‘Don’t call me European - I’ve never been to Europe!’ Identity politics in post-colonial New Zealand
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A rejection by some white majority New Zealanders of the category of ‘European’ to describe their ethnicity in the 2006 census raises questions about how national identity is perceived in a country that has become increasingly multicultural in the last 60 years. Although British culture still remained at the core of New Zealand European identity, why was there a greater impetus by some at this time to seek out a true New Zealand identity or, as some see it, a majority group identity, by claiming ‘New Zealander’ as their ethnicity rather than ‘NZ European’ ? This paper draws on the theoretical writings of sociologist David Pearson who takes an historical view of the challenges to majoritarian national narratives of antipodean societies that include “the demise of the British Empire …[and] the rise of a neo-Europe, increasing racial and ethnic diversity and burgeoning regional, indigenous, and religious nationalisms, plus globalization and radical economic and political responses to the insecurities of a new world order” (2008, p.49). In this research I apply the discourse-historical approach of CDA (Wodak et al, 1999; Wodak & Meyer, 2009) to investigate the discourses surrounding people’s rejection of their European heritage based on these pivotal factors. Following a review of the historical emergence of a New Zealand national identity since the British first colonised the country in the 1800s, this paper uses a case study of a public online discussion about the 2006 census ethnicity question to explore people's construction of identity in relation to European origins. It focuses on content, discursive strategies and linguistic features in the discussion that contributed to the construction of the nation’s identity. Two opposing discourses are identified and discussed – one that legitimises the use of ‘New Zealander’ as an ethnicity based on the premise that many people no longer feel a connection with Europe and in fact have never ‘been there’, while the other discourse views the claiming of ‘New Zealander’ by NZ Europeans for themselves to be a form of discrimination and subtle racism that marginalises other ethnic groups. The transformation of national identity is considered in the context of political rhetoric that called for New Zealanders to be more accepting of ethnic minority groups. Pearson, D. (2008). Reframing majoritarian national identities within an antipodean perspective. Thesis Eleven, 95(November), 48–57. Wodak, R., de Cillia, R., Reisigl, M., & Liebhart, K. (1999). The discursive construction of national identity. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press. Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (pp. 1–33). London, England: Sage Publications.