Alan Duff: Brown Man’s Burden

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


This article positions Maori author Alan Duff in relation to the New Right free market economy which emerged in New Zealand in the late 1980s. It argues that Duff’s ambivalent images of contemporary Maori in his novel Once Were Warriors (1990), its sequel What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted (1996), and his autobiography, Out of the Mist and Steam (1999), ignore postcolonial discourses, clash with values of Maori Renaissance writing, and bypass biculturalism. Duff’s unrepresentative neo-colonialism and his hybrid Maori-Pakeha identity become the ‘brown man’s burden’ rather than the white man, as earlier liberal Pakeha celebrations of the Maori such as Roderick Findlayson’s stories in The Brown Man’s Burden (1938) had acknowledged. Although his raw style and Maori English argot have revitalised the local tradition of realist writing, and his focus on social problems experienced by some Maori has exposed biculturalism’s limitations, Duff’s work remains marginal to identity politics at the national level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-142
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Review of New Zealand Studies (BRONZS)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Alan Duff
  • biculturalism
  • Maori English
  • violence
  • New Right free market economy
  • Once Were Warriors


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