fellowship (APRU), University of Santa Cruz, USA, and University of Osaka, Japan, 2004

Areas of expertise

Gender and development, critical population geographies, feminist political ecology, Pacific development, progressive social movements

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Underhill-Sem, Y. J. (2017). Academic work as radical practice: getting in, creating a space, not giving up. Geographical Review10.1111/1745-5871.12202
  • Underhill-Sem, Y. (2016). Critical gender studies and international development studies: interdisciplinarity, intellectual agility and inclusion. Palgrave Communications, 2, 1-5. 10.1057/palcomms.2016.12
  • Underhill-Sem, Y. J., & Underhill, J. (2015). A cuppa tea for the Mama's. Te Papa Exhibition Notes (8). Related URL.
  • Underhill-Sem, Y. J. (2015). Silences of the discourse: maternal bodies in out-of-the-way places. In J. A. Bennett (Ed.) Oceanian journeys and sojourns: home thoughts abroad (pp. 275-292). Dunedin: Otago University Press. Related URL.
  • Underhill-Sem, Y., Cox, E., Lacey, A., & Szamier, M. (2014). Changing market culture in the Pacific: Assembling a conceptual framework from diverse knowledge and experiences. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 55 (3), 306-318. 10.1111/apv.12063
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Anita Lacey
  • Lacey, A., Schwittay, A., Underhill-Sem, Y., & Williams, C. (2014). Integrating research, policy and practice. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 55 (3), 259-261. 10.1111/apv.12065
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Anita Lacey
  • Jones, S. S., Boocook, K., & Underhill-Sem, Y. J. (2013). '[PDF] beinghaRasseD?' Accessing information about sexual harassment in New Zealand's universities. Women’s Studies Journal, 27 (1), 36-48. Related URL.
  • Underhill-Sem, Y. J., & Nicholas, S. (2012). ‘Te ‘ei Ma’uke: research in out of the way places’, presented to Te Whare Kura Symposium, University of Auckland, 2012. Paper presented at Indigenising Knowledge for Current and Future Generations: Te Whare Kura: Indigenous Knowledges, Peoples and Identities Thematic Research Initiative Symposium 2012, Auckland, New Zealand. 23 March - 24 March 2012.