In April 2023, Auckland Museum hosted Scarred Nations - an international symposium that investigated the implications, reconciliations, and legacies of intrastate conflicts. Bringing together leading scholars, thinkers, creative practitioners and those with direct experience in intrastate conflicts, Scarred Nations presented a valuable and timely moment to facilitate new perspectives and collaborative opportunities within this sphere.

Titiro Whakamuri Ki

Intrastate Conflicts, Legacies and Reconciliation

Titiro Whakamuri Ki

Few countries have escaped the scourge of internal conflict and today the list of nations embroiled in such wars is extensive. Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen are notable examples, but there are many others that do not garner as much attention. Today, nations are far more likely to be affected by intrastate conflict than any other type of war. In his 2017 book, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas,1 David Armitage noted that “Civil war has gradually become the most widespread, the most destructive, and the most characteristic form of organised human violence.” It is estimated that since 1945, intrastate conflicts have resulted in the fighting-related deaths of over 25 million people and have had significant impacts on the lives of many millions of survivors, leaving a legacy of grievance and hostility. Rather than a problem solely for countries elsewhere in the world, internal conflict and its aftermath has affected – and continues to affect – communities in Aotearoa New Zealand and across the Asia-Pacific region.

It was very relevant and timely, therefore, that in April 2023 Auckland War Memorial Museum, in association with Massey University te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa, Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and WHAM (War History Heritage Art and Memory) Research Network, presented Scarred Nations: Intrastate Conflicts, Legacies and Reconciliation, a unique two-day symposium exploring such conflicts and their impacts. 

The Scarred Nations partners drew together leading thinkers, scholars, and practitioners from the diverse fields of history, law, museum curation, defence policy and operations, fine arts, diplomacy, and international relations and security to examine this complex problem. The symposium’s aim of presenting historical and contemporary models for seeking reconciliation and justice was certainly ambitious, but hugely relevant in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

1. Armitage, D. 2017. Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

New Zealand has not been immune to the pain of internal conflict or its ongoing impact. The New Zealand Wars, Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, was arguably New Zealand’s own intrastate conflict, resulting in significant loss of life, displacement, and cultural disruption for iwi Māori. On the first day, panellists explored the New Zealand Wars from a variety of prospective models for teaching the history of the conflict, and assessed contemporary impacts to current and future students.

On its second day, Scarred Nations looked beyond nineteenth century internal conflict to more recent years, examining Aoteraroa’s legacy of contributing to peacekeeping in intrastate conflicts overseas. Since 1945, New Zealand’s forces have deployed on multiple peacekeeping operations, working with the United Nations and in alliance with regional and international partners. New Zealand’s legacy of peacekeeping has been and continues to be more than a humanitarian endeavour. Today, in an uncertain world with hegemonic regional powers engaged in strategic competition, stability within the Pacific region is in New Zealand’s defence interest.

The symposium featured many high-profile academics and leading practitioners. Keynote addresses were presented by law professor Alexander Gillespie, Waikato University (The Wars of Today and Tomorrow: Global Risk and New Zealand in an Increasingly Lawless World), history professor James Belich, from Oxford University (Unsettling Histories: The Scars of Engagement), and former diplomat Dr Ruth Nuttall (Subjugation, Liberation and Stabilisation in East Timor).


Presentation recordings

Keynote 1
Professor Alexander Gillespie - The Wars of Today and Tomorrow: Global risk and New Zealand in an increasingly lawless world

Difficult Histories 1: The New Zealand Wars / Ngā pakanga o Aotearoa / Te riri Pākehā
Dr Vincent O’Malley - Scarred City: Tāmaki Makaurau and the New Zealand Wars
Dr Arini Loader - He wai kei aku kamo: sung history and conflict in Aotearoa
Dr Liana MacDonald - Teaching Scarred Histories: Remembering Rangiaowhia
Professor James Belich -

Difficult Histories 2: How museums are reassessing their engagement with the New Zealand Wars
Dr Rowan Light - The New Zealand Wars Galleries at Auckland Museum
Nigel Borell –  The New Zealand Wars Galleries Refresh
Tereora Crane – Engaging schoolchildren in New Zealand Wars history

Difficult Histories 3: How artists are engaging with the New Zealand Wars
Dr Brett Graham –
Euan Robertson – Tartan: Blurring the Lines Between Māori, Pākehā, Soldier and Settler
Thomas Slade –
Professor Huhana Smith –

Keynote 2
Professor James Belich - Unsettling Histories: The Scars of Engagement

Keynote 3
Dr Ruth Nuttall - Subjugation, Liberation and Stabilisation in East Timor

International relations and security panel with a focus on Asia-Pacific region
Professor Robert Patman – NZ and AUKUS: The Strategic Logic of Scepticism
Dr James Rolfe – NZ and Its Pacific Interventions
Dr Anna Powles – The Impact of Strategic Competition on Local Security Dynamics in the Pacific
Professor Claire Breen – Peace and Security, and Human Rights: The Role of Culture

New Zealand’s Strategic Defence Interests, Policy, and Operational Implementation
Dr Adam Norrie - Recent Developments in New Zealand’s Defence Policy
Lt. Col. Martin Dransfield – Scarred Nations: A Personal Perspective on the Challenges and Opportunities
Lt. Col. Peter Wood – A Personal Perspective Based on Two Operational Deployments arising from Intrastate Conflicts