What it means to be a New Zealander

New book explains our demographic diversity

Massey University

June 8, 2017

Who are we? From All Blacks and Anzacs to Kapa Haka, Pasifika festivals, gay pride, the boom of ethnic eateries and events generated by an increasingly diverse population all reflect the range of influences on how we define and express our New Zealand-ness.

A timely new Massey University Press book on identity and culture explores what it means to be a New Zealander now, and how we make sense of the past alongside current changes and challenges in understanding our personal and collective identities.

Titled Turangawaewae: Identity and Belonging in Aotearoa New Zealand, the book was written as the text for a core paper in Masseys recently revamped Bachelor of Arts degree. The new core papers aim to provide a coherent thematic structure to a degree with abundant offerings from the humanities and social sciences.

Guiding information

Publisher Nicola Legat and editors Professor Richard Shaw, Dr Trudie Cain and Dr Ella Kahu believe the book offers a richness of ideas, stories and guiding information for all not just BA students. The books conceptual framework is built around four central themes faces, voices, places and stories and underpinned by the Maori meaning of Trangawaewae: place of belonging where you draw your strength from, your standing place. Sub-sections have been written by academics across the disciplines at Masseys College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Demographic diversity

The Faces of Aotearoa New Zealand section traverse demographic diversity, and Maori identity and belonging. In part two, Voices, Professor Shaw examines political representation and participation, while Dr Kahu looks at participation and protest in public life and Dr Cain explores how people express themselves through the arts.

In the third section, Places, a range of social scientists investigate physical, institutional (including, critically, the role of universities) and digital places to illuminate the meanings around the idea of home.

This includes how new residents incorporate a sense of the place theyve come from to their adopted location, Maori notions of connection to land through ancestral roots, social conventions around the desirability of home ownership and why we have so many homeless.

Section four, Stories, analyses the stories that we tell about our nation, including that we are an egalitarian society with a clean, green environment, as well as the powerful contribution of the Anzac story to our nation building.

While designed primarily as an undergraduate text, the book is written in an accessible, vibrant and smart style, and embellished with photos, art, news clippings, quotes, poems and QR codes that link to additional reading and relevant websites, YouTube videos and Ted talks, as well as standard reading lists.

Unique and Complex

Of relevance to readers everywhere, Turangawaewae asks: What is a New Zealander? What does it mean to be a citizen of or a resident in this country? How do we understand what makes New Zealand complex, and unique? And what creates a sense of belonging and identity, both here and in the world?

In their introduction, the Editors say, No is a critical time to be thinking about these sorts of things. In a post-Trump, post-Brexit world, easy slogans have taken the place of reasoning and reasonableness, empathy is in retreat, and intolerance is on the march. History tells us that this is never a good mix.

We think the book will give anyone who reads it cause to pause and think about what it means to be in this place and at this time. Who we are as New Zealanders, what we look like, the ways in which we live our lives these are all changing rapidly and in fundamental ways.

Simultaneously, internationally were living through a tumultuous period in history during which things many of us have long taken for granted are being questioned. Wed like to think that some of the intellectual tools the book provides will help people navigate through and make sense of these developments.

They hope readers, whether currently at university or not, will gain insights from the book including (a) An appreciation of the complexity of Aotearoa New Zealands history and its influence on where we are today (b) An appreciation of multiple perspectives about any given issue and (c) A willingness to be reflexive and examine their own perspectives and assumptions about Aotearoa

Turangawaewae is being launched today at 4 pm, at Sir Geoffrey Peren Building Auditorium.

Click here to read a Q&A with the editors.


Photo Caption:

Trangawaewae cover; and images from the book – Aucklands annual Lantern Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year (photo/Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development); and a 1970s housing subdivision in Waiuku (photo/Alexander Turnbull Library).

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