‘Discourses of Maori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity’ 2

I continue on here from my much earlier blog… (‘Discourses of Maori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity’ 1, July 29, 2012) … I found some notes again (I may repeat myself on occasion), but I really liked how Murphy explained the history of New Zealand’s national identity in terms of Chinese-Maori-Pakeha relations…

“The crucial formative years in New Zealand’s history were those from 1890 to 1914. James Belich has described the period as ‘the hinge of modern New Zealand history’.”[1] This period, Murphy explains, was “dominated by a search for national identity which was part of the transition from colony to nation.”[2] “Dating the birth of the nation’s identity to the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 is a reflection of New Zealand’s desired to deny the importance of the previous twenty years”[3] (years which saw some social. Political and economic stability during which road, rail and modern communication systems were developed, along with the attendant centralization (Murphy, 59), as well as New Zealand’s economic and emotional reconciliation with Britain (or ‘recolonisation’ as James Belich called it (Murphy p59)) following the beginning of the frozen meat trade in 1882 (Murphy p59).)

“New Zealand was founded with a large degree of utopianism. Unlike Australia, New Zealand was largely a planned settlement, founded by people with a vision of how they wanted the country to be. New Zealand was to be an ideal society, egalitarian and free of the ills of the Old World. It was to be the Britain of the south, only better – a ‘fairer Britain’ and a ‘Better Britain’.”[4] The Liberal government of the early 1890s sought to make of New Zealand a model society and “social laboratory” (Murphy 59). “An impressive raft of progressive legislation was enacted to achieve this, including votes for women, workers’ housing, industrial arbitration and the beginnings of the welfare system. The Liberals, under Seddon, were also determined to create a national identity. This differed from the earlier vision of creating a ‘Better Britain’ by emphasizing two key factors: race and empire.”[5]

Like other white settler societies (Australia, Canada, the United States), New Zealand’s “national identity was based on both imperial loyalty and whiteness. The outcome of New Zealand’s quest for national identity was that to be a New Zealander you had to be white. However, unlike the other white settler societies, New Zealand’s national identity was tempered by its social utopianism, its idealism and its self-perceived role as a model to the world.”[6] The New Zealand myth of “the ‘best race relations in the world’”[7]tempered interactions between white settler and Māori, but Chinese were constructed as an Other, not capable of meeting the criteria for New Zealand identity, because of physical and cultural difference against which New Zealand’s whiteness could be seen (Murphy).

“the importance of race as a defining factor in national identity was not a creation of the metropole, but of the periphery. White settler societies such as New Zealand were determined to rid themselves of the worst aspects of British society, with the class system and inequality of opportunity foremost. A classless and egalitarian society – a working man’s paradise – was part of the utopian dream for New Zealand, and such ideals were pursued with energy by Seddon and his Liberals. In Britain, race was unimportant, and class and status were key, in the new world, the reverse was true. Class was unimportant, but race was everything. In the white settler societies such as New Zealand, race, not class, would be the means of identity and unity. But in the white settler societies the idea of race took on a new form, and that form was the concept of ‘whiteness’.”[8]

“Whiteness was … a means of unifying a disparate group of immigrants into a new identity…. The essential element in this new identity, the cement that was to bind and form the new national identity, was race, and above that, the concept of whiteness.”[9] “Whiteness acted as a marker. In terms of being included in the national identity in the white settler societies, there was no argument: you had to be white, and British. This meant that all classes and groups from the British Isles could be accepted as New Zealanders. The stain of otherness that tainted the Irish and the working classes in Britain could be removed by this ideological bleaching process. Whiteness was therefore a central unifying force in New Zealand’s identity.”[10] “Concepts of whiteness and empire were therefore used to bind together a disparate community and create a national identity for New Zealand, and this identity was to be White, British and imperial.”[11] Māori fit into this model by way of “New Zealand’s unique self-identity as a model society – a country with the best race relations in the world.”[12] By 1867 Māori had been granted the vote (Murphy, 63). “The superior status of Māori in New Zealand was also a way for New Zealand to differentiate itself from Australia. One of the first major expressions of New Zealand’s national identity was its decision not to join the Australian Federation in 1900.”[13] However, while Māori were not used as a negative racial referent in the construction of New Zealand national identity,


[1]P.57 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[2]P.57 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[3]P.58 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[4]P.58 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[5]P.59 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[6]81 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[7]81 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[8]60 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[9]60 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[10]61 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[11]62 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[12]63 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

[13]64 Nigel Murphy (2009) ‘Māoriland’ and ‘yellow peril’: discourses of Māori and Chinese in the formation of New Zealand’s national identity 1890-1914’ pp.56-88 in ed. Manying Ip The Dragon & the Taniwha: Māori & Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland University Press: Auckland

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Asian connections, Maori learners and education, Metaphors and Narratives around children and learners, Pakeha learners and education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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