Story: Creative and intellectual expatriates

Brian Sutton-Smith

Brian Sutton-Smith

One of the leading educationalists and play theorists of his generation, Brian Sutton-Smith (1924–2015), pictured here in the 1970s, was born and raised in Wellington. He trained as a teacher while also studying psychology at Victoria University. After working as a primary school teacher, Sutton-Smith studied chidren's play and unorganised games for a PhD in education (the first to be awarded in New Zealand, in 1954). During this time he also wrote the first of several books for children, Our street (1950) – the others were Smitty does a bunk (1961) and The cobbers (1976). The books were well received by children but criticised by educational authorities for depicting antisocial behaviour.  Sutton-Smith spent time studying at American universities on a Fulbright scholarship and, after a brief return to New Zealand, emigrated to the United States. He taught at Bowling Green University from 1957 to 1967; Teachers College, Columbia University, New York from 1967 to 1977; and the University of Pennsylvania from 1977 to 1990. As well as founding the Children's Folklore Society, he wrote numerous articles and books, of which the best known is The ambiguity of play (1997). After working with scholars from different disciplines, Sutton-Smith realised that people had different interpretations of children's play. He came up with seven different categories for describing play: a form of progress, an exercise in power, a reliance on fate, a claim for identity, a form of frivolity, an issue of the imagination, or a manifestation of personal experience.

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How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Creative and intellectual expatriates - Attitudes to expatriation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/44362/brian-sutton-smith (accessed 20 November 2019)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 22 Oct 2014