Sundays heading was “Beyond dominant culture: creating new dynamics”.
We opened by reading a hauntingly beautiful picture book called “the Rabbits”. (John Marsden and Shaun Tan) this is a ‘pulling on your insides’ analogy about colonisation across the ditch.
Ruth de Souza chaired the first block of “The politics of identity” and lightened things up
a bit by telling a bit of a naughty joke about rabbits… and then outlining the
governments 3 strategic policies, one of them being the construction of national identity.
Moana Jackson talked about “the politics of identity” examining the very framing of the concept of identity. Of the understanding of self and belonging, in relation to histories and stories built upon the papa. Of definition based on relationships to kin, earth forest, sky, universe.
When relationships are very different as with päkehä and Tauiwi migration and settlement in Aotearoa, there is a need to create new ways of relations and fitting and joining.
The treaty was a construct for that, offering a kawa that respected difference, to relate and balance. However colonisation damaged that opening, as well as relationships in pacific, as colonial powers and a perception of western superiority tried to subsume rather than relate and balance.
A päkehä man said he had no reservations saying that he had appropriated a mäori rite on
the burying of placenta in the earth, when he took his daughters placenta back on the
plane to NZ. Also he asked about the notion of difference and the notion of power
implicit in difference and having to follow rules and comply.
The response was that pre Christianity, Europeans/pagans had their own rites surrounding
burying of the placenta to secure belonging, and that looking back to our own roots and
ancestral practice will mean that päkehä/Tauiwi do not need to feel they are co-opting or
appropriating mäori practice and rites. That power in te Ao Mäori has no synonym and is
not understood in the exclusionary and absolute way like in western frameworks. That
‘authority’ was of belonging to and in relation to everything else. So disputes around
difference, opposed to being of a court type adversarial nature, were of a resolutionary,
mediatory process with the aim of restoring and healing the relationship, much like in the
way two individuals who know each other will sort things out.
A suggestion that päkehä was a way for päkehä to acknowledge and place themselves
within the sphere of being ‘ethnic’ also. Which makes a place for other NZders as then
they cease to be ‘the’ NZders. That the term päkehä could be seen as a gift, one in which
there is a relationship and belonging. Which then would highlight obligations and
reciprocities of a gift. But is it just a cooption of a word, and how to negotiate the
tensions between co-option and engagement, as engagement may require use of ‘others’
Response of the bridges in Te Ao Mäori of whakapapa. The Treaty of Waitangi allowed
other house and houses where there were no traditional and historical relations with
Tauiwi. So the Treaty is to act as a bridge to work out how those relationships would
work. However colonisation and notions of Western superiority damaged that bridge,
because päkehä wanted only one house. A singular house in which other
peoples could have rooms in that house.
Response also that the compulsion to co-opt is under-pinned by trying to make up for a
past that is too hard to think about. So there is a need to resolve and reconcile ourselves
with that past. Cooption complicates that process and becomes abusive as a dynamic of
“to feel at home you have to steal from the neighbours”.
Ruth opened the panel section of “the Politics of Identity” saying that she once attended a
conference called something like “biculturalism versus multiculturalism”. And she
remembered that Danny had said “the problem is not biculturalism or multiculturalism,
Danny Butt’s talk was called “leaving NZ to become local”, discussed the need for
päkehä to get past anxiety about being to scared to ask, or ashamed of not knowing. To
also get better at not being right and being open to constructive criticism. About learning
environments where being corrected is part of a reciprocal learning process. In a society
where confidence as seen as power, you have to have power to inflict abuse. He brought
up a point about sexual offenders having a lack of self-esteem, skills and confidence.
Relating that to päkehä not asking what they have to give up, but how to address the
violent side effects of the lack of power to open themselves up to change.
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay in “politics of multiculturalism and the minorities” outlined the
dynamics between nation and nation state, and how minorities and migration disturbs that
relation. History as a cultural tool of defining a nation. As well as a multicultural policy
can be used to give limited autonomous space to ethnic minorities so that diversity is
contained in a social way so as to not threaten the monocultural core and values of how a
Athena Gavriel in “more than food and dancing girls: national identity, what’s in it for
me?” pointed out the difference between ethnic and national identity, and ethnicity and
culture being fluid. Also about the subsuming of diverse European cultures within
whiteness and the term päkehä.
The discussion brought up a question of what song Danny sung in the bus. To which
Danny responded that he didn’t, and that there is often a gap between our ideals, and the
reality of where we are at.
A comment that we are all New Zealanders.
Note on the government quest for a national identity as dangerous, and how it just
assumes it can initiate that discussion.
That while some perceived positives of a ‘national identity’ may be that of
acknowledging Mäori as tangata whenua and the place of the Treaty, is that even a good
Response that when the government talks of ‘nation’ it means nation state. And when the
Treaty is referred to as the ‘founding’ document what was founded was päkehä power.
So national identity is nation building nationalism, which maintains päkehä founded
When an ‘inclusive national identity where we can have shared relations that respect
difference’ is suggested, the point is, that as ethnic minorities we aren’t even being heard.
Which means our differences cannot be respected, so we cant have those shared relations.
Note that the government is going to do its thing so as to manage the colonial ethnic
problem, and what can be done strategically to diverge from national identity to
consciousness, and how to use its aims and actions as a cover to get resources.
Question of whether this section and conference has a plan for outcomes and
The answer from organisers is ‘no’. That the ‘point’ is for us to feed each other here and
to go back to all the communities and spaces we work in to share the learning and
knowledge to strengthen our diverse communities.
Comment about nations and nationalism and in Quebec there are nations within nations
and are those concepts helpful or positive things.
Comment that these should be civil conversations not state ones. Of nation not being
homogenous, not just having one voice and that the sate cannot represent everyone. To
think of identities in the plural.
Note about when things are good we can “all be New Zealanders”. But when something
threatens monocultural power, like September 11, some citizens don’t get treated the
same as other citizens. That during various wars in various countries the requirements
for belonging change and some people get put into interment camps, or on an alien list
and get seen as a threat to the nation.
A challenge to the notion that we can all are New Zealanders as that is a co-opting,
subsuming and homogenising way to squash and disappear whakapapa.
Comment on how a government quest to create and set a national identity relates to the
branding of NZ to sell it abroad. The whole clean green, 100% pure has economic
motivations to create a point of difference and control resources.
Comment about the difficulties of identity and identification cannot label progression, as
labels get seen as complete. So how do we find a term so we can all join together and
fight the common enemy.
Another challenge to the ‘we are all New Zealanders’ simply continues the ‘melting pot’
idea, which is just assimilation and domination using nicer words.
Note about the complexities of visible and invisible minorities. Where your own people
might be able to see and recognise you but where are you in a national body politics, or a
national historical imagination.
Response to the idea “to join against the common enemy” being part of the problem.
That many of us are ‘the common enemy’. That we can’t just chop off bits of ourselves.
That maybe we need to ask how we can shift colonial mindsets of binary/dualistic/’us and
them’ ways of relating. How we can open our minds and hearts.
Comment about some positives of biculturalism being that there were very specific
demands and challenges made upon and to päkehä, whereas multiculturalism is a kind of
“everyone can just be who they are”. This means in this type of multiculturalism päkehä
don’t need to change the dominating ways they relate, nor päkehä dominating structures,
and can just carry on as they are.
Gay challenged and responded to Danny’s analogy of sexual abusers who don’t have, and
don’t know how to have healthy relationships. Gay said that sexual abusers do have
many heterosexual healthy functioning relationships, and they abuse.
Gay Puketapu-Andrews and Elizabeth Kerekere ran us thru an identity continuum
activity from the states that we critiqued together while sharing experiences along that
continuum. One of the activities premise was that identity is formed in a racist society.
Suzanne Menzies-Culling shared with us “freedom roadworks” journey, and alternative
living that is self-determining not just state opposing.
Teresia Teaiwi presented “niu means coconut: pacific ways of thriving as minorities
within dominant cultures”. She shared examples of self determining pacific countries, as
well as the importance of reserving the right to critically challenge your own
communities and peoples, so no one is silenced.
Mervin Singham discussed“a new paradigm for a multi-ethnic Aotearoa/NZ” which
presented many goals and ways in which government could see that process progressing
and the importance of that process.
Hannah Ho talked about “crumbs off a dominant table: some pitfalls of dots not joining
syndrome”, which address the need to examine the connections and overlaps between
different oppressions and privileges.
Discussion that followed focused on the governments role and motivation in heading or
initiating creating a national identity.
Question as to what government will do when there are divergent views that are opposed
to what the government thinks.
Challenge that the govt as a visiting and illegal government even thinks that it can put
this topic up on the table.
Concern that although the govt wont just make up a set national identity overnight, but is
proposing to provide a framework to manage and listen to what people are saying, it will
be little more than cooption, appropriation and lip service, with the danger of embracing
Comment that it is very easy to talk about all of this, but is ultimately problematic as the
government has its own perspective and agenda and something to gain, or else it would
not be initiating this conversation.
Response that a national identity is not a ‘thing’ that the government is offering, but that
is created collectively and one in which the government is a player in. That outcomes
will feed into broadcasting, culture and heritage initiatives, and the (re)education about
Chinese and Indian peoples for instance.
Concerns that the government does not actually listen.
Comment of cultural marginalisation as it relates to national identity, and how will that
construct avoid homogenising diverse cultures in it.
Maybe we need to be asking “do we need to have a discussion on national identity?”
rather than “what is national identity?”. Is this a way in which the labour government
does not have to know who they are, and what culture and cultures underpin how it
Comment of the government is going to do it anyway, can we strategically feed it what
we want and get resources from it.
Comment that there isn’t acknowledgement from government about the ways ‘diversity’ hasn’t been dealt with especially with the Foreshore and Seabed act and Ahmed Zaoui.
Question about what will be the process of creating this national identity strategy?
Response that it is a Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet initiative, but within the Office of Ethnic affairs it will be consultation, discussion, report writing which will then be fed upwards.
Comment that it is interesting that while the rest of the world is moving away from a concept of nation state NZ is pursuing it. Note that it appears the govt is approaching ‘diversity’ in a managed fashion, and there is a great lack of trust about government integrity.
Question of how will stating diversity in a government setting actually deals with racism.
Request to elder peoples of “tips for young players”.
To know that things don’t happen today or tomorrow and to think about how to sustain ourselves for the long haul. To make decisions thinking 7generations ahead. Are we just working for change as a job or career? Do we actually want it? If we do then careful choices need to be made. Respect each other now, and generations to come after.
A idea that ‘culture will save us’ which can be a missionising concept that can lock young people into oppressive roles and structures and then are oppressed twice. Once by dominant cultures, and another within our own peoples structures. To fulfil obligations but always reserve the right to respectfully critique, to opt out where things are inappropriate for us.
When things become orthodox they have the power to oppress. The importance of self critique and self consciousness, asking what and why, so as to make sure we are not oppressing others.
That the politics of generosity and the oppression of scarcity and self interest is a massive difficult task and to just keep going.
Each generation has its own waka and own path to go. Your elders will always be there to help but it is our job as young people to be arrogant, to be the question askers, the pushers of systems.
To “follow your thoughts”. That the missionaries didn’t come to record culture, they came to destroy it. Colonisation freezes culture at a point, when culture is fluid, moving and changes. That not all tradition might be tradition. To have compassion for our elders and acknowledge their different journeys, which will aid understanding and enable us to understand young people and their needs.
Comment that the government cannot create a national identity for all of us, that identity is something we have to dialogue with our own about. The government approach is a house with a flash mäori carving on it, to which Asian paintings, pacific carvings, African sculptures will just be added in a ‘national’ identity, while the governments house is a given and will not look at its own house. The government will not do this so we have to.
Wong Liu Shueng summed up with some points.
The need for honesty in the dialogue that needs to happen. About when we are under pressure and in uncomfortable situation the need to speak up. The need to get over our scariness and how we scare ourselves, as if we don’t capture the fear in ourselves we will not be much good to anyone especially ourselves.
To remember how easy it is to erase history and people by simply not recording and passing it on. How we have to take responsibility for our own histories by telling them in many ways not just words.
About the benefits of working outside the system and creating alternatives. That governments its own cage and its invaluable to know how it operates.
Of new visions and the need to support new visions.
Of respect, self awareness, to seek opinions and keep dialogue going. Of forgiving ourselves and others, and listening to stories to create relationships and show ourselves as we are.
Of journeys as individuals and groups, together from place to place.
Peace. About ourselves and who we are, about what makes up that peace. The courage to change because we change, peace to seek understanding of each other. To welcome and look at our own fears. The less fear there is means the world is wider and bigger and less scary. Less fear means we can be open for more.
The end til July 2009....