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  • Resistance: An Indigenous Response to Neoliberalism
  • Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu
Resistance: An Indigenous Response to Neoliberalism, edited by Maria Bargh. Wellington, NZ: Huia Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-86969-286-5; 213 pages, illustrations, appendix, glossary, bibliography, index. Paper, US$28.00. Distributed by University of Hawai'i Press.

In this recent work (published by Huia, a Mäori press), editor Maria Bargh, a lecturer of Mäori studies at Victoria University at Wellington, elucidates the ways that neoliberal policies espoused by the New Zealand government since 1984 adversely affect Mäori well-being and Mäori pursuit of tino rangatiratanga, Mäori self-determination and sovereignty. Neoliberalism, the prevailing convention that has been successively adopted by most governing bodies around the world since the 1980s, maintains that the development of a place and people [End Page 202] "previously organized and governed in other ways" (1), is determined by the growth and accumulation of capital by the free market. The New Zealand government claims that neoliberalism "is an opportunity for long term economic benefits for Mäori" (24).

The contributors who assisted in shaping Resistance are nine Mäori writers from various iwi (tribes), straddling varying professions that include academia, legal advocacy, health care, community organizing, and political activism. Resistance fuses social science analysis with political interviews, literary critiques, memoir, indigenous knowledge, and statistical data to imagine multiple ways to pursue Mäori tino rangatiratanga.

Neoliberal practice is not a new encounter for tangata whenua, "Mäori people in their capacity as indigenous people of New Zealand" (192). Resistance locates the recent neoliberal project within the continuing colonial project of the British Crown's private ownership and redistribution of Mäori lands and resources since Mäori colonization began in the 1800s. Mäori and the British Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi and its Mäori version, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, in 1840. In Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Mäori transferred protection rights (käwanatanga [government]), to the British Crown, but they never ceded their sovereignty (tino rangatiratanga) to the Crown. The British promised to recognize and protect the right of Mäori to be and remain Mäori. The New Zealand government's signing of bilateral and trilateral trade agreements—such as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement of 2005, Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) of 1994, and Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) of 1997 and 1998—authorizes corporations to purchase and sell Mäori knowledge, cultural production, resources, without sound Mäori consultation.

These neoliberal policies have adverse effects on the majority of Mäori. Unemployment has increased, thus making it necessary for Mäori families to depend on government benefits—a service that neoliberal proponents argue breeds indolence and should be eradicated. This cycle produces racism and lays the blame for the instability of neoliberal economies on Mäori and indigenous Pacific peoples.

Bridget Robson, a health researcher, highlights the growing disparities between Mäori and non-Mäori health since the advent of neoliberalism in the 1980s. Using the same indicators that global financial institutions employ to demonstrate the benefits of privatizing health care and pharmaceutical drugs (such as life expectancy and mortality rates), Robson found increases in cancer and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality rates and decreases in life expectancy rates of tangata whenua.

For a people who have not been recognized as a sovereign nation since the 1800s, resisting neoliberalism is an ongoing effort of Mäori decolonization. Resistance proclaims that the most significant and enduring ways to resist neoliberalism are found in the exercise of indigenous power in "everyday ordinary acts and 'making do' attempts" (18).

Annette Sykes, a lawyer, tells a compelling story about representing twenty-nine Mäori claimant groups [End Page 203] before the Waitangi Tribunal and the government's refusal to amend treaty breaches: "The process is doing enormous violence because of the hopes that get shattered by the Crown's contempt of the Tribunal's decisions" (119). These setbacks forced her to reconsider the forms of resistance that she employed: "I pay allegiance to the Crown to practice as a lawyer. So why do I do it? Inevitably I come back to the...


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pp. 202-205
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