RE: [-empyre-] being pakeha now?

Dear empyricists

Jumping in long distance as a long displaced but permanently soul-grounded kiwi.  

The identity discussion is good to hear suddenly in terms that resonate surprisingly, for one of many flightless birds that left the nest decades (nearly three) ago. And has hung out since in real and virtual communities trying to fathom their and my here-and-thereness.

Don't have much to say except that as a pakeha New Zealand (born) - French (adoptive) dual national who's very recently moved across the Channel to England, there's lots of confusing stuff happening in my head to do with place and home and culture. Britain feels shockingly foreign - more so than when I first fleetingly passed through in the mid-seventies, knowing it could remain safely distanced as I jettisoned all my efforts into the place I'd chosen to inhabit. A then passionate and violent place called Paris that was so estranged from knowable culture that its foreignness was somehow easier to deal with. I mean, none of this deceptive ancestral mother country parading that right now is really startling me in England, especially up here in Geordie north where even the language is totally exotic. But at the same time there's a whiff of an island, there's wind and skies that change faster than on the Continent, that gives me a rush.

Too late to learn the Maori language in school, wiped out in evening classes - tough after a day's work, a good excuse to go hang out in the pub. Have been rapped over the knuckles (or guiltily rapped my own) by people from my homeland who probably rightly criticise my clumsy attempts at expressing  identity in terms that feel almost stolen, borrowed, not genuinely mine because they emanate from a culture that I don't know enough, enough of, enough about, and yet they feel right. They feel like home though. I want to use them, dammit. Why?

Indelible memories of a friend who lived in the early eighties in Paris teaching Maori at Dauphine - one of the universities - essentially to Tahitians because he provided structured teaching that wasn't then available from/ in French Polynesia. Got overlooked in the Muraroa frenzy. And at the French Embassy, another friend who very solemnly wore ceremonial garb at Waitangi Day. Both Maori. 

Sometimes I cross paths with a face from home or thereabouts. Opens the floodgates. Why?

What is home? I don't speak the tongue I dream of speaking and probably never will, the "native language" - that expression really freaks me out. Having become totally native in another language steeped in life blood of other empires, and that I've almost betrayed with this sudden leap over to the land of "the Queen's English". Feeling closer to Cassini and Titan sometimes than to local geographies. That's not astronomical pretension, no "roi soleil" hang-up, just the scale of my yearning as I try to fathom this existence where our prostheses travel light years to tell us about how the earth once was. Maybe. Te Kore. And the virtuality of online communities that remains haunted by the smell of the moss at Auckland airport. And when the wind changes and the clouds come over this new-ancient island in all its strangeness, this place where people in the streets chat with words I've only ever seen in books, I smell that moss. Why?

Sorry it's verbose. Non-referenced. Lost the compass.

Kia Ora

Sally Jane Norman

>-----Original Message-----
>[] On Behalf Of Danny Butt
>Sent: 24 January 2005 03:20
>Subject: 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 
>> 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 
>> 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 
>> [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 
>>> 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 
>>> 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 
>>> 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 
>>> 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 
>>> 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
>empyre forum

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