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Novara Band 3 – Politics of Indigeneity in the South Pacific. Recent Problems of Identity in Oceania.


This book contributes to a field of growing interest in sociopolitical and anthropological circles: indigeneity as a form of selfrepresentation and resistance against existing forms of state dominance. Developments in indigenous minorities over recent decades in the interpretation of their own traditional history as a source of self-confidence form the core of the discussion: Revival of tradition, retribalization and the loss of confidence in national governments are causing increasing problems. The South Pacific (including Australia) is on the eve of a new era: the 21st Century is opening changes to overcome deep-rooted obstacles an prejudices. At the same time, dangers are emerging in societies where democratic values are often interpreted by indigenous groups as foreign influences which schould be replaced by traditional modes of representation. With examples drawn from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia, the book provides a comprehensive overview of a region in transition.


  1. Erich Kolig – Introduction: Cultural Revival, the Construction of Indigeneity, and the World- System
  2. Kenneth Maddock – Revival, Renaissance, and the Meaning of Modern Constructions in Australia
  3. Toon van Meijl – Culture and Crisis in Maori Society: The Tradition of Other and the Displacement of Self
  4. Hal B. Levine – The Maori Iwi – Contested Meanings in Contemporary Aotearoa / New Zealand
  5. Michael Goldsmith – Maori Assertions of Indigeneity, Post-Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder, and
  6. Erich Kolig – Guardians of Nature or Ecologists of the Stomach ? The indigenous cultural revival in New Zealand, resource use and nature conservation.
  7. Jacqueline Leckie – Return to Nukulau: the troubled waters of ethno-nationalism in Fiji
  8. Hermann Mückler – Back to the chessboard: The coup and the re-emergence of pre-colonial riva
  9. Marie Pineau-Salaun – Kanak culture versus French curriculum: towards a multicultural education in New Caledonia?


Kenneth Maddock 
Ferment and controversy in Aboriginal affairs over the last few decades have not only given rise to rhetoric and moralising, but have led anthropologists and others into attempting to conceptualise the changing nature of Aboriginal societies. One view is that a cultural renaissance has begun. The paper, which focuses on the more settled parts of Australia, accepts that there may be some sort of cultural revival, but argues that the special connotations of „renaissance” mean that it is not the right word for what is happening. The salient facts which need to be taken into account in analysis and evaluation include the decomposition of indigenous traditions and the formation of new communities. These processes were well documented by earlier anthropologists whose work has fallen into undeserved neglect.


Toon van Meijl 
The revival of Maori culture and tradition has contributed to the political successes of New Zealand’s indigenous population in recent years. At the same time, however, it has brought to light that an increasing group of Maori youngsters is unable to construct a cultural identity in terms of the discourses of culture and tradition that dominate the political arena. This paper addresses the identity crisis of Maori youngsters in ceremonial settings (marae).

Hal Levine 
„Iwi“ is a Maori word commonly understood in New Zealand to mean „tribe“. Many government programmes and Treaty of Waitangi settlements transfer funds to iwi groups. Non-tribal Maori organisations have reacted against this trend claiming that iwi need to be re-conceptualised in light of current social and cultural realities. This paper examines how recent arguments about the nature of iwi have affected the meaning of this term.

Michael Goldsmith 
Maori assertions of indigeneity in contemporary New Zealand revolve around an identity politics which incorporate both forward-looking and backward-looking discourses. This paper focuses on the furore aroused by a traditionalist Maori politician’s speech suggesting that many of the problems experienced by her people in the present could be attributed to „post-colonial traumatic stress disorder“. Her use of the term „holocaust“ to characterise the effects of colonialism was even more controversial and earned her a rebuke from the prime minister. Where, then, does responsibility lie and how can the tragedies of the past be explained and absolved?

Erich Kolig 
This paper discusses notions of the kind of relationship Maori traditionally are supposed to have had with nature/environment, and which now play a role in the indigenous cultural renaissance in New Zealand and form a vital part in the country’s political discourse. As the authenticity of the claim that Maori in pre-European times have treated their environment with great care and consideration is now rarely challenged, a raft of strategies and privileges, such as the recognition of customary resource rights under the terms of the Waitangi Treaty, is deduced from that.

Jacqueline Leckie 
This paper explores the complexities of ethno-nationalism in multicultural Fiji, where almost half the population are of Indian descent. Coups in 1987 and 2000 have been popularly attributed to racial or ethnic conflict and the protection of indigenous culture and rights. This glosses over other dynamics, especially among indigenous Fijians, including contestations over tradition, chiefly power, vanua, class, the economy, the military and the church. The paper emphasises the legacy of colonialism for ethnic identity in Fiji.

Hermann Mueckler 
This article highlights similarities between political conditions on the chiefly level in the mid-19th century and present times in Fiji. The coup of the year 2000, carried out by George Speight, marked the open outbreak of conflicts between traditional and influential chiefly families and chiefdoms as well as between the three old confederacies. With a short overview of the historic conditions prior to the cession of Fiji to the British Empire in 1874, the bridge is drawn to the recent process of regrouping interest-groups and power in Fiji after the hostage crisis. The situation then and now seems like a chess game which was abandoned in 1874, due to the colonial influence which suppressed the continuation of sometimes century-long existing conflicts, and which is now being taken up again.

Marie Pineau-Salaun 
The paper examines processes of education and school curricula in New Caledonia and the growing influence Melanesian self-awareness is able to avert. Well aware of the political significance of formal school education as a vehicle for French hegemony, Melanesian independentists are fighting to roll back the heavy predominance of a cosmopolitan French bias in it.