EVENT: The Indigenous Commons
26th June // 5pm // RHB 251 // Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Stephen Turner (University of Auckland)
In association with Centre for Cultural Studies and Centre for Postcolonial Studies
No registration necessary, Drinks to follow
The Indigenous Commons of Aoteroa New Zealand
In the context of the worldwide Occupy movement, what does it mean to occupy an already occupied country? It suggests a recovery, however temporary, of common space, which in Aotearoa New Zealand is inseparable from a notion of an Indigenous commons. The basis of such a commons is the long history of Maori inhabitation of the country, which encompasses the short history of non-Maori (Pakeha) occupation. The ontological substrate of long history, encompassing multiple lands, peoples and histories, asks everybody to consider the grounds on which they stand. At base, these are grounds of Indigenous right which cannot be extended by the nation-state, whose authority is questioned on the still-existing grounds of long history. Based in reciprocity rather than rights, relations not entities, attributes not properties, Maori sovereignty suggests a right way and right-of-way – tikanga. Tikanga (tika means ‘right) does not imply human rights but the right way to go about the place, in terms of which the ordinary people of the place (‘Maori’ means ordinary) consider that they flourish. The idea of an existing law that would, and did in retrospect, secure that ‘right’ is what I call ‘first law’, following Maori commentators; its latter-day expression is the possibility of a ‘full law’, which binds material and spiritual worlds in the mind-heart of Maori community. The mind-heart of place-based community, and the host-guest relation that initiates strangers, is what non-Maori (Pakeha) are asked to subscribe to as second-comers.
Collective well-being, now inscribed in the Indigenous-minded constitutions of Bolivia and Equador, depends more deeply on a sense of injury and lack of care than a violation of more instrumental human rights. In New Zealand the deficits of settler ignorance are threefold: a constitutional deficit, due to an acknowledged but unenforceable nineteenth-century Treaty; an historiographical deficit, where long history is read in terms of short history of a nation-state coming-to-be; and an existential deficit, where majority Pakeha act out of dread and, more recently, terror, in the face of Indigenous claims to independence. As against an economistic political economy of settler identity, where property and individual rights follow the nation-state’s self-assertion, I pose the challenge of consubstantial sovereignty, and post-capital politics. Occupy in New Zealand recalls an already occupied country, an Indigenous commons, today shared by others, but rent by parliamentary enclosure and representative segregation. Granting Maori an ontological alterity is insufficiently attentive to this commonly shared place, and to the non-state grounds of its political constitution. Nor does collective well-being oppose capital as such, but rather opposes settler-centricity and claims to co-equal indigeneity. I thereby consider the political, cultural and economic implications of attribute- rather property-based Indigenous rights. And because the constitution of the state refuses the ontological substrate of long history, which is its whole human inhabitation, I consider the possibility of constitutionalising non-state Indigenous relations, as a means of exit from the compulsory nationalism of settler-colonialism.
University of Auckland
Part of the Postgraduate Conference: Taking Up Space
Taking up Space – Cultural Studies Postgraduate Event
25th – 26th June 2012
Centre for Cultural Studies (CCS) / MA in Cultural Studies
A one/two day conference exploring the meaning and understanding of space in its physical manifestations as well as in its discursive forms; through which identity, meaning, value and authority can be mapped in particular ways.
Goldsmiths location and campus map: http://www.gold.ac.uk/find-us/