Violent Legalities

Violent Legalities cartographically chronologizes three separate projects. Each aims to spatialise relationships between legislative activity and occurrences of violence to inspect enduring trends between settler-colonial law-making processes and state policies in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

This research is on-going and developing. In keeping with the ethics of open source, we welcome feedback to alert us to any issues you may encounter and help us take better care of our research communities. Feedback can be submitted through the link below.

To find out more about Forensic Architecture's open source community, visit their website.



To see the platforms, please visit this site using a desktop, as they are not viewable on mobile.

Terror Legalities spatialises the social relationship between legal activity and racialised hyper-policing in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It was developed in response to our initial research hypothesis in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch shootings, and is therefore the starting point for our research as a whole. In the five years prior to the shootings, Christchurch spokespeople from New Zealand’s Muslim community tried to bring state attention to white supremacist threats towards Muslims. There was no notable response from the state, and a marked lack of intervention. In contrast, the New Zealand government introduced the Terrorism Suppression Act in 2002 in response to 9/11. This authorised the continuation and acceleration of state-sponsored surveillance and policing. Terror Legalities details racist attacks that occurred in NZ from 1996-2020, and contextualises them against counter-terrorism legislation passed in this time frame. What is revealed is a history of legal negligence, and in many cases active violence, with respect to racialised bodies.

Terror Legalities

Treaty Legalities revisits the report produced by the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal in response to claims submitted by the iwi and hapu of Te Urewera district. As is shown in Terror Legalities, the Terrorism Suppression Act in 2002 is the legislation that enabled police to monitor Māori activist groups in the Urewera district for 12 months from 2007-2008. Roadblocks were installed and homes raided in the Rūātoki township, as well as across New Zealand in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington. Police justified their actions, claiming activists were acting as terrorists, undertaking military training in the Te Urewera Ranges to overthrow the government. In 2013, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found that police had acted unnecessarily, and that this surveillance was unlawful. Treaty Legalities shows that the Te Urewera raids are events that occur in a history of Māori hyper-policing that stretches back to the beginnings of settler-colonialism.

Treaty Legalities

Aotearoa/New Zealand has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world. Aotearoa’s expanding prison system mirrors many countries with one difference; 50% of the prison population are indigenous Māori. Māori, however, are only 15% of the population. In Aotearoa, the 1950s saw a dramatic increase in children taken into care fuelled by a moral panic over teenage delinquency and sexual mores. The recommendations of the 1954 Mazengarb Report ("The Moral Drift"), empowered social services to uplift an estimated 100 000 children into state, foster and psychiatric care over a thirty-year period. These children experienced unprecedented levels of psychological, physical and sexual abuse whilst in care. 50% of those children were Māori. Intergenerational trauma combined with a contemporary moral panic over intervention in cases of child abuse sees the uplift of Māori children at unprecedented levels. Correlation may not be causation, but as the prison population simultaneously expands the true moral drift is the State's deployment of strategies of blame in denying the inherent racism that lies behind the statistics of over-representation.

The Moral Drift


Karamia Müller is a Pacific academic specialising in Pacific space concepts. Currently a Lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, her research specializes in the ‘indigenization’ of design methodologies that build futures resistant to inequality. Fraser Crichton is a Pōneke/Wellington based visual artist who graduated from the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Masters at University of Arts London in 2019. Fraser’s work examines the power of the state in the context of social reform and the criminal justice system. Lachlan Kermode develops full stack architectures and manages machine learning workflows across a range of Forensic Architecture’s investigations. Bhaveeka Madagammana is a postgraduate student currently studying architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland. Mariachiara Ficarelli is a PhD student in cultural anthropology and critical media practice. Her research interests include contemporary fascist movements and the potential for open-source research in ethnographic methodology. Davide Mangano is a computer graphics generalist with a bachelor's degree in CG animation from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan. He has specialized in 3D environments for both real-time and rendered projects.