Destablising the Binary: Reframing Cultural Identity Postcolonial Reflections in Aotearoa New Zealand
Historically, prevailing knowledge systems have been challenged, de-centred and replaced and, as a consequence, dualist and oppositional comparisons of knowledge and understanding have been established, such as, ‘traditional’ versus ‘non-traditional’, ‘subjective’ versus ‘objective’, ‘social constructionism’ versus ‘essentialism’, to name but a few. Moreover, anti-colonial and postcolonial writers have theorised about the dominant discourses that (re)define the historic and current relationship between the coloniser and the colonised. In Aotearoa New Zealand, for instance, many social theorists have analysed the historical and contemporary conditions that have influenced a politics of identity and resistance between Māori and Pākehā. This thesis critically examines postmodern and postcolonial perspectives, in an attempt to deconstruct the binary and dualist notions assumed within postcolonial discourse and in particular relation to Aotearoa New Zealand. By problematising the notion of identity, this thesis endeavours to critically analyse its significance to Māori and Pākeha relations. It questions the binary distinctions that are so readily imagined and employed to describe, explain and interpret New Zealand’s racialised ontology. In particular, this thesis is critical of anti-colonial and postcolonial binary articulations of cultural identity premised upon the so-called Self-Other dichotomy. It asserts that, just as cultural forms such as identity are socially constructed, so too are the structures that determine our understanding of such forms. The thesis promotes and searches for more culturally and intellectually inclusive spaces of articulation that allow for two (or more) distinct yet connected cultures or knowledge systems to co-exist. In promoting the need to move beyond dualist and binary thinking, the thesis presents a Conceptual Model of Understanding that attempts to critically reflect upon epistemology. Primary research within the thesis sought to investigate how Māori and Pākehā constructed themselves both historically and in a contemporary context. Through in-depth interviewing participants discussed how they negotiated and mediated their own sense of identity. The interviews sought to ascertain whether ontological binary constructs, such as Māori and Pākehā, determined lived realities and experiences, whilst also trying to understand how (if at all) participants were able to move past such binary articulations. The key findings of this research suggest that the potential destabilisation of traditional colonial binary formations may eventuate from the continued integration of distinct cultures that, over time, might allow potential opportunities for unity, recognition and power-sharing. Although also setting the scene for instances of discrimination, misunderstanding and prejudice, the interweaving and interaction of cultures may allow for the unsettling and eventual destabilisation of the colonial binary.
Advisor: Hokowhitu, Brendan; Reilly, Michael
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Te Tumu School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Colonial Binary; Deconstruction; Identity Politics; Indigenous Epistemologies; Philosophical Hermeneutics
Research Type: Thesis