Literature as resistance in the Maori Renaissance: Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Alan Duff

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This paper refers to changing race relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand over the last thirty years, focusing on how in key texts of the Maori Renaissance, resistance to racial inequality, colonial land appropriation and neocolonial hegemonies is represented. It argues that thematic, linguistic, generic forms of resistance which are important to the recuperative project of contemporary Maori writing are compromised by the inevitable impact of first world politics, economics and systems of production and reception in the white settler society of Aotearoa/New Zealand. The paper identifies different types of literary resistance stemming from the Maori’s minority status and historical disadvantage. Its main focus is on Patricia Grace’s short story “Parade” (1975), Potiki (1986) and Tu (2004) in which themes of resistance are represented through an indigenous aesthetics which also marks ethnic difference. Alan Duff’s Once Were Warriors (1990), in repositioning the Maori in relation to the mainstream culture as authors of their own misfortunes, argues for resistance to Maori cultural and economic disadvantage; and in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider (1987) and also in The Dream Swimmer (1997) resistance is textually coded through the use of universalising mythologies and genres like magic realism, fable and the fantastic, and ‘glocal’, transnational representations of Maori cultural specificity. The Maori Renaissance emerged at a time when race relations were being radically revised, and the already ambivalently emplaced Pakeha white settler was being repositioned in relation to the Maori. Their interrelationship can be perceived in terms of a political struggle over the middle ground of New Zealand culture, as the impact of the global marketplace by the 1990s meant that resistant, revisionary and interrogative perspectives were being superseded by more homogenizing, universalist discourses on race, belonging and identity. It concludes that the recent shift to more ‘collusive’, hybridised discourses suggests that resistance in Maori writing is either disappearing or being recoded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-187
Number of pages15
JournalAnglistik: Journal of International English Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


  • Literature
  • Maori renaissance


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