31 Mar 2023

This content is tagged as Literature .


Dr Danny Keenan stands smiling at the camera in front of a rural Aotearoa landscape
Dr Danny Keenan. Image supplied. 

Dr Danny Keenan (Ngāti Te Whiti ki Te Ātiawa) is the 2023 recipient of this literary fellowship, which will support the development of an important new work examining a history of Māori responses to three significant pandemics. 

Dr Keenan is a researcher and writer, and his proposed new work is called 'In Sickness and In Health' a Cultural History of Three Māori Pandemics 1895-2021. It's an historical analysis of three pandemics that have egregiously affected Māori. The study will illuminate Māori response to these events, including how they mobilised communities, grounded by mātauranga Māori frameworks.

This fellowship awarded every two years to an established New Zealand writer of literature with a significant publication record, to work on a major project.

Dr Keenan says this research aims to not only legitimise the successful application of mātauranga Māori frameworks in the distant and more recent past, but will also be a source of important customary knowledge for generations to come. 

Dr Keenan has a PhD in history from Massey University, and was a founding member of Te Pouhere Kōrero, Māori Historians Network. He has previously worked in the Department of Māori Affairs and is a former senior lecturer in Māori and New Zealand History at Massey University, Palmerston North.  

Dr Keenan will receive $100,000 towards the completion of In Sickness and In Health. 

He describes receiving the fellowship as “a pinnacle” of his career. 

“Years ago, I was privileged to work with Michael King, and I know [2021 recipient] Monty Soutar quite well - so I understand how prestigious the award is. Everything I've ever learned has led to this point, and it's my chance to bring all that knowledge to the fore.” 

Speaking about the inspiration for this research, Dr Keenan says he has long been aware of “an amazing body of work that no-one has really analysed before, certainly not from a Māori point of view.” 

“I’ve worked before at some length on papers relating to the health and sanitation crisis of the early 1900s, the flu epidemic of 1918 and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic”, he says.  

“I thought there was a really good story here about how Māori not only took control of their respective pandemic responses, applying mainstream treatments; but they also accentuated customary approaches to achieve medicinal, physical and cultural outcomes.” 

Dr Keenan’s daughter, Dr Ngaire Keenan, a paediatrician with an interest in early Māori sickness, will be one of the people supporting her father with the development of this project. 

Malcolm Burgess, Manager, Arts Practice Directors, says he’s thrilled to be able to offer the 2023 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship to Dr Keenan. 

“We are very excited to support Dr Keenan to work on a project that will shed new light on pandemics that have afflicted Māori communities throughout our history”, he says. 

“Dr Keenan has an impressive publication record, and we look forward to the matāuranga that will emerge from a compelling and engaging project that will have a wide impact for generations to come.” 

More about the Michael King Writer’s Fellowship here. 

For all media inquiries, please contact: 

Arihia McClutchie
Senior Communications Adviser – Māori | Kaiārahi Whakawhitiwhiti Kōrero – Māori
M: +64 27 330 4349 | E: arihia.mcclutchie@creativenz.govt.nz