Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

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Yellow Peril: the identity game

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  • Stephen Judd,

    Hmmm. I prefer Pakeha, the word I grew up with. Tauiwi offends me with its connotations of foreigner - where the hell else am I native to? New Zealander I have no problem with, and it potentially includes everyone irrespective of ethnicity. Aotearoan sounds phony to me. I'm happy to leave "indigenous" to the autochthons :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Verpal Singh,

    Being in New Zealand for only three years, I don't think I have enough experience of the land or its people to contribute any insights to this absolutely fascinating discussion. However, my understanding of the issue involved here might help highlight how these understandings evolve as one's attachment grows over a period of time.

    1. Maori feel a spiritual attachment with the land while non-Maori feel a material attachment. A non-Maori whose, say, five generations have lived on the same piece of land might feel a link to that piece of land, but this link will break with the first generation that is born when the material ownership of that land is no longer in the family. From that generation a new link might start developing with the piece of land which is now legally owned.

    2. For the Maori, however, legal ownership of the land is not an issue in feeling connected. The land might be crown-owned or in private hands for a hundred years, or there might be malls built on the land, but the link is still felt.

    3. This is not the case with non-Maori. When the land has been sold to a developer, and all old tales replaced with brand-new joinery, the link snaps. However, a person with British or French roots, even after five generations as a New Zealander, might still feel a unique sensation when one stands in front of the lion statue on the battlefield of Waterloo. Or when one stands on the Beaches of Normandy where one's ancestor might have died or got injured or lost the war.

    4. As to the French Vineyards, the link exists because vineyards exist. One does not have to be colonized to feel the melancholy. Replace a vineyard with a skyscraper and the melancholy would set in.

    5. We need to differentiate between a tangible link with the land and a non-tangible one. All of us carry both type of links within our existence. The problem occurs when the State decides to subordinate the spiritual to the material. Or when the spiritual is sought to be encashed in material terms.



    As

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Matt Jeffs,

    What interested me the most were the very old fasioned terminology for what we consider people who are not born in New Zealand. The terms 'Asian' , 'Non New Zealand European' & 'Pacific Peoples' are so wide ranging surely they render alot of the data almost useless.

    The problem with calling ourselves 'New Zealanders' is that it is a term that has in previous years been used and abused by the insecure nationalistic right wing who have the ridiculous image of a 'New Zealander' being white anglo saxon descendants.

    How many Kiwi's who are probably 5th - 6th generation NZer still insist they are 'Europeans'? Its nonsense. It is such a leftover of insecure Victorian NZ.

    I thought we were moving on from that and hopefully giving rise to the terms New Zealand Maori or New Zealand Samoan or New Zealand Vietnamese or New Zealand Irish or New Zealand Somali..... you get my point. The key here is that while we should be able to demonstrate an affiliation with our own or ancestral culture we do actually all have one thing on common. New Zealand.

    Whew I need to go lie down after that little diatribe..........

    UK - ex Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    1. Maori feel a spiritual attachment with the land while non-Maori feel a material attachment.

    So as a non-maori, spiritual connections are ever denied to my capitalist money-grubbing soul?

    2. For the Maori, however, legal ownership of the land is not an issue in feeling connected.

    Whereas I feel no connection at all to the Wellington region as I only own property in Hamilton.

    3. This is not the case with non-Maori. When the land has been sold to a developer, and all old tales replaced with brand-new joinery, the link snaps.

    I would be very interested in seeing any kind of objective reasoning for this. Again I bring up the urban maori - somehow the deep spiritual connection that they all have buried unknowingly within them is something that can never be attained by me? Just because they ignore it, doesn't mean it isn't there, and just because I feel it, doesn't mean it is?

    5. We need to differentiate between a tangible link with the land and a non-tangible one. All of us carry both type of links within our existence. The problem occurs when the State decides to subordinate the spiritual to the material.

    Or when one group seeks to deny the spiritual to another.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Kent Parker,

    I feel this discussion is stuck behind certain mind-sets. Manakura says:

    "I have not ever doubted many or most Pakeha have developed a strong attachment to Aotearoa "

    This may be why many NZers are calling themselves NZers. No longer having close ties with Europe, perhaps never having been there, they now find it meaningless to call themselves 'European'.

    Your definition of indigenous, Manakura, is very much shaped by the Maori experience. Does it fit with Australian aboriginees, Papuan hill tribes, Aleutian eskimos, and Andaman Indians to name just a few of the 'indigenous' peoples of the world. I think, to keep the meaning of the word useful, it pays to keep it simple and as widely applicable as possible. I think you are loading it with too much of your meaning, so it is losing 'objectivity' and thus universal utility.

    Also, if I have 1/8th Maori can I consider myself indigenous? Or if I am accepted by an iwi as a member of a tribe but have no Maori at all, can I then call myself indigenous?

    I think that the category Asian is reasonably useful so long as it clear what it refers to. Wikipedia has comparisons between different countries for census definitions of 'Asian'.

    In its simplest form indigenous means 'native' or born of the land. An Asian emigrating here would consider all the Europeans he/she encounters here as being 'indigenous'.

    I am not trying to make a stand on any of these points, just shift the mind set a little.

    Hawkes Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Wow. A lot to think about here.

    I guess one reason that the Michael King argument for Pakeha culture being an indigenous one seems right to me is that I assumed a different definition of the word "indigenous". One that's closer to the old dictionary definition, derived from biology, of simply "originating where it is found". By that definition, Pakeha culture (if not individual Pakeha people) is indigenous, since it is <i>not</i> the same as British culture, it evolved through the experience of living in Aotearoa/NZ (the land, contact with Maori, distance from "home") and it exists nowhere else. In the same way, Maori culture is indigenous to NZ, because it is not the same culture as that of the Polynesian ancestors.

    The definition that you're applying seems to be, as you say, something that has arisen specifically to refer to "indigenous peoples", and that thus has specific meaing within postcolonial discourse. By that definition, Pakeha can never be indigenous.

    So, what can we use as a term for someone who belongs to a people that has evolved culturally in a specific place, and that exists nowhere else? Endemic?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • djb,

    I think in these discussions there is a relative gap between how non-Maori culture views identity (often about an individualised identity based on where one is born or lives) and how Maori see themselves (as a collective with a much more expansive sense of identity/culture that is not really individualised). Whenever the discussion moves to individual people, of course, all identity categories break down and are mere instruments of control. People should be whoever they want, that's human rights. The problem comes when people who have no sense of collective ethnic identity want to use the term "New Zealander" to enforce a sense of equality between Maori and non-Maori. There are a couple of problems:

    1) The difference between "New Zealander" and "Australian" (or "US", "Canadian", "English") is relatively minor in the scheme of things. You don't see groups of English people setting up specialised social services in healthcare or education because the "New Zealand" model is at odds with their cultural values.

    2) The very institution of "New Zealand" was co-extensive with the loss of land and self-determination for Maori. So the concept of "New Zealand" has a lot of work to do to turn it into something that can serve as an aspirational identity for Maori in the same way it does for Pakeha.

    As Matt points out there are multiple identifications - I think Tze Ming's point is that by identifying as "New Zealand" AGAINST Asian/Maori/European etc. the "New Zealanders" are essentially denying the ability of others to be NZ citizens differently - they want to claim NZness for themselves, and allow others to be New Zealanders as long as they share the values "we all have in common". Yet when we really talk about "what we all have in common" that is specifically NZ (as opposed to white settler), it's a fairly small and narrow set of experiences in the larger scheme of things. (not to say it's unimportant, just obviously not the same difference that langauge/race/colonisation issues bring about).

    Since Dec 2006 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Interesting discussion.

    I think we can all agree that Statistics New Zealand needs to re-evaluate the way it presents quick summaries of census information so far as it relates to ethnic classifications. They need to make available easy to find charts and tables referring to actual rather than theoretical ethnicities, so when the casual surfer, reporter, or politician comes a visiting they do not find the most misleading information first.

    So far as the discussion of being indigenous, spiritual and the like go, well, it has been an education reading this thread.

    Personally I don’t really get spiritualism, except to say that I usually feel better for some reason when I return to certain areas I identify with strongly, specifically the land my family has farmed, and the areas they settled at, upon arrival, whenever that was. As an avowed monist I’ll attribute this to positive memories of experiences had in that area and a constant reinforcement of identity as it relates to this particular area by family, friends, the media and of course, educators. Oh, and it looks nice as well.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 881 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I would be very interested in seeing any kind of objective reasoning for this. Again I bring up the urban maori - somehow the deep spiritual connection that they all have buried unknowingly within them is something that can never be attained by me? Just because they ignore it, doesn't mean it isn't there, and just because I feel it, doesn't mean it is?

    You and Manakura will be arguing past each other for ever on this one. If I understand Manakura correctly, the connection M is arguing for is supernatural and irrational. It is outside the realm of objective reasoning. If you were to construct a logical argument that demonstrated that a Pakeha could possess an identical quality to that possessed by Maori, M would either dispute the premises of your argument, or posit a new quality, of which one aspect would be that only Maori can have it. And you'll be complaining that M is not objective, and M will be arguing that you're trying to redefine "indigenous". Actually, you are talking about being Jeremy-indigenous, whereas Manakura is Manakura-indigenous.

    As a corollary, in some way, by claiming to be indigenous (left blurry and undefined), you're claiming to be Maori, which you're not. As Tom has noted, it comes down to what you mean by indigenous, and one part of M's definition is evidently "possessed only by Maori." Thus the urban Maori can reclaim their indigenous status because other indigenes acknowledge them, whereas you and I can speak te reo fluently, and point out that generations of our ancestors also lie buried in this land, and never be acknowledged.

    And I suspect that is why references to one people, all New Zealanders, etc, rankle so much. Not just from their overtones of assimilation, but because read a particular way, they deny the legitimacy of other groupings.

    This is how groups define themselves. I wouldn't take it personally. I belong to a group (Jews) you can't just declare yourself into either. It happens. You can't muscle into a group that has decided you don't qualify. You are a Homer trying to join the no-Homers club. You can start your own club, or decide not to play. You can be Jeremy-indigenous, but not Manakura-indigenous, or not worry about it.

    Yeah, let's be endemic, like trout, sheep and possums :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Indigeniety "has been co-opted politically by the descendants of settlers who lay claim to an 'indigenous' identity through their occupation and settlement of land over several generations or simply through being born there...

    Their [settlers] linguistic and cultural homelend is somewhere else, their cultural loyalty is to some other place. Their power, their privelege, their history are all vested in their legacy as colonizers."

    Manukura, you are playing with fire.

    Since Nov 2006 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Thank you Stephen, that sums things up quite nicely.
    I was starting to feel a case of the Penn & Tellers coming on.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    I also wonder whether the emphasis on spiritual connection is a bit essentialist and even limiting for Maori. Pakeha and other ethnicities can take on a range of religious or philosophical stances and still retain their membership of that culture.

    Are you saying that Maori <i>must</i> feel a spiritual connection to the land? Can a Maori be an atheist or (for want of a better word) aspiritual without renouncing ceasing to be Maori?

    As someone of European heritage, I can recognise that I belong to a culture that has been profoundly shaped by Christianity. I can appreciate the works of Bach, T.S. Eliot or Colin McCahon without sharing the beliefs that inform and guide their work. Yet I'm not Christian, and words like "spiritual" mean nothing to me personally beyond what a word like "emotional" would mean. I still feel myself to be very much a European (the debate that I had earlier this year helped me decide to write "European/Pakeha" for my census ethnicity - I was born in London but I've lived here for most of my life), even though I reject many "traditional" European values.

    Could it be the same for Maori? Is it possible for a Maori person to recognise that all the spiritual connections, whakapapa to the land and other tikanga are a vital part of their heritage and who they are, yet personally not share those beliefs?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    The debate I referred to above is online here.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    This thread is great. I'd like to address the issues raised by Jeremy & continued by Tom about "lost Maori" from my own perspective as a pakeha of Maori descent. I'd feel utterly disingenuous calling myself Maori - don't really have anything to do with my iwi, don't speak the language, and I think I suffer a sort of survivors guilt having never had to deal with the negative aspects commonly associated with being Maori, like poverty or racism - but I strongly identify with my family origins; although far more with one hapu than the other.

    While I'd love to share the deep spiritual connection of which Manakura speaks, I can't help thinking that the significance I place on my ancestry is more influenced by societal conditioning, and simple history lessons in the form of fascinating anecdotes about this one particular side of the family.

    There does seem to be a difference between my attachment to my country as a New Zealander, and to this very specific slice of my ancestry. Someone earlier took offence at the distinction between "spiritual" & "material" attachment, but that phrase rings true to me, just not with the negative implications of materialism... The New Zealander side of me feels strongly "this is where I live, and this is how I live my life", and I can point to immediate family, stories from my upbringing, the places I've lived, even places I've visited where my ancestors lived that have shaped me - in that sense it's material. However, there's an aspect to the Maori side that feels more like a sort of collective memory from a distant past that I never really experienced. My dilemma is two-fold - 1) I don't really know if it's just a glamour, and 2) I can't work out how it has relevance to the dominant New Zealander part of me, although I really really want it to.

    Did any of that make sense?

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    ...I guess that wasn't really a question - just I'd be really interested to get some feedback while the smart people are checking in on this thread...

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Good God, this must be about the only forum I have heard this kind of discussion take place intelligently and thoughtfully.

    Thank you Russell and crew.

    My less than intelligent contribution is this indiginous debate is this:

    I was broadly supportive of the foreshore legislation as I find many of the claims to "private ownership" of what are clearly public places distasteful. I also believe that much of this private ownership is held by settler farmers who guard their "rights" so jealously.

    The reaction by Maori has surprised me and educated me. My views are changing on this issue and I suspect others might be reconsidering as well.

    As a person of Scottish heritage I find it very difficult understand how, with the bitter knowledge of the land clearances, fellow "colonists" of Scottish heritage don't have more sympathy for the plight of colonised people anywhere.

    Finally, back to good old Deborah...

    Statistics NZ projections put the Asian population at 860,000 in 20 years, just 10,000 fewer than Maori. Is this what the tangata whenua envisage?

    Actually, from what NZ history I have read many foresighted Maori were envisaging being swamped by peoples and cultures from overseas. Seems to me it probably didn't matter too much whether people came from Europe or other parts of the world.

    That's why they signed the Treaty! That's why their leaders worked (and still work) so hard to ensure Maori would be able to cope with the coming influx and hold their own in what they envisaged would be a rapidly changing world.

    I stand to be corrected and re-educated on all the above :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    heather, great comment. especially glamour vs. relevance.

    it's something i suspect a great many struggle with.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2024 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    "Indigeneity is about being able to look up at a mountain and say that mountain is my ancestor"

    I don't know of any mountains anywhere that I could say that of. My ultimate ancestors evolved from apes somewhere in Africa - I thought everyone's did?

    If you're of Maori ancestry but you don't buy into the Maori cosmology/belief system, does that mean you're no longer Maori?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The Highland Clearances were almost entirely conducted by the clan chiefs against their clansmen. Just because someone looks like you doesn't mean they're your friend!

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Hmm, yes indeed, Heather. My daughter, through her mother, can legitimately trace her whakapapa to Ngai Tahu ancestors (and is in fact registered thanks to her grandfather). Yet Maori culture in any recognisable form is extinct in that branch of the family. I'm open to suggestions as to whether she should class as indigenous.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    The Highland Clearances were almost entirely conducted by the clan chiefs against their clansmen. Just because someone looks like you doesn't mean they're your friend!

    Well, yes. Another thing Scots have to be careful about is pointing the finger of blame, the nearest Englishman is usually a bit of a cop-out. By then the traditional Clan structures had been smashed by forces loyal to a foriegn monarchy.

    Whatever the reasons, the fact remains the clearances took place and were absolutely devastating to the indigenous population.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I'm open to suggestions as to whether she should class as indigenous.

    It's partly an inherent problem of categories - by necessity they are a form of gerneralisaiton and will break down in some circumstances. There's no guarantee that a category such as "indigenous" is always well defined.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I see on rereading that I have confused some of what Verpal Singh wrote with Manakura. I hope you'll both forgive me.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Yet Maori culture in any recognisable form is extinct in that branch of the family.

    Actually, that's something that interests me - I doubt throwing a poi around would make me feel any more Maori, but probably learning the language would.

    But...how much practise of traditional "Maori culture" would make me *coff* more Maori, & how much do the Maori people dictate "Maori culture" by just happening to be Maori, and...err...doing stuff? As far as I see it, the most relevant aspect of "Maori culture" seems to be active family/iwi affiliations. I know things like the legends & the waiata are significant, but they seem to have kind of degenerated into historical niceties. So which aspects of Maori history/culture should be retained (& developed) as a current, relevant defining feature, and which can be safely relegated to social studies lessons?

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    As a person of Scottish heritage I find it very difficult understand how, with the bitter knowledge of the land clearances, fellow "colonists" of Scottish heritage don't have more sympathy for the plight of colonised people anywhere.

    Ancestral origin surely should have little or no relevance to a reasonable adult forming an opinion over the morality of a particular action, or at least so I hope. Or were you referring to the actual Scots who colonised New Zealand, not we, their post colonial descendents?

    If the former, well, I’d wager that a fair chunk of most colonising movements have their origins in the colonising population being put under pressure by some other group.

    I am sure that many people do awful things with a heavy heart, regret tingeing their actions. But rarely does it actually stop them from doing this thing that they know is wrong.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 881 posts Report Reply

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