Memoir explores racism, the Catholic church, and fathers

Monday 15 November 2021
Professor Richard Shaw has launched his memoir 'The Forgotten Coast', an examination of colonial privilege, his family's Catholicism and his relationship with his father.

Professor Richard Shaw with his just-launched memoir, The Forgotten Coast.

Last updated: Thursday 17 March 2022

Professor Richard Shaw has today launched his memoir, The Forgotten Coast, a deft and honest examination of colonial privilege, his family’s Catholicism and his relationship with his father.

Professor Shaw is a politics professor within Massey's School of People, Environment and Planning.

In The Forgotten Coast, Professor Shaw unpacks a generations-old family story he was never told: that his ancestors once farmed land in Taranaki which had been confiscated from its owners and sold to his great-grandfather Andrew, who had been with the Armed Constabulary when it invaded Parihaka on 5 November 1881.

“That process of discovering Andrew and his involvement with Te Pāhua, farming confiscated land and Māori leasehold land, it made the whole process of colonisation very immediate.”

In the book, Professor Shaw comes face-to-face with this colonial heritage, something he says he’d always been somewhat aware of. “This book is my way of confronting the background that I’ve always vaguely known about but consciously avoided,” he says.

Professor Shaw’s father Bob, who died following heart surgery in 2012, is another central figure in the memoir. “There were conversations I wished I’d had with my father. This book is my way of having those conversations with him.”

The final key male figure in the memoir is Professor Shaw’s great-uncle Dick, who at just 20-years-old travelled to Rome to study for the priesthood. He was a figure that always fascinated Professor Shaw, for the journey he took from coastal Taranaki to the Eternal City and back, and in the tragedy of a brilliant and young life wrecked by disease.

Through these three men, the book’s key focus is evident: how, in a decolonising world, Pākehā New Zealanders wrestle with, and own, the privilege of their colonial pasts.

The Forgotten Coast is published by Massey University Press and is available for purchase on their website.

About the author

Richard Shaw is a Professor of Politics at Massey University, whose research is published in leading international journals. He is a regular commentator on political issues. His recent article From Parihaka to He Puapua: it’s time Pākehā New Zealanders faced their personal connections to the past, published on the website of The Conversation, explores similar themes to the ones in The Forgotten Coast.