Re: [-empyre-] being pakeha now?

Hi Danny,

I've been thinking about the continuum between the highly theoretical space that you outline, and friendship? Can you move easily between these spaces. Can any of us?
I lived in New Lynn in Auckland for 6 years with Maori neighbours on 2 sides. We spoke to each other mostly every day. We shared food. Our kids wandered between houses freely.
We babysitted each others kids and talked on the steps in the sun for hours. Perhaps as you particularise the theoretical environment that defines this mediatory space you should also define your own particularity to it as a former Queenslander and New Zealander. What other racial histories inform your position? Is it easier to articulate the New Zealand racial environment than the Australian one for you?

I gave a paper on whiteness on Yvonne Todd's art at a Conference in Australia in 2003 at Flinder's University. Aboriginal Queensland academic Aileen Moreton-Robinson gave an excellent paper on "How the white judicial system in Australia justifies it's marginalisation of native land title". It was the key note speech but it was met with a resounding silence...until one incredibly inarticulate white boy in dreads asked her some completely off-topic question that was sort of insulting. Later Aileen got up and in a justifiable rage vented her frustration at the lack of serious academic response to her paper. She experienced it as a further marginalisation of her academic status that no-one bothered to respond, or couldn't. And so on it went... the white academics were paralysed with guilt, fear and self loathing. This was the small handful of white liberal academics that were prepared to sit in a room with Aboriginal people and hear their story - while the rest of Australia was at the cricket. . The Aboriginal academics sat together, ate together and a sort of divide was forged. The pain of the historical wound was acute that day.

In New Zealand we have our own acute days. I realised at that conference that our histories have many parallels but what we have in New Zealand is more discourse, more discussion and more people in the intermediary space which was why I talked about Michael King and Niki Caro because I was thinking about the act of creative endeavour within that space. Not as a romanticized space but as a pragmatic space in which worlds collide because they do which is how it is in real life anyway. Films like In My Father's Den with the Maori teacher - that's more like real life. But some people like Michael King and Niki Caro work within that space with a sort of nationalist profile. We don't all need to aspire to that. It takes a certain sort of persona and motivation and the reward is profile, criticism but also friendship. Michael King is not someone in the neither /norist position that Chela Sandovar outlines in the rehetoric of supremacy - a sort of neutral intellectual detachment that allows mainstream values to subtly dominate. It's good that you read him critically for his ommissions but don't pathologise him for his efforts cause he is our kaumatua and that wasn't earned lightly. You learn a lot from your mistakes. He brought Te Puea alive to me. He veered away from writing about Maori towards the end of his life because of the potential pitfalls. And that was appropriate.

My own decision to be a cultural theorist was probably influenced by my first major hui at 13 years of age at Hastings showgrounds. My local iwi had invited me to play netball for them because I was playing in the Wellington junior team at the time.

First time experiences:
sleeping in a room with two hundred other people:
eating Maori bread;
realising what it felt to be in minority.

Perhaps what Pakeha New Zealanders know after decades of aspiring to the most politically correct position is that the price is paralysis and a sort of pseudo polarised moral divide. While writing this letter I received a phone call from a friend of mine, Tainui artist Charlotte Graham. We talked about the name of her new son which is Te Kahu Whataarangi e Whanau Mai e Te Tau o Te Ropatu Taku Tai Moana. which means 'Te Kahu Whataarangi who was born in the year of the confiscation of the foreshore'. I guess what I am trying to say here is I'm more interested in the intermediary space than one that is both polarised and paralysed. Stella is there in that sort of ecological space. It also brings me back to the question of Deleuze who writes about music and I was wondering about the singing at Michael King's funeral.

According to Deleuze music already has inherent in it a power over the visual:
“it has a much stronger deterritorializing force, at once more intense and much more collective, and the voice seems to have a much greater power of deterritorialization. Perhaps this trait explains the collective fascination exerted by music, and even the potentiality of a fascist danger: music (drums, trumpets) draws people and armies into a race that can go all the way to the abyss (much more so than banners and flags, which are paintings, means of classification, and rallying). [Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, p302].

Maybe it's also the paradox of a white liberal and I'm thinking of me the neighbour here spelling out to my Maori neighbours why they should be incensed about Whale Riders depiction of Ngati Porou's tikanga re Women speaking on the marae. I know I would get balls for being a sad old killjoy - down on Maori success, blah blah and I might also reinforce some sort of educative divide. It's condescending to have a point sometimes. It's a lively space keeping these friendships open because all our worlds are in collision continually so watch out for flying objects.

Jacquie Clarke Editor

On 22/01/2005, at 1:16 PM, Danny Butt wrote:

Hola all,

I've recently landed back in Aotearoa and recognise Stella's sense of
"place" that is integral to being "home". It is an affective response, not a
critical one. How, then, could such feelings be brought forward into an
"international" discourse of "new media arts"? Well, for me that next step
is a cultural response, and requires some serious thought and consideration.
Because as Stella noted there are sometimes-complicit sometimes-competing
senses of the "local" that are in operation, and in settler culture the
process of making the European "become local" is intimately bound up with
the expropriation of indigenous resources. I think it's precisely that I
wasn't born in NZ that has helped grow that understanding, and I think it's
an unavoidable question if we really do want to understand our attachment to
the place we're in. I should point out that I don't think this burden only
falls to Pakeha, it's labour that Maori have for the most part *already
undertaken*, as they survived a century and a bit of radical policies of
assimilation and found out that the racial construction of captialism meant
that they could never really assimilate anyway, or that the costs were
extremely high for little benefit at the end of the day.

My interest is not really in trying to protect Maori from
mis-representation, they do that themselves or would here if the stakes in
this conversation were valuable to them. But what I do want to suggest is
that paying attention to this radical disjuncture (what Chakrabarty calls
the "historical wound") between indigenous and settler culture will get us
somewhere in thinking about what Aotearoa New Zealand is and what kind of
"placed" work we want to produce and disseminate, rather than just being the
inconvenient-to-get-to backwater of Euro-US circulation. The intellectual
politics as they've been put forward by e.g. Michael King and the forms of
"public culture" that structure our thinking (media, education) move all
this to a very abstract level, and produce discourse about it in places
where Maori are least likely to respond. I think at the end of the day such
discussions are counterproductive, as the affective sense of place/home I
feel in Aotearoa is not generated intellectually - and especially not
through the imagining of these islands as only recently inhabited! [the
classic settler response to indigenous issues is to use history to try and
think *before* the time of indigenous people, in order to destablilise this
threatening sense of proprietorship indigeneity symbolises, thus myths about
the Moriori being a "previous indigenous culture" colonised by Maori, so hey
we're just continuing the process, what's the problem here!]

My sense of home here recognisably comes from having chosen from time to
time to be in Maori situations, where the experiential dimensions of
everyday life are very different from Pakeha home/work/public spaces. This
requires shutting up and being prepared to listen (thanks Su), a very good
lesson for white culture where "participation" is often equated with
"talking loudly", and as I think Caro's post alluded to this accounts for
the various participatory gaps in list culture. An ethic of listening is
required to develop alternate ways of thinking/being, what Sandoval calls
"differential consciousness". Yes, it means sometimes being in situations
that are uncomfortable, such as Stella's gut response to Dean Hapeta. But
isn't this much more common the other way around? How many Pakeha-dominated
gatherings have I been to where people are sitting on food tables or
similarly challenging basic tikanga? I want to unravel this whole "double
bind" thing because I feel very strongly these false oppositions and
tensions are primarily a construction of European ideology rather than
requirements imposed by Maori (or other indigenous groups for that matter).
They spring from a fear of being changed and losing one's hard-fought-for
subjectivity in an unfamiliar environment. I'm not saying I don't also feel
such fear/challenges (especially being in some situations with tightly
defined gender roles after a steady diet of Western egalitarian feminism)
but relaxing a bit i) there are already people with deep accountabilities
within Maoridom working on these issues, ii) Maori are extremely diverse in
how these roles are articulated and iii) you can't change anything from
outside, unless you're prepared to be changed yourself.

If I maintain a level of amazement that we have succeeded in largely pissing
off one of the world's most welcoming and hospitable cultures, it's because
I see the value of the Maori ethic of manaakitanga (hospitality),
kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and whakawhanaungatanga ("making family") for
maintaining our environment and fostering the kinds of international
networks/friends in new media arts that make my life life rewarding. Anyone
who has visited Sarai in Delhi or stayed on a marae in Aotearoa will
understand this. They're situations of affect that are not reducible to
discourse. However, I do think the kinds of dialogues we're having here are
important in opening up our being toward having those kinds of engagements,
and developing more open sensibilities. I also think that Aotearoa generally
throws up valuable paradigms for other locations! but the non-NZ residents
will probably have to come and visit to find out how. (small plug to pencil
in 2-4 december 05 for an Auckland visit where there'll be an international
symposium/conf on this issues with particular reference to new media arts
practice - info will follow)



#place: location, cultural politics, and social technologies:

[ Lilith] laughed bitterly. "I suppose I could think of this as fieldwork -
but how the hell do I get out of the field ?" (Octavia E. Butler, _Dawn_)

On 1/22/05 12:08 AM, "Stella Brennan" <> wrote:

it sometimes seems a double bind - damned as a cultureless settler if
you make reference to tangata whenua, hegemonic know-nothing if you

as has been pointed out, speaking position is never simple. I remember
at last year's cultural provocation conference listening to Dean Hapeta
make some pretty violent and sexist comments, to which i would have
liked to respond, but being struck dumb by the context (and probably
also the fact that he's a great deal more verbally dextrous than me).
and danny, pakeha from queensland (is that an ok description danny?),
is the person on ada who is usually most articulate about
appropriations and misrepresents of indigenous culture.

as a way of trying to describe a pakeha identity i wanted to talk
about place. aotearoa/new zealand was pretty much the last major
landmass to be inhabited by humans, and as such, it is possible to
reconstruct an image of a landscape before it was framed by culture.
of course, that notion in itself - a pre-lapsarian, moa and giant eagle
strewn gondwanaland, is an interesting construction. there's a lot of
nationalist baggage goes along with representation of our (one hundred
per cent pure) natural environment, and with flora and fauna subject to
treaty claims, and the foreshore and seabed issue, Maori and Pakeha
uses and meanings for the land cut across each other.


maybe it sounds cheezy and off-topic, but the thing that gets me going
every time i step out of the terminal at auckland airport is the smell
of moss in the air, and the things that i pine for when i'm away
(articulating my position as a subject of global capital, or
whatever...) is the crazy crinkly shores of Aucklands' harbours and the
locating cone of Rangitoto in the background. and the fact that this
is my home, that i'm not really happy anywhere else, is one of the
things that makes the net appealing - that possibility of staying where
you are while being somewhere else.

but what i was really wanting to talk about is the intersection of
place and technology in the discourse of environmental restoration.
hmm. maybe tomorrow....

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