On “New Zealand” “Studies”

On “New Zealand” “Studies”
Danny Butt <db@dannybutt.net>
Lecturer, School of Design, Unitec New Zealand
Presentation to Imagining New Zealand / Aotearoa, 11th Annual day conference of the New Zealand Studies Association.
New Zealand House, London, 3rd July 2004.

‘The question of “Who will speak?” is less crucial than “who will listen”?’
(Spivak 1990, p.59)

Good morning. It’s very strange to be in the centre of London with such an esteemed panel for a gathering about New Zealand Studies. I’m remembering Dean Hapeta, aka Te Kupu from Upper Hutt Posse, who talked about why he identified with his Maori genealogy over his British side. He said, when he is home he is welcomed for being Maori, but being in London and saying you have English ancestry doesn’t get you very far. Anyhow, I’ve just come from Banff in Canada, another part of the empire, and that experience has changed this presentation a fair bit.

For the last six weeks I’ve been collaborating with two artists, both Maori, in a residency called Intra-nation at Banff Centre for the Arts. It’s been a real opportunity to reflect on the construction of nationhood, and a lot of the time I’ve been wondering why the hell a Pakeha like myself is going to London to talk about New Zealand, and thinking maybe I should write something on that. So rather than reiterating the excellent work David Slack (2004) and Pat Snedden (2004) have done on Treaty issues since I submitted my abstract, or spending twenty minutes paraphrasing Stephen Turner (1999) on historiography, or I thought it would be good to think about what we’re doing, right here, to contribute to the cultural struggles emerging in the New Zealand nation-state.
This feeling was especially prompted by two exhibitions at Banff’s Walter Philips Gallery. The first, curated by Candice Hopkins, showcased a number of Native American contemporary artists, including a fantastic video work by Jimmy Durham exploring relationships with the land and the contemporary art world. The second exhibition, immediately following, was by white artist Andrew Hunter presenting a “personal museum” of cowboy memorabilia he’d collected, exploring nostalgia and his childhood dreams of riding the trails in Banff’s Rocky Mountains. I’m not sure if the scheduling of the exhibitions was a sick joke, but in any case Hunter didn’t seem self-conscious about using cowboy iconography directly after the “Indians”. Maybe he never knew the Indians had been there, maybe the gallery was Terra Nullius. What was interesting about Hunter’s cowboy exhibition was that, representations of the Indians were nowhere to be seen. But what does it mean to be a Cowboy without Indians? What does it mean to discus Cowboys while forgetting their role in state-sanctioned genocide? Hunter is pretty savvy and is obviously aware that it’s not the 1950s any more, and after a few decades of identity politics he couldn’t get away with direct representations of Indians along side his lone rangers. So instead we get a complete *erasure* of aboriginal perspectives on the domestication of the Rockies. So while the exhibition was much more “aware” of the issues than TV shows like the Lone Ranger, the result was that the indigenous history of Banff was moved even further out of the picture.

The exhibition coincided with Canada Day and a national election, and declarations of patriotism were rife. It struck me that if Hunter’s cowboy project was in academia it would be called “Canadian Studies”. Hopkins’ exhibition of Native American artists would be “Native American Studies”, but her show is probably “unpatriotic” and not very approachable by those declaring their geographical affiliation by flying Canadian flags on their car roofs. So here’s a paradox: the concerns of Canadian Studies, Australian Studies, and New Zealand studies, to an outside eye, are more similar than different. The titles of these disciplines proclaims their difference from each other, yet the things which could *actually* distinguish them – aboriginal perspectives – are implicitly excluded. In my experience many Maori researchers are much more at home in international federations of indigenous peoples than in gatherings of “New Zealanders”.

As cultural studies in New Zealand has begun to emerge as a coherent academic tradition, thanks to the efforts of many who are here today, the decisions we make now potentially structure a great deal of future work. When preparing this paper I was thinking of Stuart Hall’s (1980) inspirational introduction to Culture, Media, Language, where he describes the Birmingham Cultural Studies project as springing from a frustration with certain methodological dead-ends in Marxism, sociology, literary criticism and film theory. I feel the same frustration with the approach to “New Zealand” being taken in “New Zealand studies”.

So I’ve changed the title of this paper to *On “New Zealand” “Studies”*. The title suggests two things to be explored: “New Zealand”, the nation-state, and “studies”, the process of academic labour. I suggest that New Zealand Studies often takes both of these terms to be self evident, and very few works in the genre take a critical approach to these terms. But as David Turnbull (2000, p99) puts it, “we are seldom aware of the ways in which our views of the world are ordered by suppressed social constructs…. boundaries, frames, spaces, centres, and silences which structure what is and is not possible to speak of.”

The result of these constructs is that the answer to “who listens” to New Zealand studies” does not include Maori, who have the most knowledge about New Zealand as a physical place; nor does it usually include much of the international academic community, who have the most knowledge about how to study things. I am proposing that this state of affairs is unsustainable and needs fixing. This might require putting some of our cherished beliefs about kiwi pragmatism second to issues of cultural justice and academic professionalism. And we are the only ones who can do it. Let me be clear that the stakes are high. If we fail, we are failing to be academics and failing as New Zealanders. As experts – rather than artists like Hunter – we cannot take a surface view of culture because we are scared of the implications of what lies underneath.

Martin Tolich (2002) calls this fear of what’s beneath “Pakeha paralysis”, and it springs from a phenomenon Elizabeth Guy (2002) noted, that the issues of colonisation have become so fraught that many white people feel “defeated before they start in their desire to engage with Indigenous people”. The fear is institutionalised in stories I have heard more than once about research directors suggesting that academics “avoid dealing with Maori issues”, to avoid having to negotiate with Maori over cultural ownership. But what in New Zealand is not a Maori issue? What part of New Zealand culture is not implicated in the colonial project of making the land into “New Zealand”?

Can I get a quick show of hands on how many of you have read Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s “Decolonizing Methodologies”? (Smith 1999) Here’s how it works for me as a New Zealand Studies text that should be seen as the paradigm for New Zealand Studies. Firstly, it’s a great ambassador. I can take it anywhere. I just passed a copy to an artist from Senegal, who loved it and found it enormously productive. I’ve corresponded with a researcher in Sydney working on issues of transnational adoption from the third world who is copying chapters from the book and passing them into her community. And so on. Everyone who reads it wants to come to New Zealand. Clearly, if in the humanities and social sciences we seek to deal with universal themes, this book is doing a good job of it.

Secondly, the book is as New Zealand as it gets. Remember that apart from the first couple of chapters of scene setting this book is predominantly from a Maori world view and written for Maori cultural maintenance and not for an international audience. For me, the most important thing this book does is show up the false distinction between regionalism and internationalism that is all too common in white New Zealand academia. After Smith’s book, I hope that it’s no longer possible for a good study of New Zealand to not *also* be a study of European imperialism.

But, as Spivak asked in my quote at the beginning of the paper, who listens to indigenous voices? Are we allowing philosophical agendas to be set by Maori researchers like Smith on the issues of nationhood and research? A quick scan of the citation indices in New Zealand studies will give us a fairly clear “no.” The work is more often sidelined to “Maori studies”. It’s the Pakeha paralysis again.

Pakeha need to get below the surface of New Zealand if we are ever going to call it home. Deep down, we know and feel this. And there has been a consistent call from indigenous people for Europeans to understand and recognise indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land, and this has often been expressed in terms of depth. The Australian Aboriginal author Paddy Roe says “You people try and dig little bit more deep / you been diggin only white soil / try and find the black soil inside” (Benterrak et al. 1984). However, digging below the surface brings dangers for Pakeha who know that this digging will eventually take us into an indigenous space. What happens as we dig through to the indigenous world is that we are asked to give up control for a short time. We are asked to forget that there is a difference for a while and allow our accountability to belong to Maori epistemology. We rarely do this, being extremely scared about letting go of our values for a moment, but we could. It’s not like European academia is going to vanish while we’re away for a few days.

If we are genuinely concerned about Maori and Pakeha “talking past each other” then it’s only people who are connected and experienced in both worlds who are going to point the way through that. While a large number of Maori understand European world-views, most Europeans are not so comfortable spending time in Maori worlds. Let us be clear that these world-views are incommensurable, although they are related. Maori and Pakeha construct what the feminist philosopher Lorraine Code (1995) calls different “rhetorical spaces”, “… whose territorial imperatives structure and limit the kinds of utterances that can be voiced within them”. The academy has spent a century coercing Maori into demonstrating knowledge of European concepts that have for the most part not served them well. I think it might be useful for us to turn the tables for a bit and enter the Maori rhetorical space. This would mean resetting our research agendas to respond to the concerns of Maori knowledge production identified by Bishop and Glynn (1999): tino rangatiratanga; mana whenua and mata waka; kawa/tikanga; knowledge as “taonga tuku iho” – a treasure from the ancestors to the people; whanau and processes of whakawhanaungatanga. Let us ask: how many of us can discuss our work in the terms of these concerns? For myself, the answer is “not much, yet”. But I do see this as central to being able to truly claim some New Zealandness to what I do. And I don’t believe that this is totally incompatible with the spirit of enquiry in the humanities, although I am aware that so far the humanities haven’t done much to justify such a claim.
Who listens? For us to build a New Zealand Studies worth its name, we need to be listening to Maori, and producing work that they will listen to. My suggestion is that most of us on the white left, including myself, are not particularly well equipped to do this. But if we don’t learn to listen to Maori and have them listen to us we will never get below the surface of what New Zealand is. For myself, it’s been learning from Maori epistemology, politics, and culture that has provided me with the strongest sense of why I live in Aotearoa. Washing dishes in the back of the wharekai, or marching across Auckland’s harbour bridge on a hikoi – these are the experiences that give me insight into what it means to be where I live, to call New Zealand home.

Let me be clear that this is not a desire to be Maori. My engagement with Maori only makes me even more self-conscious of my cultural difference, my upbringing as a white Australian. But I am suggesting that the only way of understanding what it means to be Pakeha in New Zealand is in dialogue with Maori. And it is only through understanding who we are that we can start to understand the cultural processes in New Zealand that we are part of. Michael King’s experiences allowed him to realise that the question of Pakeha identity was crucially underdeveloped. But his methodological error was to pretend Pakeha identity could be seen in isolation. In deciding to focus on Pakeha in the 80s, he stopped listening to Maori (though he didn’t stop writing about them), and Maori more or less stopped listening to him. As Barry Barclay has noted at a recent lecture (Barclay 2004), the results of King’s failure mean that his hugely popular “History of New Zealand” (King 2003) reinscribes the falsehood that James Cook’s voyage was primarily one of discovery and not colonisation, by neglecting to mention the explicit instructions Cook received to take possession of lands for His Majesty. Obviously, for reasons I find unfathomable, Michael King didn’t think these were important. For Maori, I suggest that they probably were.

We don’t need to repeat King’s errors, if we are prepared to look at ourselves through Maori eyes and listen to ourselves through Maori ears. As a few decades of feminist theory has amply demonstrated, to be able to see from multiple points of view, while never entirely comfortable, can be a position of power. Deloria (1973, p63) notes that “Western European peoples have never learned to consider the nature of the world discerned from a spatial point of view.” His criticism is well taken, but we can turn that into a positive if we rethink this as our potential to see the world from *multiple* points of view. But to do this we need to give up our false authenticity. This goes against everything in the kiwi ideology. We need to move from being settled in settler culture, to being unsettled, to understand the fragility of our position. Our colonial history denies us indigeneity, but it allows us other kinds of transnational relationships that are extra-ordinarily powerful. Through these relationships, Pakeha have a lot to offer the Maori world – the real New Zealand – if we are prepared to do it in ways they want to listen to. But to get to a point where Maori will listen to us, we need to be prepared to learn what they want to hear. These are basic conversational manners.

As Stephen Turner has put it, the challenge for Pakeha is not to “increase our knowledge of Maori culture.” (Turner 2004) The challenge is to pick up poi. If we take up that challenge, we are probably going to look pretty stupid for a while as we get the hang of it. We might have to go down to the kohanga and get some four year olds to teach us. But if we are going to have a New Zealand worth studying, one that we can call home, I see no other option.

REFERENCES
Barclay, B. 2004 University of Auckland.
Benterrak, K., Muecke, S. & Roe, P. 1984, Reading the country : introduction to nomadology, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, W.A.
Bishop, R. & Glynn, T. 1999, “Researching in Maori Contexts: an interpretation of participatory consciousness”, Journal of Intercultural Studies, vol. 20, no.2, pp. 167-182.
Code, L. 1995, Rhetorical spaces : essays on gendered locations, Routledge, New York.
Deloria, V. 1973, God is red, Grosset & Dunlap, New York,.
Guy, E. 2002, “Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines (review)”, Cultural Studies Review, vol. 8, no.1.
Hall, S. & University of Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies 1980, Culture, media, language : working papers in cultural studies, 1972-79, Hutchinson in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies University of Birmingham, London.
King, M. 2003, The Penguin history of New Zealand, Penguin Books, Auckland, N.Z.
Slack, D. 2004, Bullshit, backlash & bleeding hearts : a confused person’s guide to the great race row, Penguin, Auckland, N.Z.
Smith, L. T. 1999, Decolonizing methodologies : research and indigenous peoples, Zed Books ; University of Otago Press: London; Dunedin.
Snedden, P. 2004, Pakeha and the Treaty – why it’s our Treaty too (A talk at St Columba’s on Friday 7 May 2004), May 25, 2004,<http://www.publicaddress.net/default,speaker,47.sm>.
Spivak, G. C. & Harasym, S. 1990, The post-colonial critic : interviews, strategies and dialogues, Routledge, New York ; London.
Tolich, M. 2002, “Pakeha “paralysis”: cultural safety for those researching the general population of Aotearoa”, Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, no.19.
Turnbull, D. 2000, Masons, tricksters and cartographers : comparative studies in the sociology of scientific and indigenous knowledge, Harwood Academic ;, Australia.
Turner, S. 1999, “A Legacy of Colonialism: The Uncivil Society of Aotearoa/New Zealand”, Cultural Studies, vol. 13, no.3, pp. 408-422.
Turner, S. 2004 (Butt, D.) Auckland. Personal e-mail 12th February 2004.

The 5-Minute Foreshore and Seabed

Many of you will be aware of the Government’s current proposed legislation to curtail Maori rights to the foreshore and seabed. I’ve written a quick summary from my perspective that may be useful to get a handle on what is happening.

The 5-minute Foreshore and Seabed
A Pakeha perspective and summary – May 4th 2004
http://www.dannybutt.net/foreshore.html
Danny Butt <db@dannybutt.net>

PLEASE CIRCULATE

1) The foreshore & seabed under this Bill is defined as the area
*below* the high tide mark. The bill does not guarantee any rights of
public ownership of or rights of access to the beach.

2) Coastal land adjoining the foreshore runs to 19 883km according to
Land Information New Zealand. Of this, the Crown owns 7455km, local
bodies own 6239km, and 6032km is privately owned. Of the private
coastline, only one-third (2053 km) is registered as Maori Land
(although Maori may also be represented among other private owners).

Most of the privately owned coastline has no public access. Only 187km
(3% of private coastal land) has the “Queens Chain” guaranteeing public
access to 20 metres of land adjoining the water. If the Bill sought to
guarantee public access to the entire coastline, you can be sure that
the Federated Farmers and other landowning groups would be jumping up
and down about theft of their property rights.

3) The bill has nothing to do with access to the beach, but is about
ownership and control of resources. Just checking.

4) The story so far:

i) The Crown assumed it controlled property rights to the foreshore and
seabed. It based this assumption on legal rulings (such as “In Re the
Ninety-Mile Beach [1963]”) that applied British common law to state
that on assuming sovereignty of New Zealand, the Crown claimed
ownership of the foreshore and seabed regardless of existing property
rights.

ii) In 2003 the Court of Appeal found that these legal rulings were
contrary to other well-established interpretations of common law in
relation to customary ownership (in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and
Nigeria among other places). Just like other property rights, native
property rights established through customary use can not be
extinguished without consent of the owners. The Court of Appeal ruled
that there was no legal reason that the foreshore and seabed should be
any different, and that these rights had not necessarily been
extinguished. Therefore, the Maori Land Court should be allowed to hear
cases relating to Maori customary rights over the foreshore and seabed
and convert those into full property rights under Crown law where
appropriate. The judges’ view was that such rights would be difficult
to establish, but that nevertheless this legal process should be
allowed to take its course.

iii) The New Zealand Government decided that this was an “unintended
consequence” of previous legislation (Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993),
and has rapidly sought to introduce a new Bill preventing claims to
customary rights in the foreshore and seabed being heard by the Maori
Land Court, and therefore preventing any possibility of those rights
being converted into property rights under Crown law. [See Note 1
below]

iv) At a series of consultation meetings, there was widespread
rejection of the Crown’s proposals by Maori. This does not appear to
have altered the nature of the Bill in any significant way. The Bill is
now before Parliament.

5) Note that through the Bill the Crown does not take ownership of any
existing property rights to the foreshore and seabed recognised by the
Crown (e.g much of the Viaduct and Gulf Harbour marinas in Auckland).
The *only* property the Crown assumes control of is land customarily
owned by Maori which could in the future be recognised as freehold
property. It is, clearly, a racist law. Maori are the only people
affected by it.

6) As Peace Movement Aotearoa and others have observed, the proposed
bill is a breach of human rights that state that all people should have
a right to due process through their country’s court system. Another
commentator, Leon Penney, points out that this happens through two
fronts: “Firstly, the Crown fought Maori through the court process and
when it lost in the Court of Appeal it has decided to introduce
legislation to overrule the Court decision. Secondly, the Bill denies
Maori the ability to use the accepted court process to gain title. This
has been described by one retired Maori land Court Judge as similar to
what has happened in Zimbabwe.”

7) The Waitangi Tribunal, the commission established to make
recommendations on claims relating to the Treaty of Waitangi, found the
Bill in direct contravention of Articles Two and Three of the Treaty of
Waitangi [1840]. The Bill also disadvantages property rights of coastal
Maori compared to other property rights holders, including other tribes
(for example, Maori ownership of some lakebeds has been recognised by
the Crown). The Tribunal’s first recommendation is that the Government
sit down with Maori and properly explore the options which are
genuinely available, which the Government has not been prepared to do
yet. The Tribunal thought that the Crown’s principles could be achieved
in a Treaty-compliant regime. “Maori are realistic,” said the Tribunal.
The Tribunal’s next recommendation was that the Crown do nothing. There
is no need for this Bill.

The Government has described the Tribunal’s report “dependent upon
dubious or incorrect assumptions” and has failed to make any
significant acknowledgment of the Tribunal’s findings. The Government
continues to paint any opposition to the Bill as “radical”. This should
be seen as surprising given the Tribunal’s unparalleled legal
expertise, and the equal representation from Maori and Pakeha in the
Tribunal’s distinguished membership. The Tribunal’s report
(particularly the conclusion and recommendations) describes the
situation in clear English with a minimum of legalese and should be
read by everyone seeking to understand the issues.

8) The Bill does not rule out court action by Maori to establish
customary rights. But if that action is successful, Maori are not left
with ownership but with “entitlement to some form of redress”. If they
prove an ancestral connection to an area of foreshore and seabed, they
can gain “increased participation in management of that area.” Pretty
vague isn’t it? Think about how you’d feel if it was your beach house
that was being taken.

9) As many claimants to the Tribunal made clear, the public has little
to fear from allowing Maori ownership of parts of the foreshore and
seabed to be established through the courts. Not only is the area of
coastline affected relatively small (particularly compared to the
coastline the public are currently excluded from), but level of public
access is unlikely to change (think of Lake Taupo, owned by Ngati
Tuwharetoa). The Crown’s track record in maintaining assets in the
public interest, however, should give some cause for concern (think of
Telecom).

10) Opposition to the Bill comes not only from Maori or the Left. Even
Roger Kerr, executive director of the Business Roundtable, said that
private rights to the foreshore and seabed need to be upheld, and “this
includes legitimate Maori customary rights to title.” On the one hand
the Government is attempting to facilitate Maori development, while on
the other it is taking significant resources which may by rights belong
to Maori and are of great spiritual, social and economic importance to
them.

11) The Bill should be of concern to all New Zealanders. The
implications of the Bill are larger than “race relations” and reach to
the very basis of our democracy. The effects will be with us for a long
time. While those disadvantaged by the Bill are Maori, the Bill
highlights the Government’s willingness to overturn established common
law rights to get what it wants. It also shows the Government’s
unwillingness to listen to either those disadvantaged by its policies,
or reputable expert opinion.

12) See point 5. This is a racist Bill that should not become law.
Support the hikoi and those opposing the bill
=> http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/hk01.htm

NOTES

[1] Through the Treaty, Maori ceded to the Crown the right of
pre-emption. If Maori sell any of their property rights it has to be
through the Crown process. Leon Penney gives an excellent summary of
the Crown’s process for recognition of customary rights and the way
they become Crown-approved property rights:

“1. Through evidence of customary usage the Maori Land Court recognises
that a certain area had people undertaking a customary activity.  It
 then surveys off that area as customary land.
2. The Maori Land Court will then determine who the people are who had
customary rights for the surveyed area.
3. The Maori Land Court can then issue a  Certificate of Title to those
people. This is legal recognition of their property right to that land.
4. Those people then have Title to the land and can do whatever they
like with it, subject to all NZ laws (eg RMA).

The above process is how the majority of land in New Zealand gained
legal freehold Title. The land you own most likely went through the
above process and was sold by the original Maori owners.”

SOURCES:

Ansley, Bruce. “Stakes in the Sand”, New Zealand Listener May 1 2004

COURT OF APPEAL OF NEW ZEALAND, NGATI APA, NGATI KOATA, NGATI KUIA,
NGATI RARUA, NGATI TAMA, NGATI TOA AND
RANGITANE V THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL CA173/01 [19 June 2003] (from 487KB
PDF from teope.co.nz)
=> http://tinyurl.com/23nh8

Cullen, Michael. Foreshore and Seabed Bill April 8 2004
=> http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpprint/docs/bills/20041291.txt

Jackson, Moana “Like a Beached Whale – A Consideration of Proposed
Crown Actions Over Maori Foreshore
=> http://aotearoa.wellington.net.nz/he/taku.htm

Mutu, Margaret “The Waitangi Tribunal’s Report on the Crown’s Foreshore
and Seabed Policy” – a summary
=> http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/fsinfo.htm

Peace Movement Aotearoa, “Government foreshore and seabed policy
breaches basic human rights”
=> http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/fs231203.htm

Tuhhah, Helen, “Compensate Maori for seabed: Roundtable”, New Zealand
Herald October 6 2003
=> http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3527213

Waitangi Tribunal, “Report on the Crown’s Foreshore and Seabed Policy”
(Wai 1071)
=>
http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/reports/generic/wai1071foreshore/

[Thanks to Leon Penney and also the Peace Movement Aotearoa for
assistance with this summary. The summary and any errors are, however,
my own]

Michael King’s obituaries

A reflection on Michael King’s obituaries

The shocking death of Michael King and his wife marks the passing of a crucial figure from New Zealand’s public life. His work represented a turning point in Pakeha history and media, beginning an acknowledgement of Maori culture that was long overdue. His stature has been recognised in many moving obituaries, the latest by Tim Watkin in The Listener (April 10). However, I am concerned that Watkin’s piece – like many others – glosses over significant issues in King’s work and its ongoing relevance. More particularly, I am concerned at the way King’s obituraries are being used to devalue contemporary historical and cultural work.

Watkins states that King was “the man who knew us the best”. The “us” he’s referring to are a predominantly Pakeha group who believe in the basic principles of National cultural identity – the same New Zealanders the National Party mean when they say “We are all New Zealanders”. What Watkins doesn’t elaborate on are the two main character traits of Pakeha New Zealand that King’s work also represents: anti-intellectualism and a troubled relationship with Maori. These are of course particularly present features in New Zealand political life right now, and at a time where there is a great deal being written on King’s legacy, I think it’s worth considering how these characteristics are being reinscribed.

The most important question around King’s work is his relationship with the profession of the historian. Much is made of King’s “turning his back on the academy” in order to write for a “general audience”. The argument is that academics are in their own little world, and by remaining outside the University system King remained untainted by the plague of terrible, jargon-infested prose that the academy produces. Like most “common-sense” arguments, there is some truth in this, even if it overlooks the significant amount of clear and elegant writing that does get produced in the academy. But I think it makes more sense to see King’s position as turning away not from “bad writing”, but from the professional discussion among historians about how to write history. It’s King’s refusal to engage with that discussion that is the reason for his success as a “historian of the people”, rather than the relative “quality” of his writing compared to the academic sector. King’s significant work began as a journalist, and in the end he chose to be a journalist rather than a historian, in that he didn’t update his historical methodology so as not to complicate his relationship with “the people”.

Watkins notes King’s enterprising spirit, and I think this holds a key to much of his “history for the people”. King’s history fits our “nation of shopkeepers”. If contemporary history is about specialisation, collaboration, and understanding the limits of one’s role, King runs the biggest general store on the block. You can get everything, as long as you like his product lines. Like the general store, the “historian of the people” approach is increasingly embattled, squeezed from above by the transnational book trade who write bigger and flasher general histories of the World, squeezed from below by a new generation for whom specialisation, global connectedness and methodological innovation are the watchwords. King’s history was the store you grew up with, the familiar smells, the shopkeeper who knew your name, the place that you didn’t find yourself going to as often as the economy diversified because the big stores were cheaper and the specialists had a better range. Like the small-business owner, King never had much time for evaluating his methods, because there was always too much to do.

There is sadness for me in King’s decision to turn his back on the academic discipline he trained in, because at the time he faced his biggest challenge from Maoridom over cultural imperialism, the academy was dealing with precisely the issues of how to negotiate these cultural relationships. The humanities, taking on board insights from the social sciences, began the dialogue around cultural power that would fundamentally question, complicate and reinvigorate the basis of telling stories about culture. Prompted by the feminist and anti-racist movements, History realised that there was more than one side to any story, and that the historian’s task of finding “the facts” required the integration of as many sides of the story as possible. The job of history changed from forcefully stating resolved uncertainties about how things were, to developing our sensitivity to the many factors influencing chains of events. History became more filled with questions than answers. Or more precisely, history uses the past to answer our own questions, here and now, leading to a greater level of *reflexivity* about what questions we ask of history. Whose interests do these questions serve? How much do they reflect our own interests at the expense of others? Contrary to popular belief, this so-called “political correctness” hasn’t stopped Pakeha academics writing Maori history (and in Judith Binney’s exemplary case, even popular ones), but it does mean accepting that in the colonial context “history” has meanings which are incommensurate across different peoples.

The mass media, by definition, must try and claim a general audience and shared meanings. As a journalist by trade, King always assumed that Pakeha and Maori worlds were commensurable, which is why I think his death resonates so deeply among Pakeha journalists right now. At a time of deep racial fragmentation, King’s history offered the hope for the Pakeha media that maybe, deep down, we could all be New Zealanders without subscribing to the National Party line. “Maybe by writing for the New Zealand Herald I am reaching New Zealand. Perhaps the emergence of Maori TV doesn’t mean that Maori think TVNZ is just Pakeha TV”.

King’s love affair with Maori culture followed a classic pre-feminist logic. The male worshipped the object of his affections but was ultimately unable to come to terms with her independence when it was asserted. For King, as for Reed, Sinclair, Oliver, and Belich and other Pakeha historians of “New Zealand”, the lead actor is European culture, with Maori in a supporting role. Authoritative sources are those that have been validated by Pakeha, whereas Maori sources are “information” that helps illuminate the story. Even at his death, it was mostly Pakeha historians who spoke of his “support among Maori” (of course, many Maori do support him, but it’s the suppression of the dissenting views I am concerned with here).

King’s Penguin History of New Zealand – a book so supportive of the established order that even Don Brash could endorse it – eventually becomes an unfortunate summary of King’s move from pathbreaker to cultural conservative. Except that it wasn’t really King who moved, but New Zealand moved while King, removed from the global discussions around the craft of history that could have nourished him, stood still. It says something to me that in the printed discussions about the historical tradition King’s “short history” sought to update, Ranganui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou – Struggle Without End was never mentioned, despite that work being a brilliant, highly readable and scholarly account of New Zealand’s history from a Maori perspective. Walker’s work was published by Penguin in 1990, but has never been given its due by New Zealand’s Pakeha cultural pundits.

For me, the most relevant anecdote from King’s various obituaries was his knowledge of te reo Maori, which he learnt at a time when it was “pretty radical”, but which eventually “became a bit rusty”. This rustiness occurred during a time of Maori language’s rapid expansion, among Pakeha as well as Maori. It’s a poignant marker of a failed romance with someone of another tongue, and a reminder that it was perhaps the romance rather than the culture that was of most importance to King.

My fondness for Michael King will be as the journalist who brought the stories of Te Puea Herangi and Whina Cooper to Pakeha New Zealand, or the TV production of Tangata Whenua. It was work like this that paved the way for Pakeha like myself to become aware of an indigenous culture that had been radically suppressed through colonialism. It’s an awareness which fundamentally shifted my life for the better. But it’s difficult bring my same fondness to the memory of Michael King, historian of New Zealand. My reading of indigenous cultural struggles is that they have been demands to share in setting the agenda for history, rather than just being subject to it. To be recognised and conversed with on their own terms, rather than those of colonial culture. When it came to summing up New Zealand, King wasn’t quite prepared to have that discussion.

My concern here is not to bury King for his failures, which would be offensive, and in any case I have nothing to gain from it. No doubt some will think this piece insensitive anyway. But while we remember the man and his tremendous contribution, we shouldn’t hold him up as a figure who could have charted the way through the current tensions between Maori and Pakeha. For Pakeha, a baseline for that process will be accepting Maori knowledge as equal to our own, and as more relevant for models for living here than European or North American ideologies. It will require increasing our knowledge of te reo and tikanga Maori. It will require coming to terms with painful histories that were not of our own choosing. It will require not always trying to be let off the hook. It will require not waiting for a Pakeha historian to tell us the “right answer” for Maori-Pakeha relations.

There are Pakeha out there right now who I see doing the required work. Most of them are under 40. Some of them are “academics”, some are community workers, some are hip-hop artists. The ten year-old Pakeha kid who has a repertoire of waiata kori they practice in front of their baffled grandparents. These are the people who will guide us through the future even while we remember those who have passed.

Danny Butt
April 5, 2004

Notes on Visiting Sarai, Delhi, Dec. 2003

“The high-tech is an epistemological constraint I want to escape. That’s the secret of hybridisation. The biggest hybridisation is of course the sexual encounter which you want to escape and at the same time are seduced by. Yes, epistemologic constraints seduce me because they are outside of me, while at the same time I want to escape them. This is how the game of hybridisation in my life goes on.” – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in interview with Geert Lovink http://www.nettime.org/nettime.w3archive/199707/msg00093.html

“Freedom… is an inherently diverse concept, which requires consideration of processes, as well as substantive opportunities.” – Amartya Sen, _Development as Freedom_

The concept of ‘manaaki’, often translated as hospitality or generosity, is central to Maori culture. Welcoming, hosting, and feeding visitors is fundamental to the mana or status of the marae (meeting house and environs) and its people. The most imposing whakairo (carvings) or spectacular tukutuku panelling count for little without the ‘ringa wera’ (‘hot hands’) of the aunties in the kitchen – or the men putting down the hangi – who magically provide for what are sometimes large and unpredictable numbers of visitors at special occasions.

For Pakeha/Europeans, there are often three stages to the experience of manaakitanga in the Maori context. The first is an overwhelming sense of amazement and gratitude. Secondly, it’s hard not to notice the contrast between that generosity and the severe *lack* of generosity evident in white representations of Maori culture. Thirdly, white culture reveals itself as somewhat bizarrely constructed of various exclusions and barriers in spite of its professed ‘openness’. [We might suggest that the West has led development of ‘technologies of freedom’ that exceed its cultural capacity to productively use them.]

There are two effects of manaaki that are equally significant. The first is the ‘ethic of care’ which is directly embodied in manaakitanga. It simply reiterates: people are worthwhile and their well-being should be paid attention to. I’m reminded of a recent presentation by Meaghan Morris, who noted that her main concern as chair of an academic department was the *physical* well-being of her staff, who were working themselves to death to meet institutional demands. This is not in her job description. It is a sad indictment of our institutional forms that these basic processes are so often neglected.

The second effect is more subtle, but important: manaaki diffracts the “neutral”, unmarked, authoritative positioning that is embedded in colonial language and culture. For there to be good hosts (tangata whenua – “people of the land”), there have to be good guests (manuhiri) – and one has no choice but to be clear on one’s role in any particular situation. These roles are however not attached to particular people immovably: under marae protocol, once the manuhiri are welcomed onto the marae and share a meal, they take on the role of tangata whenua and are expected to assume the responsibility of manaaki toward any other visitors who will arrive. Therefore, roles are always *relational*, and no-one speaks from an unsitutated position (there are also other aspects to Maori tikanga that contribute to this that remain outside the scope of this piece). The logic will be familiar to anyone associated with contemporary theories of cultural identity in the wake of Marxism.

The combined impact of feeling cared for and understanding one’s role contributes to a subjectivity where social structure and individual agency are not opposed in the same way as the ideology of European individualism. [This holistic sensibility is embodied in the formal Maori greeting “Tena koe” – which literally translates as “That’s you”. At that point of being greeted, one is recognised as a person – “one becomes who one already is” – one speaks from the position that we have no choice but to be who we are.]

I outline (and oversimplify) these processes for a reason, which is to account for the distinctive nature of conversations I have when attending hui/conferences etc. in a Maori context compared to European institutions. The wide-ranging conversations routinely integrate discussion about theoretical/ontological frameworks and real-life motivations, desires and possibilities – compared to the bounded, disciplinary dialogues that constitute much of Pakeha cultural life.

The Sarai New Media Initiative in Delhi (http://www.sarai.net) is the first non-New Zealand environment I’ve encountered which facilitates dialogue in a similarly rewarding way. “Sarai” in a number of Indian languages means “a place for travellers to rest”, or “meeting place” – perhaps like a mobile marae. The twin themes of generosity and freedom of movement that the Sarai concept implies, articulated through a distinctly Indian elegance of thought, create a poetic theoretical language and a political approach which is best described as “beautiful”. Sarai’s activities apply this sensibility to the very real materialities of Delhi’s location on global circuits of capitalist exchange. They traffic, with exquisite reflexivity, between “home” and the international flows of money and information in which they are implicated. This situated perspective has the effect of “marking” other new media initiatives which (particularly in Europe and the US) attempt to make the “global” their home in some abstract way.

An example will help. The Cybermohalla project bears a passing resemblance to telecentre projects which have been a staple of ICTs-for-community-development. Computers are made available in a poor basti in Delhi, loaded with open-source tools, and young people far outside traditional educational structures participate in the labs discovering new forms of media production. But in a typical Sarai inversion, the goal is not to “train” or “educate”, but to open an opportunity for the creativity of the participants to emerge, and then travel on a broader circuit. The source of value is located in the participants rather than the facilitators, and Sarai document and disseminate the (often gripping) stories in book and web form. It is a kaupapa of exchange and circulation, rather than transmission. Against the Protestant logic of instrumentalism, where outcomes are foreclosed before exchange begins (“we” must help “them”), we are asked: “Before coming here, had you thought of a place like this?”. Agency is continually decentered, questioned. Those who seek to change must prepare to be changed themselves (Spivak), to allow the narratives of the Other to overlay and transform the narrative of the Self.

This logic – a “narrative upon narrative” that Sarai call “rescension” – operates across all their projects: art, media theory, software development. They are fluent in the language of Empire having been subjected to it all their lives. But they also draw upon languages and resources Europeans do not and cannot know. You get the feeling that their popularity in the North trades on this exoticism a little, but then novelty is the frontier currency of new media theory, and reputation capital is fleeting, so everyone makes the most of it. In any case, it makes far more sense than being a new market for European theory, which is more common. It’s all part of the mode of circulation. Like many historical trading ports, Sarai is a place of exchange, diversity, and openness.

All I really want to say about Sarai is this: Sarai is the significant centre for new media’s future. It’s a node that can potentially connect Europe’s new media initiatives to the massive social movements in Europe’s Asia-Pacific colonies (an articulation which desperately needs to be made if European conceptions of media are to remain relevant).

I know I could take to Sarai the people from whom I learn – artists in the Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori Sovereignty) movement in Aotearoa, the activists behind the Indonesian Internet Xchange, the development communications publishers in Penang – confident that they will feel welcomed, cared for, loved. This is due to Sarai’s processes as much as the substantive content of their activities. Or more precisely, the values of the Sarai continually reverberate through the organisation itself.

[I visited Sarai as a guest of UNESCO for the colloquium “Old Pathways New Travellers: New Media Arts and Electronic Music in the Asia Pacific”. I am grateful to Chaz Doherty (Tuuhoe) for discussions on manaakitanga – however the misrepresentation of the concept I present here is my own responsibility.]