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Title: Nau te rourou, Nau te rakau: the Oceanic, Indigenous, Postcolonial and New Zealand comparative contexts of Maori writing in English
Authors: Te Punga Somerville, Alice Anne
Keywords: maori literature
new zealand
Issue Date: 19-Jan-2006
Abstract: While there is increased academic interest in Maori writing in English, both inside and outside Aotearoa, little of the current scholarship has attended self-consciously to the issue of critical methodologies that pertain to this material. This dissertation explores, in theory and in practice, the comparative 'umbrellas' within which Maori texts are most often considered. Holding that a broad definition of what counts as a 'text' is crucial to Maori literary studies, I identify the intersections and disconnections of Maori writing with Oceanic, Indigenous, Postcolonial and New Zealand literary and critical works. This project draws together critical work in the areas of Indigenous, Minority, Postcolonial, New Zealand and Pacific literary studies, along with research about critical Maori academic methodologies such as 'Kaupapa Maori' scholarship. A specific whakatauki ('Nau te rourou, naku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi; nau te rakau, naku te rakau, ka mate te hoariri') provides the structure of the project and, thereby, the methodology by which I explore the possibilities (rourou), and also the limitations (rakau), of reading Maori writing in English within each of these four comparative critical contexts. Considering these texts comparatively has implications for the 'categories' we call Oceanic, Indigenous, Postcolonial and New Zealand, as well as, indeed, for the conceptualisation of 'Maori.' Maori writing in English is not reducible to any one of the comparative frames I explore: it is Pacific/ Oceanic, but also Postcolonial; it is Indigenous but also New Zealand. I propose that none of these critical frameworks is singularly sufficient, and yet the intersection of each with the respective preoccupations/ contexts/ histories/ politics/ thematics in Maori writing means that none of them is removable either. At the same time, I point to potential flaws, problems, disconnects and invisibilities in and between the various frameworks, and I suggest ways in which these - especially Postcolonial and New Zealand - might make critical amends for their exclusions. As well as examining the features of these specific frames, I foreground and preliminarily theorise the very process of intra-linguistic comparison on which this kind of criticism is dependent, and reflect on the unanticipated prominence throughout the chapters of the complex relationship between literary studies, Maori texts, Maori communities and the experience of Maori students in the literature classroom.
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