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Reviewed by:
  • The Tourist State: Performing leisure, liberalism, and race in New Zealand
  • Avril Bell
The Tourist State: Performing leisure, liberalism, and race in New Zealand Margaret Werry . Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

In The Tourist State Margaret Werry brings together performance studies and governmentality to explore the intersection of liberalism, race and tourism. Her "tourist state" is New Zealand at two particular moments, the liberal and the neoliberal; a small and peripheral state in which tourism has, at both these moments, been a key promotional and economic strategy. Her focus is on the performance of specific forms of Maori agency within the parameters set and opportunities offered by the intersection of liberalism, race and tourism. The result is an empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated account of Maori involvement in tourism, and of the place of tourism as a sphere for the production, or "performance" in Werry's terms, of the liberal state itself. There is clearly a lot here for readers in Indigenous tourism and also in performance studies, two fields not usually brought together. The book also offers fuel for thought for readers interested in the politics of recognition in relation to colonialism and Indigenous peoples.

If all this is not reason enough to read this book, then the elegant and vivid writing should be a clincher. Werry's book is a real pleasure to read: her ability to startle with an unusual but perfect word, the precision of her writing and her ability to maintain the performance focus throughout are always gripping. One of her central techniques is to describe scenes from the encounters at the heart of her analysis. In doing so, she brings historical moments and actors palpably to life, visibilising the micropolitics of performances of self at the interface of liberalism and race. To read The Tourist State is to witness Werry's own accomplished performance as scholar and writer.

The parallels between the liberal and neoliberal eras that Werry points to are a striking reminder of how "old" much of neoliberalism is. Both were periods in which New Zealand was a "global exporter of ideas about liberal government, neoliberal reform, and indigenous empowerment" (xviii). Each was also a significant moment in the development of the nationalist narrative—of embryonic nationalism in the liberal era, and of bicultural nationalism in the neoliberal era. At both moments the White settler culture turned to Maori culture to provide the markers of difference that nationalism requires, and the state engaged directly in tourism development as a means of marketing the country to prospective migrants, "branding" New Zealand on the world stage, and supporting economic development. In both cases then, tourism and liberalism in conjunction offer Maori particular opportunities for economic and political development.

Werry's key concepts (governmentality, the racial state, the performative state, liberalism) and arguments are clearly set out in the introduction to the book and, if there is not time to read the entire book, then this chapter will give the reader a detailed account of the argument. In that sense this chapter could work as a useful reading for teaching. Three chapters exploring aspects of tourism in the liberal era (1890-1914) follow, each centering on or radiating out from Rotorua, the spa resort town that was the focus of much of the nation's tourism effort at the time, and a resort strongly associated with the local Arawa tribe and the village of Whakarewarewa, where a number of Te Arawa families lived (and continue to live) "traditional" lives and welcome tourist visitors. The first of these chapters focuses on the state's work of spatial ordering in and around Rotorua—the creation of zones of sublime nature, Native savagery and settler modernity—and the performance of raced subjectivities induced within these zones. The second focuses on Makereti Papakura, or Guide Maggie, the most famous of the Maori tourist guides at Whakarewarewa, and the subject of a number of previous academic analyses. Werry adds to this literature by attending to Makereti's careful negotiation of the injunctions of racial authenticity, and her deft use of Gentile, White, classed and gendered standards of conduct to command respect and navigate her own destiny...

Additional Information

ISSN
1532-5768
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-01
Open Access
No
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