Progress report #2

Reflections on the first six project months on the Coromandel

Below you can read Dr Paul Schneider's reflections on the first six months of the project in Coromandel, New Zealand.

Children playning with water
Children at the local sailing club in Coromandel making their own "snow" so they can have a white Christmas even if it's in the middle of the summer season
Daniela Suess

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The CALENDARS project is still in it's first phase and the first year of the project has been filled with activities. We have had several workshops and public events as well as assemblage the full CALENDAR team in both Norway and New Zealand.

On the Coromandel Peninsula, the CALENDARS project began mid 2019 with my appointment as postdoctoral research fellow. This marked the beginning of a local  investigation into how seasonal representations shape and are shaped by institutions. First and foremost, this required a familiarisation with the literature on seasons, institutions, institutional change, co-production, boundary objects, adaptation, as well as the contemporary and traditional understandings and institutional configurations with regard to seasons on the Peninsula. The latter meant catching up on ‘grey’ literature and what can be found on the internet and, more importantly, diving into the deep end of ethnographic enquiry and having as many conversations with locals as possible about seasons and how these shape institutional reality ‘on the ground’.

Scott and his family’s visit to Coromandel at the end of July 2019 provided the opportunity to talk through the detail of the project and to develop a framework for the ‘meta institutions’ that would guide the selection of key informants. We agreed on the Natural Order, the Social Order, Culture/Meaning, Learning, and Keeping Safe as the five institutional pillars for the project. During Scott’s visit we met with potential key informants, including the local council’s CEO, Te Puru School’s new principal, a local Māori representative, artists, a beekeeper, and a local conservationist. With project mentor Bruce Glavovic also joining us for a few days we took the opportunity to discuss ‘bigger picture’ aspects and theory pertinent to the CALENDARS project.

Following Bruce and Scott’s departure I worked on an overview of the CALENDARS project, including an overview of what engagement may look like for potential research participants. Together with a compilation of an ethnography ‘mini-library’/literature review, these documents later informed the full ethics application which needed to be obtained before any actual ethnographic fieldwork could be undertaken.

A further key step over the past six months setting the CALENDARS project up on the Coromandel was to identify a local PhD candidate with strong familiarity of the Peninsula’s institutional and natural landscape. Following the advertising through Massey channels as well as in the local newspaper, Kerstie van Zandvoort was selected as the ideal candidate.

Over the next weeks many more meetings were held with potential research participants. This also prompted a short introduction to the community in the Coromandel Chronicle.

Since Kerstie’s appointment we have had a few project meetings which included the drafting of an interview script/protocol and a blank calendar for research participants to consider when structuring their local seasonal insights and experiences. A first set of interviews has already provided input for fine-tuning the Coromandel approach.