Re-reading Works on Poverty Seminar: Revisiting “The Folk Culture of the Dispossessed”, Michael Brown, 1 May 2024

Re-reading Works on Poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand

In collaboration with the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies and the Adam Art Gallery, this series takes a fresh look at some major Aotearoa cultural works on poverty. Across six weeks historians, curators, researchers, writers, and performers ‘re-read’ books, plays, novels, songs, and academic analyses from across the 20th century shedding light on the historic trajectories of poverty in our country. In looking back this series invites an evaluation of our contemporary situation, providing context for current issues such as inequality, our low wage economy, beneficiary shaming, gendered poverty and the long-lasting effects of colonisation.

Seminar 2 – Michael Brown, Revisiting “The Folk Culture of the Dispossessed”

Wednesday 1 May 2024 at 4.10pm
Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery

Kelburn Campus
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

The Folk Culture of the Dispossessed” is an article by Tony Simpson published in the Journal of the New Zealand Folklore Society in 1972. It is possibly the earliest study to consider how folklore (specifically song and verse) reveals the experiences and attitudes of the impoverished in New Zealand. It also holds significance as one of Simpson’s earliest publications. Yet “The Folk Culture of the Dispossessed” has received little attention over the years, compared with the author’s subsequent books and other writings. What was the context around the article’s original publication and how was it received? What issues does it raise? In what other ways has poverty been represented in New Zealand vernacular culture? 


Michael Brown was the 2023 JD Stout Fellow. He works as Music Curator at the Alexander Turnbull Library.