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New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations

New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations

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New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations

535 pages
7 hours
Apr 1, 2006


Fifteen writers with diverse personal and scholarly backgrounds come together in this collection to examine issues of identity, viewing it as both a departing point and end destination for the various peoples who have come to call New Zealand "home." The essays reflect the diversity of thinking about identity across the social sciences as well as common themes that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Their explorations of the process of identity-making underscore the historical roots, dynamism, and plurality of ideas of national identity in New Zealand, offering a view not only of what has been but also what might be on the horizon.
Apr 1, 2006

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  • We know that a significant number of Maori struggle to identify their tribal links and are ignorant of their whakapapa. Even more have been unable, for a variety of reasons, to keep these associations alive.

  • It identifies five different priority areas for action: social and economic equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, language, the suc-cessful settlement of migrants and refugees, and cultural diversity.

  • There is also a keen awareness that for Maori and non-Maori, fluency in te reo is seen as a real marker of the ‘authentic Maori’.

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New Zealand Identities - Victoria University Press


Preface: ‘The Spirit of Waikanae’

The Centre for Applied Cross Cultural Research (CACR) was launched at Victoria University of Wellington in November 2003 as a multi-disciplinary centre for social science research, consultancy and training on domestic and international issues involving culture. While based in Wellington, the CACR has associates that hail from other parts of New Zealand and international associates from around the world. Part of the vision of the CACR is to engage academic researchers, government agencies and community organisations in a mutually productive dialogue around issues of culture, with the hope of building a more inclusive society that understands and manages its diversity better.

This book is the product of almost two years of work and planning. It emerged out of concerns about the directions New Zealand is heading, and a desire by social scientists to pool their knowledge and offer fresh insights into perennial issues facing this society. The seeds of this book were planted in conversations that New Zealanders have at the dinner table and in front of the evening news, questions about the ownership of the seabed and foreshore, the ethnic makeup of the All Blacks, the place of the Treaty of Waitangi and the flow of immigration into this country.

The goal of this book was to generate dialogue among social scientists from different disciplines that would take this conversation to a new level of meaning. We wanted to address contemporary issues, but beyond sound bites and through accessible and in-depth analysis. Such a conversation does not take form without a good deal of direction. So the formation of an editorial team was essential to the quality of the conversation that followed.

The editors of this book come from diverse ethnic and disciplinary backgrounds. Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps by design we are a ‘rainbow coalition’ representing the four major blocks of peoples that populate this country: Pakeha and Maori, Pacific Nations and Asian. We are located in psychology, sociology and cultural studies. We have learned to listen to one another and trust each other’s instincts. We have discovered that each of us represents a source of knowledge that is sometimes not fully comprehensible to the other, but even so is always capable of giving insight.

Together, we sent out a call for papers in May 2004 to associates of the CACR. This attracted 20 submissions. Among these, 17 were presented at a weekend workshop in Waikanae from 19-21 November 2004. During the weekend, most of the attendees stayed at El Rancho Holiday Camp where they lived, breathed and ate New Zealand identities for three days. One memorable day began at 8:00 am and ended at 8:00 pm. In every session, more time was allocated to discussion than to presentation. For the most part, the delegates presented ideas in progress rather than finished presentations. We used the process of dialogue to refine these ideas into strange reflections of one another, where nothing in the written chapters explicitly referred to this process of conversation, but everything reflected a deep engagement with persons from other disciplines and cultural backgrounds. The flow of ideas at Waikanae, reflecting their sourcing in so many different intellectual traditions, was precious to the authors. A powerful quality of listening emerged from the proceedings, coupled with a subtle resonance of ideas.

In addition to the fifteen chapters that took written form here, we would also like to acknowledge the work of Meegan Hall, Peter Adds and Mark Allen, who presented a paper on archaeology and identity in New Zealand, and Brad Jackson, who presented a paper on big business villains and small business heroes. Regretfully, these authors were unable to turn their presentations into chapters. We are deeply appreciative of their contributions to the weekend, and aware that something is missing from the spirit of Waikanae in their lack here.

Besides the authors, Sue Hanrahan, Manager of the CACR, made her presence felt not only in conversation but also in the impeccable arrangements for the weekend. Michelle Gezenstvey and Steve Kirkwood, post-graduate students at the School of Psychology at Victoria University, contributed not only through their presence but also by taking notes for the presentations. Their contributions were indispensable and very much a part of the fabric of the book you see here. We would like to thank our campground hosts at El Rancho, who provided an atmosphere of fellowship that permeated our dialogues.

After the weekend, authors had three to four months to submit chapters, which were reviewed by the members of the editorial team and nominated external reviewers. Each chapter was revised following review. The four editors wrote an introductory frame for the rich tapestry that emerged, and Joris de Bres, the Race Relations Conciliator for New Zealand, was invited to write an Afterword.

We would like to acknowledge the external reviewers for the chapters: Roderic Alley, Judy Brown, Fiona Cram, Peter Gibbons, Cluny Macpherson, Steve Matthewman, Philip Morrison, Douglas Pratt, James Ritchie, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Paul Spoonley, Samson Tse and Graham Vaughan. Serving as an external reviewer is one of the unsung contributions of academic life, without which the quality of our work would be gravely reduced. Thanks very much for being part of this effort.

Last but not least, we are grateful to Mark McLeod and Jen McBride for contributing their artistic talents to this ensemble of work visioning New Zealand.

In some ways, what you hold in your hands today is an academic town hall. It is a collection of voices speaking to one another and not past one another, asserting their disciplinary knowledge but respectful of differences with others. While each of us had specific wishes for this volume, our sincere hope as a collective is that the spirit of dialogue at Waikanae, that manifested itself as a willingness to listen, a desire to engage, a generosity of commitment and a respectfulness of difference, may spread in ever-widening circles and contribute to a vision of strength in diversity for Aotearoa/New Zealand.

James H. Liu

Tim McCreanor

Tracey McIntosh

Teresia Teaiwa

27 July 2005

Introduction: Constructing New Zealand Identities

James H. Liu, Tim McCreanor,

Tracey McIntosh and Teresia Teaiwa

The various peoples who have come to call New Zealand home have long histories of their own, but as a modern nation New Zealand is young. Such youth has a particular vibrance, and its own peculiar crises. New Zealanders have seen war, at home and abroad; they have also sought peace, domestically and internationally. And whether New Zealanders will ever arrive at agreement on a singular definition of their national identity, what is clear is that the process of identity-making here is dynamic.

Heightened public tensions in popular and political debates around Treaty settlements, immigration, and ownership of the seabed and foreshore reveal the depth and breadth of questions facing New Zealand with regard to its future. At the heart of the matter are the identities, values and world views that groups draw on to stake claims, defend positions, justify actions and legitimise policies, particularly of inclusion and exclusion. The salience of identity and identity politics is a product of two of the constitutive elements of modernity: globalisation, which brings people together from different parts of the world in both harmony and conflict, and democratisation, wherein these people and the groups they belong to, whether they stand at the centre or on the margins of society, are expected to have a say in determining the future of society. The era of the ethnically homogeneous nation is over. Claim and counterclaim, articulation and debate are now part of the personal/political landscape of New Zealand. It is now more important than ever to describe who ‘we’ are and how we are to live our lives. In this book, we examine issues of identity as both departing point and destination, bringing together diverse perspectives from a number of disciplines across the social sciences.

Given that the main output of the social sciences is conceptual rather than physical, that we trade in ideas and representations, and given that no one discipline has a monopoly on the concept of identity, this volume seeks to engage thinking from a variety of disciplines in dialogue around the topics of national and ethnic identities in New Zealand. We wanted to produce an interconnected series of conversations, each with its own voice reflecting not only discipline-specific knowledge and values, but also a deep sense of commitment to sharing this understanding with others. It is hoped that readers will reflect upon the different positions and different sources of knowing.

We are perhaps an unlikely assortment of folk, from the disciplines of anthropology, Asian studies, cultural geography, demography, environmental studies, history, Maori studies, Pacific studies, political science and international relations, psychology, religious studies and sociology. But no one discipline ‘owns’ identity. The attempt at multi-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity is therefore necessary and we believe that this approach distinguishes our particular contribution to thinking through identity issues in New Zealand.

No common literature binds the contributions to this volume together. While there is a significant academic literature on New Zealand identity, built around such works as Spoonley, MacPherson and Pearson (1984, 1991, 1996, 2004) and Bell and Mathewman (2004) from sociology; Belich (1996, 2001), King (1991, 2003) and Salmond (1991, 1997) from history; and Smith (1999) and Walker (1990/2004) from Maori studies, none of these has had programmatic influence on this collection. Read separately, these chapters are windows into the diversity of thinking about identity that have been inspired in New Zealand across the social sciences. Read together, they reflect common themes and a deep understanding of identity that transcends disciplinary boundaries and acts as a testament to the desire of social scientists to engage in an open dialogue with the goal of informing public debate.

Some of these dialogues come from individuals with a long involvement in the area while other voices are relatively new. Some attempt broad overviews while others look at the specificity of particular experiences. At times these conversations connect with each other and cast light on future possibilities; at other times they speak past each other completely. What unites the diverse contributions to this book is the serious attempt to grow our knowledge and understanding through nuanced theorising about identity.

Identity is historically patterned. Different waves of settlers have arrived over the past thousand years, carving out niches for themselves, fighting for resources, shaping and being shaped by the land. The consciousness of ‘ourselves’ as a nation, of Maori and Pakeha, and of Pacific Nations people and Asians, is relatively recent. We know little enough of the first Pasifika settlers here, but tribal histories and local anthropologies reveal multiple, planned migrations of the ancestors of Maori. Careful choice about who would go, who would stay, the mix of women and men, old and young, tribal ties, the roles each voyager might take in transit and on arrival, would all be influenced by the personal, social and political identities of those available. The skill of these early navigators is legendary: Aotearoa was one of the last places on earth to be settled by human beings, a difficult destination to reach, an even more difficult place to return from. Hence, on arrival a new culture emerged over centuries of relative isolation, departing from Pacific traditions and evolving into the social structures of whanau, hapu and iwi. In this isolation, consciousness of being collectively Maori had to await the arrival of others who were distinctly non-Maori hundreds of years later. We have no sense of an ethnic self without a contrasting ‘other’.

Exploration and settlement by ethnic Europeans brought difference, competition, cooperation and hostility. Conflicts broke out along newly-defined ethnic lines. The story of the coming together of Maori and Europeans (who came to be known as Pakeha), the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between them, the conflict over land and sovereignty, and the reconstruction of the Treaty as the foundational document of modern nationhood has become a vital tradition and symbolic resource for telling stories about ourselves: who we are, where we came from, what we hold sacred and where we are going to. The facts of history are the bare bones of nationhood: it is in the fleshing out of facts into narratives of meaning that a people are forged.

In New Zealand, conscious attempts to create such narratives are recent. The practice of distinguishing New Zealand citizenship from British citizenship emerged slowly only in the last half of the twentieth century and was as much a product of British reluctance to maintain empire as any initiative from New Zealanders themselves. The influx of Pacific Nations people who arrived in the late 1950s and 1960s was fuelled by New Zealand’s economic growth as an agricultural producer for Great Britain. Their arrival was not heralded by any conscious attempt to conceive of New Zealand as a part of the South Pacific. Similarly, from 1987 on, New Zealand removed its race-based immigration policies with a resultant significant increase of Asian immigrants into urban areas. While Prime Minister Jim Bolger (1990-1997) pronounced New Zealand ‘an Asian nation’, the incongruity of this statement has been demonstrated by the often cool attitudes towards these newcomers. New Zealand has often seemed to make significant decisions about the makeup of its people and institutions according to economic and political pressures of the moment rather than out of any sustained vision of itself. As a consequence of organic rather than systematic growth, this young nation is becoming aware of itself as culturally unique, with traditions grounded in a common but contested historical narrative.

New Zealand, and indeed all nation states, as well as the social sciences which seek to understand them, are products of modernity. Nation states do not always agree. Nor do the social sciences speak with one voice. Yet they can contribute to the growing chorus of voices asserting reflexive identity, a greater awareness of how our concepts of ourselves affect our daily lives; from high-level political decisions about whether or not to participate in the American-led invasion of Iraq, to personal decisions about where we stand on the seabed and foreshore debate, to mundane choices about who to invite for dinner, what schools to send our children to and what music to fill our airwaves with. Three major themes abstracted from the chapters that follow mark contemporary social science’s understanding of how identities influence the process of nation-building.

Identities are dynamic and multi-layered

Everyone has access to a variety of identities. These identities are contextual. We portray ourselves differently when sharing a drink with friends at the pub compared to engaging with colleagues at workplaces or interacting with spouses and children. While identity may seem like something hard, graspable and ‘real’ at one level of articulation, this firmness gives way to a different set of considerations at another level. So while nationality may seem like an absolute claim on loyalty and belonging when nations go to war, this solidarity evaporates like mist when ownership of the seabed and foreshore confronts the same people at a time of peace. Identity changes with the claims that it upholds and the belonging that it enables. Identity is a process. It is constructed out of a dynamic interaction between people and the aims they are trying to achieve in various situations. Often identities are understood as much by what is excluded from them as what is included. While few of these exclusions are as absolute as in previous eras, the wonderful irony of modern society is that while we conceive ourselves as individuals, political and economic power flows from our shared beliefs as members of groups and societies.

Identities are socially constructed

Collective identities are ‘imagined communities’ in the sense that no one knows exactly what a New Zealander is, or has met every New Zealander. Identities are socially patterned and enacted through signs and meanings that characterise group life and permeate ritual, bring symbols to life and follow institutional rules. Identities are constructed through discourses, or commonly shared ways of talking about things. These ‘discursive repertoires’ are articulated in media and reproduced in everyday language; they are evident in narratives commemorating public holidays and the artefacts of museums. While they may be perceived to be natural and a matter of fact, a good deal of work goes into constructing and maintaining them. Identities draw power and legitimacy from historical representations that enable continuity to flow from past to present, and project the present into the future. Collective identities are made to move people emotionally and accomplish group agendas; they are shared memories and change slowly with the times. They are active constructions that may be engaged by the very act of denial. Perhaps the most fundamental social construction of identity in our time is that ‘we are all individuals’. The study of social psychology has shown that if we are ‘all individuals’, then we are individuals in much the same way. For example, Western students typically respond to open-ended questions about ‘who am I’ by each claiming as individuals to be intelligent and sociable, signal characteristics of their university student group; Japanese students, by contrast, construct their identities with explicit reference to group memberships and categories.

Identities carry ideology

As dynamic and multilayered social constructions, identities are not passive or merely descriptive but carry ideological prescriptions with them that enable society to maintain and reproduce itself. Identities are part of a system of social relations. The aforementioned social construction of the sovereign individual, interchangeable in all respects except for personal qualities, is a crucial ideological component of liberal democracy. This ideology, which is the basis of social and political order in modern Western society, includes such elements as the centrality of property rights, rule by law as the means of legitimising authority and resolving disputes, reliance on the free market to allocate goods and services, and belief in democratic rule and equality of opportunity leading to meritocracy (see Fukuyama, 1992). Appeals to national identity in New Zealand frequently invoke one or more of these elements, sometimes as a means of stifling debate, other times as a means of calling authorities to account. On occasion, one element in the system can be used to challenge another part of it. Importantly, in New Zealand, virile forms of nationalism that assert the inherent superiority of the dominant group over people marked as ‘outsiders’ are less often invoked than in the past.

Liberal democracy married to the capitalist economy is perhaps the central organising principle of society, but it is not the only way that people are trying to organise a system of social relations in this country. Alternative systems of authority predate European arrival to these islands, using other forms of culture, primarily Maori but also more pluralistic forms associated with Moananui a Kiwa (Pacific). Such terms as tino rangatiratanga, indigenous rights, customary marine tenure and biculturalism are associated with Maori systems of governance for New Zealand, and alternative conceptions of identity and the relationships between groups. Similarly, in New Zealand multiculturalism is principally understood as a variant on liberal democracy, but in other countries it carries significantly different meaning: where rights and responsibilities are seen to follow from group memberships that constitute the pillars of nationality. All these ideological systems can be invoked through appealing to identity, and conversely, an ideological argument can be used to exclude someone as an outsider.

Diverse groups separated by ethnicity, class, gender and other characteristics that make up our contemporary society are engaged in historical and ongoing narratives of competition and collaboration that call on and contest identity at every step along the way. Identity is a fundamental organising principle in the enactment of power, in the mobilisation for and the allocation of resources, and a critical marker of inclusion and exclusion in social organisation. Who we are, our belonging to or demarcation from particular local, regional, national and international groupings, strongly influences lifestyles and our life chances, as individuals and as populations as well.

Through the process leading up to publication, discussion among our editorial group has deepened our appreciation for identity as a question rather than a statement, a point of departure rather than a destination. We recognise that the authors gathered here do not arrive at identical conclusions, and that our collected politics may at times seem incongruously at odds or relatively open-ended. Conversations and dialogues across experience, across culture, across generations, across disciplines, across politics, across the plurality of our differences are not neat and do not lend themselves to easy resolution. Nevertheless, we share a common belief in the necessity and value of such an engagement.

As David Pearson notes in the opening chapter of this volume, the form of ethnic diversity found in New Zealand today is unprecedented, and not something that sits comfortably with the myths of statehood that sustained its imagination during its colonial period. Pearson argues that New Zealand was never as unitary a state as it imagined itself under the British empire, and the dissolution of empire marked a gradual transition from the unexamined assumptions of a colonial era to the more considered self-awareness of a young and independent state.

For much of New Zealand’s history, Maori have struggled for autonomy under the weight of the settler community’s longing for empire. In examining this context, Tracey McIntosh interrogates ‘traditional Maori identity’ and its role within the resurgence of Maori. In part, this is achieved by consideration of the ‘fluid’, evolving identities among young people, the fusions and hybridities that they entail, as well as the ‘forced’ identities for Maori formed under conditions of deprivation and marginality. The implications of relationships among these three forms are considered for the future of Maori.

The emergence of New Zealand as an independent state has not signalled an end to the longing amongst majority group members for a simple and unitary conception of nationhood. Tim McCreanor’s chapter starts from the assumption that language is a critical force in the enactment of identities and reviews past research and contemporary talk to describe and critique the resources in use in framing Maori and Pakeha identities. In working up a ‘standard story’ of relations between Maori and Pakeha, it highlights the patterns, positionings and prohibitions in the dominant ways that we account for the existing social order, and argues for new ways to talk ourselves into who we are.

Summarising the interplay between Maori and Pakeha, James Liu argues that two narratives are commonly used to configure New Zealand history so as to lend different meaning to the same events. A bicultural narrative emphasises past injustice and the importance of group membership, whereas a liberal democratic narrative emphasises the struggle for civil rights and equality. Each of these builds nation in a different way: the bicultural narrative is attractive in an international context because it provides for positive distinctiveness compared to other nations, whereas a liberal democratic narrative is attractive because it manages local resource allocations in keeping with majority values and interests. He argues for a more open approach from Pakeha to the insights on self-identity that Maori offer, and the continued development of biculturalism, particularly at the symbolic level, where such icons as the Treaty can act as a resource for all New Zealanders.

Continuing in an historical vein, Giselle Byrnes charts the development of key conceptual frameworks around reparation, contractual obligation and national unity in the work of the Waitangi Tribunal from 1984 to the present. These analyses reveal a complex pluralistic vision of national identity at the heart of one of the key institutions dealing with the issues of Maori/Pakeha relations. They chart how the past weighs on the present, but also how the present may be projected into the past.

Culture is often taken by non-specialists to be a vital explanatory concept in understanding human society but, as Hal Levine’s chapter points out, there are deep difficulties with it both inside anthropology and in practice in society. His scrutiny of two vital New Zealand innovations, the Waitangi Tribunal and the cultural safety movement in health, reveals the power, pitfalls and ethical considerations entailed in the use of culture for political purposes. Levine argues that culture is a great mobiliser of political agendas, but fails to act as a great unifier to allocate the spoils of a successful mobilisation. This has deep implications for the organisation of institutions and society.

Kelly Barclay argues that the lack of closure in a concept such as culture is precisely what we need to develop democratic justice in Aotearoa/New Zealand. He conceptualises every system, no matter how comprehensive or well thought out, as needing an ‘outside’ to give voice to those who are positioned at its margins. In a startling move, he envisions the Treaty of Waitangi as something that draws its strength from its lack of definition in mainstream (legalistic) terms. He asserts that such an ambiguous living formulation is what is most useful in calling a system to account for its imperfections. In effect, Barclay argues for the benefits of an ambiguity that Levine signals as problematic.

Arvind Zodgekar’s chapter details the demographic changes that have taken place in New Zealand since the liberalisation of its immigration policies in 1986 from race-based exclusionism. The flow of Asian migrants to New Zealand, the exodus overseas of the New Zealand-born and the higher birth rates of ethnic minorities in New Zealand all add up to a recipe for ethnic diversity. In the context of such diversity, unexamined assumptions are likely to be exposed, together with the need for new forms of inclusiveness.

For many New Settler peoples, the issue of maintenance of original values versus the adoption of New Zealand cultural identities is a key struggle in making a home in this country. Attitude research by Colleen Ward and En-yi Lin with immigrant groups demonstrates a strong orientation toward what the authors refer to as ‘integration’, trying to strike a balance in this dynamic. They argue that while migrant groups are skilled at managing multiple identities, Pakeha New Zealanders are less flexible; and while Maori are skilled at identity integration, they see new settlers as a threat to their position as tangata whenua. The resulting tensions and challenges have implications for personal well-being and social cohesion.

Teresia Teaiwa and Sean Mallon remark that the achievements of Pacific stars in sport and the arts are counterbalanced by poor socio-economic indicators for the majority of Pacific people. This chapter explores the fabric of some of the most popular and celebrated features of Pacific people’s contribution to the social, cultural and economic life of New Zealand. It proposes that ‘ambivalent kinships’ are the distinguishing feature of the Pacific migrant experience in New Zealand and elucidates critical points of inclusion and exclusion in the process of constructing New Zealand national identities.

The soul-searching that pervades local discussions of identity is powerfully informed by debates within Maori circles. Belinda Borell’s chapter extends and deepens these understandings by challenging prescriptive definitions of Maori identity and making more space for diverse expressions of Maori identities. She articulates some new beginnings that assume inclusion rather than exclusion, and are grounded in the narratives of rangatahi from South Auckland who are in the process of creating new identity positions for themselves. She signals that to each centre there are margins, whether the centre is created by the state or Maori tradition.

Manying Ip and David Pang propose that the interplay between the cultural, spiritual and economic influences of ‘the China factor’ and the socio-political climate of ‘the New Zealand factor’ are the central influences on identity dynamics for Chinese people in New Zealand. The authors identify three stages of inclusion/exclusion, shifting from the historical sojourner (ostracised and excluded), to the model minority (separated and marginalised) and latterly to the emergent identity diversity of contemporary Chinese New Zealanders.

David Capie and Gerald McGhie use constructions of identity to explore tensions between both geography and history, and New Zealand’s Pacific location and the influence of Europe upon it, especially in relation to New Zealand’s membership of Western trade and military alliances, and how they bear on its foreign policy. Capie and McGhie combine insights from the international literature and McGhie’s field experience in the South Pacific and Soviet Union to document and deconstruct the interplay of national interest and the identity discourses of diplomacy.

In the most lyrical piece in our collection, Paul Morris examines the spiritual dimension of New Zealand identities. The multi-layered, multi-faceted forms of identity are nowhere more apparent than in religious and spiritual expression of a people, and Morris provides a provocative and persuasive account of how such diversity arises from and taps into the spirit of the nation. The tensions and resonances between Maori and settler spiritualities and the ways that these blend (and sometime curdle) with the faiths and practices of recent arrivals are a rich motherload of promise in extracting the dimensions of who we are.

Finally, Bob Frame, Pala Molisa, Rhys Taylor, Hemi Toia and Wong Liu Sheung develop a thoroughly creative approach to building scenarios for New Zealand futures. In a mock screenplay, they lay out four possibilities based on differing environmental states and social cohesion – Fruits for a Few, The Shire, New Frontiers and No. 8 Wire – which they reflexively critique and provide intergenerational commentaries upon. They draw attention to the fact that the choices we make today may have far-reaching implications for the future.

And so back to the beginning! A starting point for us as a new collective of scholars excitedly planning this book was the question ‘Why does so much of contemporary politics converge on identity?’ Perhaps it can be understood as a ‘sign of the times’, a product of the processes involved in the creation of wealth and power in a rapidly changing world. As Stuart Hall has noted:

… the old identities which stabilized the social world for so long are in decline, giving rise to new identities and fragmenting the modern individual as a unified subject. (Hall, 1992, p. 274)

Under such conditions, it is to be expected that identity would have an increasing salience as an organising feature of the lives of individuals, providing new forms of meaning and certainty, but there are strong social forces at play here as well.

As social animals, we constantly balance communal good and self-interest in ways that inevitably involve an estimation of the interests of other individuals and groups as to whom we can safely and advantageously align ourselves with. In traditional societies, these questions might be answered by heredity, hierarchies and close relationships, but in the contemporary setting, these questions are answered dynamically by multi-faceted and flexible identities, shifting fabrics of alliance that cover different needs. As prospective editors to a book around such a theme, almost wherever we looked in the social world – political representation, resource allocation, morality, social change, international relations – we saw identities at work enabling some possibilities, disallowing others.

This book contains a common-wealth of reflections of the myriad ways New Zealanders recruit different conceptions of themselves and others to manage the complexities of daily life. Some of them are assertions and some of them are denials; some link together and some of them talk past one another, but all of them are part of the warp and weft of social life in this country and relate to each other in multiple ways. They all share a connection to this land, and they are all part of a conscious effort by partners in this nation to become self-aware, to make choices sentient to the many aspects of themselves that are reflected in the bodies, minds, communities and narratives of those around them, different in kind, but bound by a sense of belonging and longing to be.


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Bell, C. and Matthewman, S. (2004) Cultural Studies in Aotearoa New Zealand. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Hall, S. (1992) ‘The question of cultural identity.’ In S. Hall, D. Held and A. McGrew (eds), Modernity and its Futures. London: Polity Press.

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Spoonley, P., MacPherson, C. and Pearson, D. (eds) (1984) Tauiwi: Racism and Ethnicity in New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

Spoonley, P., MacPherson, C. and Pearson, D. (eds) (1991) Nga Take: Ethnic Relations and Ethnicity in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

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Spoonley, P., MacPherson, C. and Pearson, D. (eds) (2004) Tangata Tangata, The Changing Ethnic Contours of New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

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Citizenship, Identity and Belonging: Addressing the Mythologies of the Unitary Nation State in Aotearoa/New Zealand

David Pearson

In January 2004, Don Brash, the leader of the National Party, delivered a ‘state of the nation’ address to the Rotary Club of Orewa. In that speech he argued New Zealand was heading towards ‘a racially divided nation, with two sets of laws and two standards of citizenship’ instead of a unified nation state (Brash, 2004). This destination, he averred, was mainly attributable to too much onus being placed on ‘the principles’ of the Treaty of Waitangi as a basis for nation-building by the current Labour Coalition government. For Brash, the Treaty should be seen as an antiquated founding document that represents a highly imperfect quasi-constitutional platform for establishing and consolidating a unitary political state based on Western conceptions of sovereignty and citizenship. Those concepts, in Brash’s eyes, are the bedrock of liberal democracy since they support conventions about the state’s ultimate public authority to govern, and individual forms of ownership and control of private resources for its members. Ideally, such citizens should be governed by the same laws, have identical rights and obligations, and share a common identity as members of the nation state. These ideas are ones shared by many New Zealanders, in part illustrated by the degree of support for many of Brash’s comments after his speech. Indeed, some of the classical liberal philosophical principles underlying his views are ones I cherish myself. But the problem with citizenship (not to speak of the law), as this chapter will seek to demonstrate, is as much to do with practice as philosophy. So what is citizenship, and how does the concept relate to questions of political freedom and choice, forms of economic and social equality, and conceptions of community and belonging?

Citizenship, Nationality and Identity

I suspect most New Zealanders, if asked what citizenship most directly means to them, are likely to think of the passport(s) they might possess as a tangible example of the concept, whilst using their vote at election times best illustrates for them the process of acting as a citizen. Not surprisingly, both of these examples are legal and political. In Western liberal terms, the birth of citizenship can be traced back to the Ancient Greek and Roman city states where the legal idea and political actions associated with it were about being an individual member of a political community. This status, confined principally to a male elite, embraced ideas about rights, duties, participation and identity that eventually spread across the Western world and beyond (Heater, 1990). The origins and growth of liberal democratic citizenship were closely aligned with the emergence of the idea of the Western nation state as an individual’s legal membership of a polity became increasingly tied to a sense of belonging as a co-national to a state-controlled bounded territory. These links forged between state, nation and territory also embraced the concept of sovereignty. States claimed a monopoly over the ultimate, legitimate use of force to maintain their own self-governance. Such authority gave them the formally recognised autonomy to design, implement and regulate their own administrative institutions, including citizenship. These conventions and practices remained under the control of political elites, but the concept of mass citizenship, much influenced by the ideas and struggles of the French and the United States revolutions, became more influential as forms of legal representation and political participation were gradually, and still imperfectly, democratised within ‘the modern age’ (Shinoda, 2000).

The introduction of passports, for example, which indicated that the holder is legally attached to a particular country, is a classic illustration of how states have established the exclusive right to control the movement of peoples in and out of specified territories (Torpey, 2000).¹ This document served as a means of surveillance in authorising and regulating the rights and duties of citizens and those with particular rights of residence in designated areas and, to a degree, provided some protection for such people travelling and residing in other states. Similarly, possessing the right to vote (the franchise) denotes that the voter is legally entitled politically to participate in how they are governed, usually concerning a particular national community, commonly a state, but in some instances beyond this as, for example, members of the European Union (EU) demonstrate.

But citizenship, in the sense I am using it in this chapter, is a broadly-based concept that extends beyond narrow legal and political meanings into a far more holistic sense of membership of a state

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