Brittnee Leysen


Research title: Pākehā Place-Names in New Zealand’s Central Otago & Clutha Districts: An anthropological-onomastic study

Research Summary

The Otago region in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand is heavily linked to the Scottish diaspora of the 19th century. This thesis examines the prevalence of Pākehā place-names, or names of European origin, in two districts in Aotearoa New Zealand’s Otago region: Clutha and Central Otago. These place-names will be evaluated for their significance as cultural artefacts by using onomastic and anthropological methods, or as coined here, anthropological onomastics. This research will aim to address which place-names in the Clutha and Central Otago districts have European versus indigenous origins, focusing heavily on the Scottish connections to the region, and why those names in particular were transposed to, and remain in, the Aotearoa New Zealand landscape. I will analyse how these place-names have affected the social identity of the people and political climate of the Otago region, and how that is demonstrated in the Otago namescape. Finally, I seek to fill in the gaps in the New Zealand Gazetteer regarding the history, origin, and meaning behind the place-names in the Clutha and Central Otago districts to enable the New Zealand Geographic Board and Land Information New Zealand to more efficiently utilise these place-names and evaluate them for official naming status.


(Forthcoming). Decolonizing our Names in the 21st Century: Place, Identity, and Agency. ‘Moving from Colonisation to Integration: the Aotearoa namescape’. Routledge.

(Forthcoming). Proceedings. ‘Cultural Contact: an anthropological perspective on toponyms in Aotearoa New Zealand’s Otago Region’. Institute of Polish Language.

(2022). L. Roberts, B. Leysen, H. Yohannes, A. Phipps. The National. 'Why we are organising first eco-social People's Summit where nobody is left behind'. Available at: <> 

(2019). Onomastica Uralica. ‘Introduced Pākehā place-names in New Zealand’s Otago region’. Debrecen, Debreceni Egyetem Magyar Nyelvtudomanyi Intézete.


Ross Fund | 2018-2019 | £3,500 | New Zealand research trip

Research Support Award College of Arts | February 2019 | £300 | International Congress of Onomastic Sciences Summer School

Research Support Award College of Arts | October 2019 | £300 | American Name Society Conference

Scottish Place Name Society Grant | November 2019 | £200 | American Name Society Conference

Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies Seedcorn Funding | January 2020 | £500 | American Name Society Conference

British Federation of Women Graduates | Funds for Women Graduates | 2020-2021 | £6,000 | Thesis pending year

College of Arts University of Glasgow Collaborative Research Award | 2020-2021 | £1,000 | Awarded to develop a PGR training event: 'People and Land: Indigenous research and Scotland' 


  • Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference: Geographies beyond recovery | August 2022 | Newcastle, United Kingdom

  • World Congress of Scottish Literatures Conference | June 2022 | Prague, Czech Republic
  • UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts Spring School | May 2022 | Glasgow, Scotland
  • Kei te mura o te ahi – Marathon for racial justice; Powered by PechaKucha | March 2022 | Virtual


  • International Congress of Onomastic Sciences Conference | August 2021 | Virtual
  • Guest Lecture 'Pākehā Place-Names in the Otago Region' | University of Otago | March 2019 | Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Glasgow University College of Arts Conference | May 2018 | Glasgow, Scotland
  • International Congress of Onomastic Sciences Conference | August 2017 | Debrecen, Hungary


University of Glasgow | Widening Participation Tutor | 2021-Present | Sutton Trust Summer School (2022), Critical Reading, Perceptions of Scotland, and Ethics of Science

University of Glasgow | Graduate Teaching Assistant | 2018-2021 | Celtic Civilisation 1A

College of Charleston | Peer Faciliator | 2013-2015 | Film and Southern History

College of Charleston | Peer Faciliatator | 2014-2015 | 'What is a Good Life'? Philosophy Seminar

Additional Information

Project Administrator for the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts | 2021-Present

Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities Blog Internship | 2018-2019

Convener of the University of Glasgow Onomastics Reading Group | 2018-Present

University of Glasgow PhD Society Treasurer | 2020-2021

CERT Scotland Activism Strategy Team | 2020-2021

PGR Representative for Celtic and Gaelic | 2017-2018