Needs, rights, nationhood, and the politics of indigeneity

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In 2004 the appointment of a Coordinating Minister Race Relations, signalled a shift in elite M'ori policy thinking from a long-standing cautious bipartisan acceptance of self-determination towards a re-emergent assimilationist 'one law' for all discourse. The question simplistically posed by the Leader of the Opposition was should welfare entitlements be granted on the basis of need or race (Brash 2004)? Beneath this question lies an ideological assumption which privileges assimilation over indigeneity as the basis of M'ori participation in public affairs. This paper therefore asks: are M'ori peoples with rights, or individuals with needs? Is there a deeper politics of indigeneity providing a legitimate foundation for rights which are not necessarily superior to the rights of citizenship, but are important and distinguishable adjuncts? These questions transcend the issue of welfare entitlements to wider questions about the nature and terms of M'ori belonging to the liberal polity. The paper highlights the political tension between government attempts to remove indigeneity from the public agenda in response to populist pressure and a pragmatic acceptance that New Zealand 'needs' M'ori to increase their contribution to the national economy and that the realisation of this goal may in fact depend on the fuller citizenship imagined by the politics of indigeneity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalMAI Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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