The field of Cultural Studies was first developed at the University of Birmingham in England in the 1960s. It's earliest proponent was the black sociologist Stuart Hall, later to be followed by notable critical theorists like Paul Willis. Its premise was that the Marxist category of Class which had dominated all social theorising for the previous century failed to account for the diverse aspects of oppression that were comng to light through the evolving process of anti-colonialism that had been gaining ground following the Second World War. Newly emerging movements of Feminism, Black Power and Popular Culture (exemplified in Britain itself by the Beatles and theother working class proponents of the Liverpool Sound, Coronation Street, as well as in the works of the "Kitchen Sink" writers like Osborne, Sillitoe, Delaney, Braine, Barstow and others). In the United States the movement developed out of the Civil Rights Movement. Within this overall and diverse range of issues, it's chief engagement was with Anti-colonialism, heavily influenced by the writings of Frantz Fanon and others. This aspect of the movement has also helped initiate and influence yet wider fields of resistance - Indigenous Studies, Gender Studies, Anti-Racism Queer Studies and has consequently become closely identified with identity politics and cultural self-determination.
The articles listed below cover a wide range of fields, though primarily are set in a New Zealand context and interrogate the relationship between the indigenous maori populatito the Pakeha community through the Treaty of Waitangi.
|CRITICAL AESTHETICS 1A||CRITICAL AESTHETICS 1B|
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This Component comprises introductory photo essay in two parts, with commentaries into the social distinctions between High Art and Common Culture, suggesting how the distinctions are socially constructed to establish and police regimes of taste that are class, race and gender based. The journey takes us from icons of the art world, into the world of common culture, developing on the way linkages that blur the original distinctions, before returning to the critically question of how these distinctions are created and who creates them. The analysis is extended and continued to connect with the politics of identity,demonstrating how at and the aesthetic are intimately and irrevocably tied to issues of Voice.
This introduction leads naturally into the second PDF, Critical Aesthetics 2 which develops a more analytical and in-depth analysis of the philosophy and ideology of the Aesthetic, moving towards a conception of Art as a search for cultural identity and Voice.
CRITICAL AESTHETICS PART 2
A 30 Page PDF which follows on from Critical Aesthetics 1, analysing the field of aesthetics from a Critical Postmodern viewpoint. This PDF charts the lineage of Critical Aesthetics back to its origins in Critical Theory and (more recently) Contemporary Cultural Studies. It interrogates the origin of Art as a social and conceptual category and its role in the development of Capitalism and colonisation. It reviews the role of the Church in both the development of Art and in the parallel processes of colonialism.
It then moves on to critically interrogate the Western philosophic of the Aesthetic promoted by Kant which still animates current conceptions and theories. In the process we look at the role of Gender in Art, specifically the role of the nude. This leads to a critique of the role of rationality in Art and in the Aesthetic, together with an analysis of the role and process or Aesthetic legitimation, which allows us to engage with some postmodern theories of Art as Resistance. This leads naturally to the final part of this critique, Critical Aesthetics 3.
CRITICAL AESTHETICS PART 3
This is the final part of a 3 part Critical analysis of the field of Aesthetics, comprising a 28 page PDF which picks up where Critical Aesthetics 2 ended. We start by recalling the Art of Resistance, and, via an analysis of the morality of the Aesthetic we interrogate its role as an instrument of oppression and repression in its capacity to demonise and stereotype. In particular we note its historical role in the domain of sexual repression and colonisation. We take up again the notion of rationality, this time noting different forms of rationality - most significantly transformational rationality - that is, the form of rationality that does not shrink from confronting issues of injustice and cultural exclusion. We link this to the politics of identity and the role of the critical artist in the modern world.
Theris also a much more comprehensive analysis available in three separate PDFs: Critical Space Part 1, Critical Space Part 2, and Critical Space part 3. They can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here
We tend to think of colonialism as something that happened in the past, rather than something that is going on now. But that is one of its many effects - to mask its own perpetuation behind a mask of historical innocence - the illusion that its own existence ended some time around the 1950s when the old British Empire unravelled. Nothing could be further from the truth. This PDF offers a brief critical analysis of the conceptual framework of Colonialism - its different faces, its history and its relationship to indigenous peoples, to modern life, to free market and globalisation ideologies, and to issues pertaining to Tourism, not least the gushing tabloid representations of Royal babies and their names!
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Cultural Tourism has become a major industry worldwide. In countries like France, Italy, England the "culture" that is displayed and encountered by the traveller is that of the levels of what we call High Culture within the overall social framework of those countries. Elsewhere, and particularly in the colonised (as opposed to colonising) countries, this is not the case.In these instances Cultural Tourism takes on the ambiance of an encounter with the Exotic Other. And this other, is usually the indigenous person living in a subbordinated role in their own land. They are often exploited by other tourism operators for the tourist dollar, and rarely do they own and control the way that they are portrayed, or the kinds of dicourse they can have with the traveller. Critical Cultural Tourism addresses these issues. In this PDF we will interrogate the issue of the colonisation, displacement, replacement and renaming by which a socially constructed history is developed. We will look at what role this dominant culture version of history plays in the tourism industry. We look at the impact of international capital and globalisation on indigenous prople in general and on cultural tourism in particular. Finally we unpack the issue of commodification in the Tourism Industry which leads to the production of products and practices that are insulting to the intelligence of the traveller and the tourism operator alike, and we pose the question "Is it possible to have an authentic Cultural Tourism experience?" And if so, what would it look like?
Multiculturalism in Education
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This lecture was part of the Penny Lecture series at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on February 1st., 2010. The Penny Lecture series is sponsored by the Black Studies Department and includes distinguished speakers from around the world. It is called the Penny Lecture because the stipend is one penny! This presentation aimed to place the plight of indigenous communities in the context of State policies of multiculturalism, and to do so in ways that examined the role of the African American community and religious movements and institutions as instruments in the process of ongoing oppression and colonisation. It takes the process of colonisation back to Celtic times in Europe, through the Crusades, the development of Capitalism, the "discovery of the "New World" and the extirpation of African communities in the extraction of colonial wealth from indigenous American communities. It traces this process down to the present time.
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The Floods at Matata, New Zealand, 2005
There has always existed an uneasy tension between Western academic rationality and indigenous knowledge systems. The latter has invariably been subjugated by the former, but have somehow survived, albeit in colonised forms, through to the present. The Grand Narratives of Progress and Individual Emancipation and Anthropomorphism, worked through the matrix of scientific technical rationality have displaced and colonised indigenous cosmologies associated with cyclic temporalities, relatedness and species interdependency. Critics of the Western systems of knowledge – critical pedagogues with their roots in Marxist analysis have tended until recently to focus on the social, political and economic shortcomings of western knowledge systems and education – ignoring, for the most part ecological and environmental concerns, save as a peripheral outcome of capitalist excess.
More recently, critical pedagogues have begun to recognize and to insist on the need to include subjugated epistemologies of those previously excluded, oppressed and silenced communities – particularly indigenous communities - as an important requirement for building a broad consensus of popular resistance through education, to the overarching free-market-driven imperative of Late Capitalism. For the most part, these critical pedagogues have tended to imagine a kind of melding of western and indigenous rationalities and epistemologies in pursuit of political, cultural and economic transformation. They link their project to the search for new forms of understanding of key concepts such as Education, Democracy, Multiculturalism, Identity etc. – concepts that are still grounded in a western rationality. In this attempt to embrace epistemological difference, the one key concept that is rarely, if ever, discussed - and the one that ultimately distinguished the indigenous (pre-colonial) cosmology - is The Spiritual.
Western attempts to include indigenous knowledge systems are willing to grant them a greater degree of sensitivity to environmental systems, a more refined understanding of ecological interrelatedness drawn from local experience, a deeper awareness of cultural and social relations and a more comprehensive conception of both self-sufficiency and sustainability. But when it comes to the spiritual framework upon which all such knowledge systems rest, western (and westernised) scholars seem at a loss. Talk of spirit-beings, katchinas, guardians, spirit-helpers, fairies, and ancestor-helpers seem perhaps too freaky, too alien to take on board. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how they might be taken on board without the complete fragmentation and disintegration of a western perspective. The epic recounting of Carlos Castaneda’s experiences with the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan Matus offer ample evidence of this dichotomy. Don Juan told Carlos that in order to become a "man of knowledge" he must practice "stopping the world" through a process of 'stopping the internal dialogue". He placed great emphasis upon the fact that being a "man of knowledge" involves a cessation of the normative meanings which language carries, and that it is the role of the teacher to facilitate this process
Language, which forms the basis of our internal conversations about the world is therefore fundamental not just to the process of describing reality, but in constructing and maintaining it. And since language is a social phenomenon, it follows that our conception of reality is mediated by the social forms which structure everyday life. Social groups who use the same language (be it everyday language or specialised technical language) implicitly reproduce and convey through their conversations a model of the world imbued with particular meanings and associations of which they themselves may not be fully aware, but which bind together the concrete reality, the world in question. In addition, we should keep in mind that, as Wittgenstein reminds us, the meanings inherent in language itself do not come ready-made
What all of this boils down to is the suggestion that western academics have tended to interpret indigenous realities and meanings through their own western lens provided by their own culturally/linguistically-determined understanding. The Spiritual in this sense, has defied easy interpretation and stands still, in stark aloofness from our ability to incorporate, assimilate or otherwise digest it. What follows is one simple, local example of this problematic.
In early 2005, a group of New Zealand Maori from the Ngati Hinerangi hapu or sub-tribe of the Arawa Tribe decided that they wanted to sell their land for housing development . The site was on the beach dunes in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand at a place called Matata. Beachfront properties had tripled in value over the preceding two years and many were trying to cash in. My family looked at buying a house at the Matata Beach three years earlier but decided it was too far away from my work in Whakatane. What follows is (to me) the extraordinary story that followed their decision to sell.
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For an additional (and autobiographical) journey into issues of spirituality see: Spirituality: Mato Paha - A Fork in the Road. Click here .
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Image of the so-called Anti-terrorism raids used to terrorise the peaceful Maori village of Ruatoki
During the last semester of my Wiepking Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 2010, I was asked to give a talk on New Zealand to a group of staff and students from the Educational Leadership Department. They were just about to embark on a three week field trip to New Zealand and asked me to share my experience with them This was the result. The original talk was given as a Keynote (Mac platform) complete with voice-over commentary and soundtrack which unfortunately was not supported by my Hostgator Website. This PDF is the visual version of that talk.
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This PDF looks at the role of the State in the education of indigenous peoples. It charts the historical development of Maori education in New Zealand and presents a compelling argument that while most teachers believe they can make a difference to the life chances of their pupils, the system is actually designed to ensure their failure. In looking at Maori education history, it begins with the Mission Schools, moves through to the limitations placed upon the highly successful Te Aute College in the 1930s and culminates with an analysis of the undermining of the highly successful Whare Wananga in 2004-2006.
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This piece takes a look at the so-called Digital Divide, suggesting that it may be something that is instrumental in furthering the expansion of capitalist (consumer) democracy. The article takes in the struggle between the forces of repression (both State and private) and the advocates for Open Access on the Web. It suggests further that the Digital Divide is but the latest manifestation of this struggle that has gone on since the advent of capitalism, but which took on a new character in the 18th and 19th centuries with the coming of newspapers and widespread literacy. It suggests further that this struggle will never end, as long as capitalism survives, despite the belief by many that the Internet offers the first real opportunity for an uncensored public discourse. A version ofg this article was included as a chapter in "Hegemony and the Web: The Struggle for Hegemony in a Digital Age.“In: Digital Libraries, (Eds.) Rikowsky, R. and Peters. M., Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, 2011.
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- Dineé (Navajo)
- and other indigenous peoples
It also compares these models with modern versions and with the theories of critical psychiatrists like R. D. Laing, Thomas Szatz and Erich Fromm. The essay concludes by posing the question of how we reverse the social and cultural damage wrought by capitalism and western imperialism not only to indigenous peoples, but to an entire social sphere that has been penetrated to its depths by the ideology of competitive individualism, social isolation and a tooth and claw free market economy. To download the PDF click here .
New Zealand is a “young” country as far as European culture is concerned. The first European to visit here was the Dutchman Abel Tasman in 1642. It was not until 127 years later, that Captain Cook in the Endeavour arrived in what is now Poverty Bay. Cook’s “discovery” in 1769 was followed by the gradual settling of British and American seal fur traders and whalers along the coasts. By 1830 the settlement of Kororareka (now Russell in the Bay of Islands), was a well-established trading and whaling port. Sometimes a dozen or more ships might be at anchor, with several hundred men ashore. It was the “Hellhole of the South Pacific”. There were regular tensions between the visitors and the Mãori, often around the acquisition of land. Mãori wanted access to the benefits of trade, but also wanted the British Crown to control its lawless citizens. Trade was growing and fear that the French might colonise here led the British Government to abandon its non-colonisation policy and to plan for annexation.
The process had been going on since 1834, when the British resident James Busby gathered 25 Mãori chiefs at Waitangi to form the United Tribes of Aotearoa and to sign a Declaration of Independence – an attempt to develop a pan-Mãori Government for self-determination and protection. Busby saw this as a way of protecting New Zealand-made British ships flying a Mãori flag thus protecting British trade interests. Six years later, Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson was given the task of establishing a Treaty with Mãori. In February 1840, also at Waitangi, Hobson and Busby, wrote a draft Treaty for tribal chiefs to sign. The Treaty was written very quickly. A Mãori draft was prepared by the missionary Henry Williams and his son on 4th February.
The meaning of the English and Mãori documents is not identical. Williams translated “Sovereignty” into Mãori as “Kawanatanga” (Kawana being a transliteration of the English word “Governor”) - meaning that Mãori would retain their sovereignty and be subject only to an administrative governorship. A more accurate (and truthful) translation would have been Rangatiratanga, (complete authority or chieftainship) which they all knew the chiefs would never agree to sign away. On the basis of the Mãori translation, the chiefs (and all subsequent generations) saw the Treaty not as a relinquishment of authority, but as a partnership. All historical accounts agree that Hobson, Busby and Williams played down the negative implications of the Treaty to the chiefs, and given the fluency of both Williams and Busby in the Mãori language, the differences between the two documents raises questions about their veracity. 500 Mãori debated the document for a day and a night before it was signed on 6 February. Following the initial signing (by 40 chiefs) copies were taken around the country to collect more signatures. Only 500 out of the 1500 sub-tribes signed the Treaty, and some influential chiefs refused to sign. The original ambiguity in the meaning of the Treaty was to have lasting repercussions for Mãori-Pakeha relations over the next 150 years.Originally published in Organic Explorer , 2011 (pp.20-29), his PDF interrogates the signing of the Treaty and its consequences for cultural relations in Aotearoa-New Zealand for the next 150 years.
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Throughout my professional life I have struggled to reconcile the rational and spiritual sides of my being. I grew up in a highly religious home. My mother a staunch Catholic. From the age of 8 to 17 I was an Altar Boy, and thought for a while that I might have a vocation for the priesthood. As I grew older and more widely experienced I began to realise that the Catholic Church was not the benign institution that I had imagined, but that it had been the source of unimaginable pain and cruelty across the centuries - much of it directed at the world's "savage" and "heathen" indigenous peoples.I then eschewed Catholicism and Christianity and began to search more wiodely for belief systems that I could more readily accept. Buddhism ranked high in my explorations. But chief among those spiritual systems that appealed to me was that of the Lakota or Sioux as we have come to know tham. Theirs was and is a spirituality that knows no longing for either church, power or material wealth, but that considers each and every human being a sovereign entity in a cosmos populated by equals of all species, animate and inanimate. Theirs was a philosophy that resonated with my own finer sensibilities around issues of ecology, sustainability and planetary stewardship - what the Maori call Kaitiakitanga. As I delved deeper into the history and practice of Lakota spirituality I became increasingly convinced of its rightness for me. But this seemed to stand in contrast to my evolving critical awareness and my political activism. These two poles of my being have been in a continuing and oscillating state of tension. For the most part, the rational side of my being has prevailed. But occasionally I have been privileged to be allowed a glimpse behind the curtain that separates the material and metaphysical realities of our day to day existence, and those brief glimpses have left a deep impression in me. I have been privileged to be several times invited by Lakota friends to participate in an Inipi (Sweatlodge) Ceremony, and each time I have come away humbled, cleansed and reborn to myself. In my life I have taken a variety of mind-altering substances in an attempt to gain a deeper insight into the meaning oi existence and I consider tham all to have been valuable and worthwhile. As Aldoux Huxley once famously said, they "opened the doors of perception" for me - doors that would thereafter never completely close. I consider the Inipi to exceed them all in its power and ability to connect the mind to a different, cosmic reality - to be the most powerful tool imaginable for accessing the unconscious mind, and for realising both the simultaneous power and personal insignificance of our connectedness to all things. The Lakota incantation Aho Mitakuye Oyasin! (All my relations!) expresses this impeccably. I have never attended a Wiwanyag Wachipi (Sundance), nor have I ever been privileged to carry out a Hanblecheyapi (Vision Quest), but below is the true and (for me) revealing story of my own life-transforming experience at Mato Paha, Bear Butte, in South Dakota - the spiritual centre of the Lakota world and a very sacred place.
Besides the recounting of my early (1990) experiences there, I have also updated the account following my visit in 2009, en route to Oxford, Ohio. As you will read, this latter visit was sadder and more depressing than the hopefull encounter some twenty years (to the day) earlier. It seemed to signify for me the great distance that we have all travelled into the darkness since that time and the bleak prospects that we, our children and all of our relations face in the coming years.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!
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Here, in its entirety is a copy of the UN Derclaration. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - all the beneficiaries of British colonial policies) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine). New Zealand also signed the Derclaration on 20th April 2010.
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The process and history of colonisation as it developed in Europe from the 15th Century onwards presents us with patterns of terrorism that persist down to the present. It is easy, these days, to point the finger at the “Axis of Evil” as a justification for the “War on Terrorism”.
Looking back over history, it is possible to identify the strategies that generations of colonizers have used to justify their actions and the cultural and spiritual legitimation of murder and genocide in the name of God. These strategies have historically included:
- The rapacious greed for resources – land and raw material (gold, spices, oil) to increase corporate profits
- The eradication and/or assimilation of indigenous cultures
- The fragmentation of indigenous social structures (extended families, clans etc)
- The imposition of Western nuclear family structures.
- The imposition of a cash economy
- The imposition of “civilising” compulsory Education
- The eradication of native languages and cultural forms
- The creation of class dependencies to establish a pool of labour
- The creation of scarcity to maintain competition for jobs (at lower wages)
- The imposition of an ethic of punishment and guilt
- The replacement of indigenous constitutional forms and structures with Western models
These and other strategies were and are still used to perpetuate the continued expansion of capitalism down tho the present time.
One of the most telling of the historical examples to which we might point is that of the Iroquois Federation which had existed in social and cultural harmony for centuries in the North East United States before the coming of the white man. What is so telling about this example is that the pre-colonial culture of the Iroquois was extremely well documented, and the culture itself was held up as an exemplar by the founding fathers of the United States, who used it as an example upon which to model the Constitution of the United States – that is, before they destroyed it. Key to this destruction was the imposition of a system of Education
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