New Zealand: Studying Māori, British and Polynesian Identity

By Purnell T. Cropper | March 11, 2011

Students on the Preview plane flight headed to Auckland, New Zealand, will have plenty of time to ponder race and culture, and what they might experience when they immerse themselves for a week in contemporary New Zealand, peopled with indigenous Māori, descendents of British colonialism, and recent Polynesian immigrants.

But first comes a day of travel. Julie Parada ’14 plans to sleep. Alexa Rodriguez ’14 brought a book to read, and Sierra Rainey ’14 will be watching movies. Thara Moise ’14 plans to study biology, adding, “Really, I am.”

Meshia Mullings ’14 is interested in the course topic—Identities and Categories: Race, Culture and Contemporary New Zealand, taught by Dr. Jon Church, Associate Professor of Anthropology. Mullings says that as an immigrant herself, she wants to study the new immigrants in New Zealand.

Alex Mykijewycz ’14 is “interested in the concept of culture and especially the intermingling of British and Māori culture in New Zealand. And it’s supposed to be a beautiful country.”

Moise says she wanted to go to New Zealand “because it’s really far away, and I feel like I’m narrow minded. I want to broaden my horizons, especially when it comes to other cultures.”

“This course examines the complex and often contradictory discussions about identity, rights and power in contemporary New Zealand between the first settlers, the indigenous Māori, descendents of British colonialism, often termed ‘Pakeha,’ and the recent influx of Polynesian immigrants, mostly from Tonga. Rather than see discussions of ‘race’ and ‘culture’ as the pre-given terms through which analysis is made, the course examines how these terms and concepts are deployed within daily conversation, popular culture, and legislative acts of Parliament so as to constitute the very phenomena they attempt to describe,” says Church.