Making news at Pakaitore: a multi-sighted ethnography
As a public medium and a vehicle of "culture", which frames and comprehends social priorities, relations and identities, news has received scant anthropological attention (Spitulnik 1993). Whanganui Iwi's occupation of Moutoa Gardens in 1995 was made available to a public as"news". My project reveals a range of exclusions around these mediations, which conjure wider issues regarding the production of representations within (post) colonial contexts. As a contribution to anthropology, my ethnography responds to the limitations of traditional ethnographic praxis, providing a productive response to criticisms of the discipline and revealing the public value of ethnographic sensibilities. Whanganui Iwi believed the Gardens to be the historical site of Pakaitore pa. The area was reclaimed as a marae, shelters were built, the perimeter fenced, and Iwi lived on site for 80 days. The initiative constituted an expression of Iwi's experiences of exteriority within Wanganui and their frustration with the delay of the Crown's response to their claims alleging breaches of Treaty of Waitangi. Iwi temporarily inverted their relationship to the Pakeha community by establishing a literal boundary to the marae, which rendered those who were not supportive of Iwi aspirations "outsiders". While access to the marae was controlled, and restrictions were placed on news workers, the only group banned from the marae were the employees of the city's newspaper, the Wanganui Chronicle. My project details the production of news about Pakaitore, and the attempts of Iwi to control their representation; specifying the role of "location" (both spatial and ideological) in the production of written and photographic accounts (Haraway 1991). I examine how the structures of news production are deployed and contested by news workers, and the manner in which news texts may or may not be "inhabited" by their subjects and public. I compare the journalistic practices of Chronicle workers, prior to and following their ban, with those of out of town newsworkers from press and television. The mechanisms, codes, and values of what makes "good" news structure particular locations for news workers, and this largely precluded conveying the intention and experience of nga Iwi at Pakaitore. This extended to the reports gathered by the reporter for TVNZ (the state owned broadcaster), who, as Iwi whānau, was allowed unfettered access to the marae. Being "the news" interfered with agendas inside the marae. From this location, Pakaitore was about building relationships between hapu and strengthening a sense of community. Hui addressed the status of Iwi within Wanganui, and rangatahi and visitors were educated in tribal history and tikanga. These priorities contest the "outside" perspective that Pakaitore was simply an attempt to antagonise Pakeha authorities. Throughout the course of my fieldwork visual aspects of media representations of Pakaitore were cited by a range of my informants as conveying particular authority. In some contexts this was by way of revealing the "truth" about the threat of protest to social cohesion, while in others it provided evidence for the media's inability to represent the initiative in a manner that was sympathetic to, or representative of, Iwi whanau. I argue that the privileging of the disembodied visual reproduces myths of "otherness", covering over experiences of embodied "difference" and the history which renders activism intelligible. My project reveals that in Aotearoa/New Zealand, those contesting the Pakeha imaginary of a "post-racist" culture are cast as producing racial disharmony.
Advisor: Wilson, Peter
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Maori; press coverage; land tenure
Research Type: Thesis