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Elizabeth Rata

Associate Professor Elizabeth Rata is Deputy Head of School (Research) in Critical Studies in Education. She is a sociologist of education specialising in the relationship between education and society. Dr Rata is Editor of Pacific-Asian Education, Leader of the Knowledge and Education Research Group, a member of a European Union International Research Staff Exchange Scheme, and a former Fulbright Senior Scholar to Georgetown University, Washington D.C.


Democracy and Tribalism

So let us look at what the tribe or clan is. It is the oldest way to organise a social group. The cement is kinship. As the group gets larger it becomes a race or ethnic group. The group’s distinctiveness is the result of a shared history which may be very long as with Australian Aborigines or relatively short as with Maori. However a shared history does that mean that the tribe, or any group for that matter, should have a distinctive political system that never changes. If there is no change then those people are locked into a kin-based political system for all time. There can be no modernity, no progress, no future.

One of the benefits of colonisation, and there are a number, is the destruction of tribalism. For slaves and lower caste people it was liberation. Of course the chiefly caste did not agree and today we see the resurgence of those who would be their inheritors. The new elite is a self-proclaimed aristocracy justifying their ambition in romantic appeals to an Arcadian past.

Tribalism must be destroyed for democracy to exist. Democracy’s superiority as a political system is that it is the final stage in the separation of the kin/race character of a socio-cultural group from its political character......

Read the full fascinating blog HERE
'Tribalism and Democracy' by Elizabeth Rata as published in the NZ Herald HERE


The treaty is not New Zealand’s founding document


I was surprised to read in Deborah Coddington’s recent Herald column that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. Of course some New Zealanders mistakenly believe that is the case. Where the belief becomes a problem is when a member of the government appointed and funded Constitutional Advisory Panel such as Deborah Coddington states that this is so. In describing the treaty as our founding document she has jumped the gun somewhat in anticipating the Panel’s recommendations about the status of the treaty. And she is certainly premature in gauging New Zealanders’ opinions on the subject.

Attempts by successive governments since the 1987 treaty re-interpretation as a ‘partnership’, including the expensive 2006 Treaty Roadshow, seemed to have been based on the misguided assumption that if New Zealanders knew about the treaty then they would accept its increasing inclusion in the nation’s political system. Deborah Coddington appears to think along similar lines....

Full the blog HERE


New Zealand Constitution: Why iwi have got it wrong

There is deep disquiet throughout the country about iwi claims for water rights.

However by focussing on the resource itself; previously the foreshore and seabed, this time water, next time airwaves, geothermal energy, and so on, we are in danger of overlooking the source of the issue, of overlooking why such claims can be made in the first place. To find the fundamental flaw in the tribes’ case for the ownership of public resources such as water we need look not only at what is to be owned but at who is claiming ownership. The essence of the tribal claim is that iwi represent a separate ‘public’ – the Maori people – and are therefore entitled to own the resources of that ‘public’.

The claim that iwi constitute a separate polity with its own public is ambitious politics. If it were indeed the case then New Zealand would not be one nation but two. It may well be that in the future New Zealand does break up into two separate nations, but at present ‘New Zealand’ is the political entity and its public are all the nation’s citizens. This means that citizenship, not tribal membership, is the political category. All New Zealanders belong to this national category.

To claim that there are two separate ‘peoples’ each with rights to ‘public’ resources under the control of separate political entities is the fundamental flaw in the iwi case. It deserves rebuttal. Despite the insistence on a primordial difference, Maori and non-Maori are not two distinctive peoples with that distinctiveness justifying separate political categories. Yet the iwi strategy of a separate people, aligned with the equally effective strategy of ‘partnership’, is powerful politics....

Read the full blog HERE