Saturday, September 12, 2015

One Ring to Rule Them All: Master Discourses of Enlightenment—And Racism—From Colonial to Contemporary New Zealand

We interrogated historical continuity and change in discourses of enlightenment and racism through the analysis of 160 years of New Zealand Speeches from the Throne (1854–2014, 163 speeches). Enlightenment discourses of benevolence and perfectibility were prevalent in all periods, much more so than racism. ‘Old-fashioned’ racism took the form of an assumed civilizational superiority (including accusations of ‘barbarism’) during colonization, with ‘modern’ racism taking forms like blaming Māori for not ‘productively’ using the land. 

Both declined to almost zero by the 20th century, undermining the idea of ‘old-fashioned’ versus ‘modern’ racism. Utilitarian discourses peaked in the late 19th to early 20th centuries as justification for Māori land alienation. ‘Master discourses of enlightenment’ consisted of a central core of social representations that changed at the periphery, with a gradual expansion of symbolic inclusion of Māori in discourses of national identity to the point where biculturalism is the dominant discourse for elites today.


  • By
  • James H. Liu1,* and
  • Angela R. Robinson2
    1. 1
      School of Psychology, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
    2. 2
      Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

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