Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Stargazers' Anonymous: an Examination of Amateur Astronomy in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-09, 20:08 authored by Howe, Brian

In this examination of amateur astronomy in New Zealand, I suggest that astronomical science can be a medium through which adherents attempt to enact social transformation. Contemporary studies of leisure often emphasise the individualistic nature of leisure activity, with social interaction framed as a means to support the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of participants. However, while amateur astronomers do engage in 'serious leisure' (Stebbins, 1979, 1992), I suggest their extended roles as educators and liaisons for professional counterparts push their endeavour beyond mere participation and into wider territories of public engagement and scientific discourse. Following analysis by Ruonavaara (1997), Rojek (1985, 2000), MacCannell (1976), Urry (1990) and Turner (1969), I argue that the New Zealand astronomical community's' proclivity for education operates as a forum for constructing recursive and normative action, in which ideologies congruent with scientific rationalism are disseminated through a form of moral regulation. Commencing with a discussion of the structure of New Zealand's astronomical community, I examine how informants' narratives and attitudes to contributive participation manifest in demonstrative actions that provide idealised templates for behaviour. Secondly, I discuss astronomy and public education, and how astronomical society volunteers utilise visitors' expectations of authenticity and perceptions of nature to formulate strategies for social change. Finally, I investigate the role and purpose of other astronomyrelated ventures, including Carterton's Stonehenge Aotearoa, culminating in a discussion concerning issues of knowledge, science and postmodernist deconstructionism.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Levine, Hal