Cultural Performance; Self-Construction, Identity, & Practice; Global-Local Interrelationships; Local Modernities; New Zealand and Polynesian Ethnography; North American Ethnography & American Studies; Postcolonialism & Colonial History; Social Theory; Media Studies & Visual Anthropology; Indigenous Peoples’ Movements; Migration and Urbanization; Ritual; Visual Art; Countercultural Movements
I am a cultural anthropologist interested in social thought, contemporary critical and anthropological theory, and the history and ethnography of both the Pacific and the contemporary U.S. My Pacific research (with New Zealand Maori) is concerned with the performance and experience of local cultural traditions and identities in the context created by such transnational forces as capitalism, colonialism, modernity, and globalization. I also explore performances, identities, and experience in my U.S. work, which is currently centered on the ways people negotiate their relationship to the idea of "success." In both cases I am interested in the interplay between ritual/symbolic constructions of the world and the possibilities for imagining political projects and attempting to achieve political agency. In NZ, this leads to a concern with the indigenization of such things as city life, development, and modernity as part of an effort to find a place for tradition in modern life and, in the U.S., I am interested in the logics and expressions of the pursuit (or refusal) of upward mobility.
My dissertation (Houses and Hopes: Urban Marae and the Indigenization of Modernity in New Zealand) is an ethnographic and historical account of the “Maori Renaissance”—the revival of traditional culture by indigenous New Zealanders, who today live mainly in cities. In it, argue that the things Maori revive and the ends they hope to achieve are rooted in both the history of their relationship to New Zealand’s colonial settlers and in the understandings, values, and institutions that Maori brought to that encounter—rooted, in other words, in something akin to what anthropologists have traditionally called culture, albeit “culture” understood as a dynamic, historically changing ground for meaningful action. I focus on one institution, the marae, a complex of buildings centered on an elaborately carved meeting house that is thought of by Maori as an ancestor. Marae have long been central to rural, "traditional," Maori life, but over the last thirty years there has been an explosion of marae construction, mainly in cities. Marae have come to play a key role in Maori attempts to regain their land, to preserve their language, and to win a place for their “culture” at the center of contemporary New Zealand life. Why are these houses the focus of struggle? I answer that question by showing how houses became institutionalized in the second half of the nineteenth century, emerging as both sites and emblems of Maori community life. Symbolically rich, the houses reflect and embody traditional conceptions of persons, groups, and the cosmos—they are inventions that are nevertheless outgrowths of tradition. Their presence today in settings that would otherwise be understood as belonging solely to the world of the settler state and global modernity reframes those settings, helping to maintain a distinct Maori world. I am currently at work on a book based on this material, tentatively called Houses and Hopes: Cultural Invention As Cultural Continuity
At present I am pursuing a number of projects: In the summer of 2005 I did preliminary fieldwork for a study of the recently established "Maori Television" network. This will allow me to explore further the ways in which Maori position themselves with respect to "popular culture," both local and global. In the longer term I would like to examine the more explicitly political aspects of the "globalization of indigenousness," both in terms of the concrete connections made between indigenous peoples in different places and in terms of the emergence of "indigenousness" as a perspective from which to criticize the contemporary world order (as among Mexican Zapatistas). While my previous published work on the U.S. has been about countercultural "resistance" involving body modification, my next project will address mainstream "middle class" life, specifically weddings, which I see as sites where Americans perform both their aspirations and their identities, and as places where the interrelation between cultural structures, specific historical moments, mass marketing, and public culture can be observed.
Linking the different strands of my work is a commitment to exploring the implications of the anthropological idea that our form of life—industrial capitalism, modernity, the West, “the new world order,” however you wish to name it—is a cultural order as much as it is a political and economic order. Hence my interest in whether Maori can find a way to live in our world without becoming us, and conversely, in just how it is that we become us.
Books in Preparation:
The Long Run: Essays in Honor of Marshall Sahlins. Edited by Alex Golub, John D. Kelly, and Daniel Rosenblatt
Houses and Hopes: Cultural Invention As Cultural Continuity.
2005 “Thinking Outside the Billiard Ball: Cognatic Nationalism and Performing a Maori Public Sphere.” Ethnohistory 52(1):111-136.
2004 "An Anthropology Made Safe for Culture: Patterns of Practice and the Politics of Difference in Ruth Benedict." American Anthropologist 106(3):459-472
2002 “Titirangi is the Mountain: Representing Maori Community in Auckland.” Pacific Studies 25(1/2):117-140.
1997 “The Antisocial Skin: Structure, Resistance, and ‘Modern Primitive’ Adornment in the United States.” Cultural Anthropology 12(3):287-334.
Articles In Preparation:
"Indigenizing the City: The Construction of Maori Community in Auckland as Representation, Experience, and Self-Making," In preparation for American Ethnologist.
"Weddings, Rich Girls, and Depression: Why it Does Make Sense to Talk About 'American Culture.'"
1999 Intimate Details and Vital Statistics: AIDS, Sexuality, and the Social Order in New Zealand. SOLGAN.
Conference Papers and Other Presentations: (email me if you are interested in any of these)
2008 What’s at Stake in Ethnography? Presented at the session Ethnography: Methodological and theoretical Dilemmas at the Canadian Anthropology Society meeting, Ottawa, ON May 7-10
2007 Pakeha Maori, "Ngati Pakeha" and Other Indigenous Constructions and Interpellations of "The Other." Presented at the session “Colonialism's other "others" and negotiations of power and rule” at the 106 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC November 28-December 2
2007 The Global Medium: Maori Television and Maori Modernity. Presented at the session “Beyond Authenticity: Indigenous Cosmopolitanisms and Media” at the American Ethnological Society/Canadian Anthropology Society meeting, May 8-12, Toronto, ON.
2006 Contemporary Traditional Maori Performing Arts and Contemporary Maori Culture. Presented at the session "The Culture in Culture Festivals" at the 105 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Jose, CA November 15-19
2005 A Place at the Table: Claiming Modernity for Maori. Presented at the 104 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC November 30-December 4
2005 Claiming/Constructing Maori Modernity in the Media. Prepared for the informal session “Polynesian Modernities” at the 34th annual meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, Lihue, HI, February 2-5
2003 Locating the Trans-Local (or a Trans-Local): Indigeneity Among the Indigenes. Presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, November
18-22, at the session “Theories of Change and Praxis in an Interconnected World.”
2003 Anti-Anti-Essentialism. Presented at the conference “The Roots of Resistance: The Construction of Resistance to Western Hegemonic Modernity” Regina, SK, March 14-15
2003 It’s Cool to Korero: Global Brown Youth Culture. Prepared for the working session “Young People in the Pacific” at the 32nd annual meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, Vancouver, BC, February 11-15
2002 Standing Like a Chief: Oration and Self-Making in the Maori Renaissance. Presented at The 101st Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, New Orleans LA, November 20-24, 2002, at the session “What is at Stake? Oratory and Social Imagining.”
2001 Art and Luck: Urban Meeting Houses and the Invention of Genuine Culture. To be presented at The 100th Annual Meeting Of The American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, November 28-December 2, 2001, at the session “Culture and Historical Agency.”
2000 It's Cool to Korero: Cultural Identity and "Youth Culture" Among Auckland Maori. Presented at The 99th Annual Meeting Of The American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA, November 15-19, 2000, at the session “Performance And Evaluation Of Social Categories Among Youth In Post-Industrial Societies.”
2000 Indigenizing the City: Maori Community in Auckland as Representation and Experience. Presented at Wesleyan University, Center for the Humanities, as part of the Spring 2000 series “Lives of the City.” February 21, 2000.
1999 “Patterns of Practice: Ruth Benedict, Cultural Integration, and Contemporary Rethinkings of the Culture Concept.” Presented at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL November 17-21, 1999, at the session “The Pasts, Presents And Futures Of Boasian Anthropology.”
1999 “Reading the House: Cultural Exegesis and the Meaning of Maoriness in New Zealand.” (Expanded version of 1998 AAA paper). Presented at the Michigan-Chicago Linguistic Anthropology Conference, Ann Arbor, MI May 14-15 1999.
1998 “Reading the House: Cultural Exegesis and the Constitution of Maoriness in New Zealand.” Presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, PA December 2-6, 1998, at the session, “Dynamic Discourse in the Service of Culture Change and Representation.”
1996 “Selling Land or Buying the Buyer? Submerged Memories in Maori Discourses About Colonization.” Presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA November 21-25, 1996, at the session, “Transformations: Discourse and Identity in the Postcolonial Pacific.”
1996 “Ko Titirangi te Maunga (Titirangi is the Mountain): Urban Marae and the Construction of Maori Community in Auckland.” Prepared for the Working Session “Community Creation in Urban Settings.” at the 25 Annual Meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, Kona, Hawai’i February 8-12, 1996.
1995 “Postcolonialism Then and Now: A Response to Sally Falk Moore.” Given in response to Sally Falk Moore’s “Practicing Ethnography in the Post-Colonial and Contemporary Worlds,” as part of the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology’s lecture series, “Anthropology Postwar/Premillennial: Intergenerational Conversations.” October 23, 1995.
1992 “The Anti-Social Skin: Structure, Resistance and ‘Modern Primitive’ Adornment in America.” Presented to the Anthropology Department at Auckland University, June 18,1992.
Conference Sessions Organized
2007 “Colonialism's other "others" and negotiations of power and rule” for the 106 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC November 28-December 2.
2007 “Beyond Authenticity: Indigenous Cosmopolitanisms and Media” co-organized with Ilana Gershon for the American Ethnological Society/Canadian Anthropology Society, May 8-12, Toronto, ON.
2006 "The Culture in Culture Festivals" co-organized with Jim Wilce and Kathryn Remlinger for the 105 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Jose, CA November 15-19
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