April Henderson

Dr April Henderson profile picture

Director of Va'aomanu Pasifika School of Languages and Cultures


Teaching in 2020


BA (Anthropology) Pitzer College, MA (Pacific Islands Studies) University of Hawai'i at Manoa, PhD (History of Consciousness) University of California, Santa Cruz

Administrative responsibilities

Programme Director Va'aomanū Pasifika

Research interests

Pacific cultural studies; studies of Pacific people’s societies; Pacific performing arts; globalisation and culture; consumption and everyday life; arts and cultural policy

Current supervisions

Emma Powell, PhD in Pacific Studies, “Backbone(s), Borders, and Binaries: A Study of Cook Islands Identities,” (primary supervisor).

Nathaniel Rigler, PhD in Pacific Studies, “Virgin Commodity,” (primary supervisor).

Ashleigh Feu’u, PhD in Pacific Studies, “The Misrepresentation and Misgendering of the Fa’afafine of Samoa,” (co-supervisor).

Vicky Shandil, Ph.D. Pacific Studies, “Toying with the ‘Other’: Analysing Gender Subversion in Indo-Fijian Performance”, primary supervisor.

Jessica Marinaccio, PhD in Pacific Studies, “Narratives of Image and Identity: Performative Cultural Diplomacy Between Taiwan and Tuvalu,” (primary supervisor).

Shailesh Lal, PhD in Pacific Studies, “The Art of Visiting, the Dilemma of Staying and the Difficulty of Leaving: An Actor’s Perspective of IndoFijian Representations on Fiji’s Stages 1998-2008” (primary supervisor).

Rachel Yates, PhD in Pacific Studies, “Skilled Migrants in the 21st Century: A case study of NZ-Born Pacific Islanders teaching English in South Korea (third supervisor).

Rose Namoori-Sinclair, PhD in Pacific Studies, “The Impact of Immigration on Pacific Women’s Health: the experiences of Kiribati migrants,” (third supervisor).

Courtney Savali Andrews, PhD in Ethnomusicology, “Classical Polynesia: The Making of Music and Musicians in Modern Samoa,” (secondary supervisor).

Jenny Taotua, MA in Pacific Studies, “Riding the K-Pop Wave in the Pacific: The influence of Korean Popular Music on Pacific Youth in Aotearoa, N.Z.” (secondary supervisor).

Fabiefara Filo, BA Honours, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “Do Victoria University Samoan and Tongan students’ experiences of Samoan and Tongan Language Weeks celebrations reflect the original intention/purpose of the establishment of Pasifika Language Weeks in New Zealand?” (sole supervisor).

Sepola Fa‘avae, BA Honours, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “The Implications of Forced Relocation on Issues of Cultural Maintenance: A Comparative Analysis of Banaban Pasts and Possible Tuvaluan Futures.” (sole supervisor).

Completed supervisions

Emily Fatu, MA Pacific Studies, "The Bitter Sweetness of the Space Between: Creative Reflections of Pasifika Mixedness", sole supervisor.

Moira Fortin Cornejo, Ph.D. Theatre, “Tensions and Possibilities: The Interplay of ‘Traditional’ Cultural Elements and the Creation of ‘Contemporary’ Māori, Samoan diasporic and Rapanui Theatre” (alternative titles: “He Moto, He Koa: Te Hakapiri o te Haka Ara e te Api ki te Aŋa o te A‘amu Api ki Māori, Sāmoa e ko Rapa Nui”;“Tensiones y Posibilidades: La Integración de Elementos Culturales ‘Tradicionales’ en la Creación ‘Contemporánea’ de Teatro Māori, diasporico Samoano y Rapanui”).

Toaga Alefosio, BA Honours, “O Le Fa‘atinoina ma le Taliaina: Comparing Givers’ and Receivers’ perceptions of the use of coconut oil in Samoan Indigenous practices.” (sole supervisor).

Jodi Meadows, MDI Culture and Context, “Pacific Design: Visualizing Theory,” secondary supervisor.

Anabel Lusk, MENVST, “Pursuing self-determined outcomes for climate change in the Cook Islands: Exploring the interface between government institutional directive and local community engagement in climate change decision-making,” third supervisor.

Tupe Lualua, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “DANCES OF DEFIANCE: How choreography and vocalisation were used in Pacific protest.”

Jenny Taotua, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “The influences of African American and other Afrodiasporic music on Korean popular music (K-pop) in Korea and Pacific popular music in Aotearoa, 1980 to present.”

Emily Fatu, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “Creating the vā: A comparative review of artists Lily Laita and Niki Hastings-McFall’s reflections of Pacific mixedness.”

Holly Mansfield, MA Pacific Studies, “Discourses of Vulnerability: I-Kiribati Women, Forced Migration and Climate Change,” sole supervisor.

Lizzie Werry, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “Pacific Possibilities for Culturally Relevant Curricula: A comparative review and critique of the secondary literature surrounding the Vanuatu and Aotearoa/New Zealand primary school curricula.”

Jodi Devine, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “Finding the Music in Regionalism: A Comparative Review of the Literature on Pacific Regional Imaginaries.”

Courtney Wilson, MA English, “That’s My Stuff: Pasifika Identities and Pasifika Literature,” secondary supervisor.

Paula Faiva, MA Pacific Studies, “The Voices of Tokelau Youth in New Zealand: Na mafialeo ona Tupulaga Tokelau I Niu Hila,” secondary supervisor.

Suliana Vea, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “A Comparative Analysis of the Role and Impact of Original Lyrical Composition in Pacific Societies.”

Scott Mackay, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “At the Confluence of Poetry and Politics: Comparing the Lives and Works of Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Hone Tuwhare.”

Rodrigo Gomez-Segura, BA Honours Pacific Studies, PASI 489 Comparative Research Essay, “The Case for the Political Decolonisation of Rapa Nui.”

Current research

“Kernels of Hope: Following Coconut Commodities from the Pacific to the West.” This multi-sited ethnographic research project follows one significant coconut commodity, virgin coconut oil, from points of production in two Pacific nations, though sites of circulation and consumption in the United States and New Zealand, investigating: how coconut commodities become invested with people's beliefs, hopes, and aspirations at each stage of the commodity chain; what they reveal about older histories of trade and new regimes of consumption, and; how Pacific indigenous knowledge might offer both alternatives to and pathways into the global economy.

Ongoing research and publication on Pacific participation in hip hop dance, music, and visual art, and the constitution of multi-ethnic “communities of sentiment” through shared participation in popular cultural forms.

Selected external activities

Subeditor (Pacific), Asia Pacific Viewpoint

Editorial Board, Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture.

Strategic/Artistic Assessor, Pacific Arts Committee, Creative New Zealand

Member, International Association for the Study of Popular Music

Member, Pacific History Association

Member, P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Inc (Wellington Central Branch), a non-profit organisation set up to support and help create opportunities for Pacific Island women within New Zealand

Selected book chapters

‘Giving Back in Wellington: Deep Relations, Whakapapa, and Reciprocity in Transnational Hip Hop’ in Shelly Brunt and Geoff Stahl, eds., Made in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge, 2018: 167–177.

'Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and Samoan Diaspora' in Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds, The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. (foreword by Robin DG Kelley). London: Pluto Press, 2006: 180-199.

Selected journal articles

Alefosio, Toaga and April K. Henderson. “On Skin and Bone: Samoan Coconut Oil in Indigenous Practice.” Journal of Pacific History (forthcoming).

Henderson, April K. “The I and the We: Individuality, Collectivity, and Samoan Artistic Response to Cultural Change.” The Contemporary Pacific volume 28 number 2 (forthcoming August 2016)

Henderson, April K. "Maori Boys, Michael Jackson Dance Moves, and that 1984 Structure of Feeling."New Zealand Journal of Media Studies volume 13 number 1 (October 2012): 79-96. This article can be freely downloaded, please follow the link http://www.nzmediastudies.org.nz/issues.php?issue=9&title=Volume+13+No.1

Henderson, April K. “Fleeting Substantiality: The Samoan Giant in US Popular Discourse.” The Contemporary Pacific volume 23 number 2 (August 2011): 269-302

Henderson, April K. 'Gifted Flows: Making Space for a Brand New Beat" in Flying Fox Excursions, a special issue of The Contemporary Pacific volume 22 number 2, (August 2010): 293-315

Teaiwa, Teresia K., and April K. Henderson. 'Humanities and Communities: A Dialogue in Pacific Studies,' Pacific Studies, volume 32 number 4, 2009/2010: 421-438

Contributor to Peter Brunt, ed. “Roundtable: Thinking Through Oceania Now.” The Reading Room: A Journal of Art and Culture. Issue 4 2010: 83-104

Selected reviews in journals

Review Forum Editor, “The Orator/O Le Tulafale” for The Contemporary Pacific vol 24 no, 2, (August) 2012: 434–446.

Review of Alexeyeff, Kalissa. Dancing From the Heart: Movement, Gender, and Cook Islands Globalization for The Australian Journal of Anthropology vol 23, issue 2, 2012: 259–260

Review of Bakari Kitwana, Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggas, Wannabes and the New Reality of Race in America, for Perfect Beat 8:4 (January 2006): 87-89

Review of Chadwick Allen, Blood Narrative: Indigenous Identity in American Indian and Maori Literary and Activist Texts for Asia Pacific Viewpoint volume 44, number 2 (August) 2003: 197-199.

Other selected publications

As part of making my research more widely accessible to Pacific and creative communities, I occasionally write pieces for creative industry publications and popular press outlets.

‘FUNK is FUN (with a K): Suga Pop Workshops.’ DANZ Quarterly Issue 31 (March) 2013: 2-3.

April K. Henderson, Radamez Smith and Sara Tamati. 'The Professional Development of 'B Boying in Aotearoa.' DANZ Quarterly Issue 19, April/May/June 2010: 20-21

April K. Henderson, Radamez Smith, Sara Tamati, and Sen Thong. 'B boying - the cultural dance of hip hop.' DANZ Quarterly Issue 18, Jan/Feb/March 2010: 10-11

'Suga Pop Vs. David Dallas.' Back2Basics December 2008/January 2009

'Rich and Tone Talauega: Rize of the Revolution.' Spasifik Magazine 28 (September/October 2008): 20-24

'Art and Science: An Interview with Chris Graham.' Disrupt issue 4 October 2004.

'SugaPop: True Child of the Funk.' Back2Basics volume 2 issue 2 August/September 2004: 30-34.

'Footsouljahs.' Back2Basics volume 2 issue 1 June/July 2004: 27-29.

'Locking, Popping, and Breaking.' DANZ Quarterly Issue 15 October 2002: 2-5

Awards and achievements

Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund FastStart grant for "Kernals of Hope: Following Coconut Commodities from the Pacific to the West," 2015-2017

Foundation for Research, Science and Technology grant for 'Youth Voices, Youth Choices,' a collaborative project between researchers at Va'aomanu Pasifika and the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, 2008-2010

Honorable Mention, Gertrude Lippincott Award for Best Dance Article in English, awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars, 2007

University of California Pacific Rim Research Program Research Grant 2002

University of California Pacific Rim Research Program Mini-Grant, 2001

University of California, Santa Cruz Cota-Robles Fellowship, 1999-2001

East West Center Degree Fellow 1996-1998

Recommended sites


Teaching in 2020