Re: [-empyre-] being pakeha now?

Hi Jacquie

Thanks for your - as always! - thoughtful questions and observations. I
didn't think I was being particularly theoretical but I've come to realise
that it usually seems like I am so I should stop  denying it. Yes, I have a
particular history as a white Australian living in NZ that gives rise to
these questions (rather than, for example, any formal education within
critical race theory etc.). The simple one being - how is it possible for me
to move between these cultural spaces, the spaces of the "national cultures"
of Australia and NZ, which proclaim their difference from each other but
tend to exclude what is most significantly different. It's a very practical
question that brings up issues of identity, home, place - and I think, in
relation to new media arts, raises the questions of how artistic identities
and audiences are produced, particularly given the cultural nationalist
agenda of the funding organisations that support the bulk of production in
both those countries. I've also written on Australian cultural politics and
my own upbringing on the Gold Coast, sort of a Floridan beach resort in
Australia. And - belatedly! - pursued relationships there that I wish I'd
done many years earlier, but couldn't have because I hadn't lived here. But
here's more interesting because it's where I live. On the other hand, I
think it's important to look at white culture in terms of its similarities
and continuities, rather than its differences.

I think what your story about Aileen Moreton-Robertson (and who hasn't seen
this even in NZ conferences) brings out for me is a) the structuring
environments for our conversations are important, and academic conferences
are strongly typed spaces that are often not good places to foster
cross-cultural dialogue and b) the question of "theory" is perhaps more in
what I would call cultural politics rather than racial politics. Why can't
anyone ask a decent question of one of Australia's foremost academics? I
don't think that's a question to be resolved simply through "cross-cultural
experience", though it might play a role (Marcia Langton often makes that
point). To be honest, I don't think Michael King could have asked Aileen a
decent question either, if he was here. That's not to diminish the
groundbreaking work he did in the 70s, just to say that I think the
situation has changed a lot, and our understanding of  "a shared culture" is
much more complicated. In asking someone like Moreton-Robertson a good
question, some familiarity with the US civil rights movement might be a
better prerequisite to than a knowledge of "Australian culture and history".
Being into hip-hop might allow one a higher comfort level in South Auckland
than having read "Being Pakeha". And increasingly I think that a serious
dose of feminist theory should probably be the highest priority in the new
media space, as it very usefully disrupts all kinds of unhelpful

I don't see being a white liberal as being paradoxical (though I don't call
myself liberal), but I think it does require some sensitivity to the various
cultural spaces - what Lorraine Code calls "rhetorical spaces" - that we
inhabit. If I write on the Whale Rider on empyre, it's not in the same
language or for the same purpose as I would talk about it with the neighbour
on the East Coast. But nevertheless I think there is an underlying
connection between the politics of theory and the politics of friendship,
which I think your own story also brings up. But is it helpful to read one
in terms of the other? Spivak suggests that it is unhelpful to attempt to
judge theory in terms of activism and vice versa. But nevertheless
understanding how we are positioned in the discrete scenes of activism and
theory, and tracing our movement between these spaces, does yield something
important. [Perhaps there's something there linking Spivak and Deleuze that
I hadn't thought about?!] But there is also something useful in this tracing
of relatively discrete relationships between theory and aesthetic practices;
and theory and friendship.

I guess my ideal state of affairs for white cultural politics in this part
of the world is being able to ask Moreton-Robertson - or, say, Tame Iti! - a
decent question. Pretty basic in theory, in practice, as you point out, not
simple, and more importantly, not much of a road map for getting there.


On 1/24/05 1:14 PM, "Jacquie Clarke" <> wrote:

> 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:
> ³it 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)
>> x.d
>> --
>> #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
>>> don't.
>>> 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.
>>> but,but,but,but...
>>> 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....
>>> best
>>> stella
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum

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