Hot of the (Rebel) Press! My latest little text in time for #AnzacDay2016. Ta @anarchobooks! @AKPressDistro #WW1 pic.twitter.com/FElXcTBRHj— Jared Davidson (@anrchivist) April 22, 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016
Monday, April 11, 2016
Monday, February 29, 2016
Our whānau has just returned from a four-day camp for those who unschool or practice natural/child-led learning. Held at Foxton Beach Boys Brigade, it was a great space and an amazingly inspiring time. Best of all, it confirmed for me that exploring the possibility of unschooling could be the right choice for our children (or should I say, they have made the right choice themselves!)
We've been investigating/doing unschooling with our six year-old for a year now, but really the last year has been a continuation of our parenting style/philosophy and the holistic approach that we learned through Playcentre. In a wiki nutshell unschooling is:
an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the childLike the idea of anarchism, this does not mean no rules, structure or organisation—far from it! We've actively developed an educational practice to suit our eldest child that we constantly document and review. But it does mean not going to school, which for many is a radical concept. (I'm also aware that for many people, having one adult not engaged in waged labour is either impossible or too much of a struggle. We as a family may have little money on a single income, but we are privileged enough to be able to make it happen).
But as the camp demonstrated to me, the kids and adults were loving the unschooling approach. 'Free' is the word that springs to mind—not in the hippy-happy-joy-joy sense, but in terms of autonomy, independence, self-determined.
Around 200 people from across Te Ika-a-Māui/the North Island came and went over the course of the camp, which included co-operative dinners, the odd activity, and lots of play—in the bush, in the sand, at night, in the hall, at the chess table, in the tents, cabins and grass. Lots of noise and lots of fun! And it meant some well-needed downtime for parents.
A market and child-led concert showed that unschooled kids are social, confident and talented (this is obviously something I needed assurance on, as the question I inevitably get asked is how social unschooled children are). Poetry, performance, guitar, dance, jokes — it really was inspiring to see children free to be themselves; to create, to sing and to collaborate.
I was amazed at the huge amount of respect the children had for each other, and the respect adults had for children as people. From teens to toddlers, their interactions were based in a way of being grounded in reciprocity and respect.
Linked to this was the fact that the camp was a co-creation space, which meant that it was organised and run collectively (while allowing space for those who couldn't or didn't want to participate). As the website notes, 'this encourages trust, openness, flexibility, ease and self-responsibility.' Which is apt, considering what I'm reading at the moment:
Commoning is primary to human life. Scholars used to write of “primitive communism.” “The primary commons” renders the experience more clearly. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth which has not had at its heart the commons; the commodity with its individualism and privatization was strictly confined to the margins of the community where severe regulations punished violators...
Capital derides commoning by ideological uses of philosophy, logic, and economics which say the commons is impossible or tragic. The figures of speech in these arguments depend on fantasies of destruction—the desert, the life-boat, the prison. They always assume as axiomatic that concept expressive of capital’s bid for eternity, the ahistorical “Human Nature.”Of course it's far-fetched to claim that this camp was perfectly pre-figuring some kind of post-capitalist society. It was not without its faults and complexities (I would have liked a little more acknowledgment of the tangata whenua of that place, and/or pōwhiri). But as a first-time attendee with much to learn, I've come away feeling inspired, and with a connection to others who have similar values and approaches to education. Bring on the autumn camp!
Many thanks to the behind-the-scenes organisers, the parents who made us feel welcome, and of course, the kids.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
The Report of Matiki Mai Aotearoa: Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation has just been released. Convened by Moana Jackson and chaired by Margaret Mutu, extensive consultation across the country was undertaken between 2012-2015 and included 252 hui, written submissions, organised focus groups and one-to-one interviews.
The Terms of Reference sought advice on types of constitutionalism that is based upon He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti.
“To develop and implement a model for an inclusive Constitution for Aotearoa based on tikanga and kawa, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni of 1835, Te Tiriti o Waitangi of 1840, and other indigenous human rights instruments which enjoy a wide degree of international recognition”. The Terms of Reference did not ask the Working Group to consider such questions as “How might the Treaty fit within the current Westminster constitutional system” but rather required it to seek advice on a different type of constitutionalism that is based upon He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti. For that reason this Report uses the term “constitutional transformation” rather than “constitutional change.”It really is an amazing document, both for its simple language and what it could mean for future indigenous-settler/Māori-Pākehā relations.
Read it here: http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/MatikeMaiAotearoaReport.pdf
Monday, February 1, 2016
Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism is the first in-depth study of anarchism in New Zealand during the turbulent years of the early 20th century—a time of wildcat strikes, industrial warfare and a radical working class counter-culture. Interweaving biography, cultural history and an array of archival sources, this engaging account unravels the anarchist-cum-bomber stereotype by piecing together the life of Philip Josephs—a Latvian-born Jewish tailor, anti-militarist and founder of the Wellington Freedom Group. Anarchists like Josephs not only existed in the ‘Workingman’s Paradise’ that was New Zealand, but were a lively part of its labour movement and the class struggle that swept through the country, imparting uncredited influence and ideas. Sewing Freedom places this neglected movement within the global anarchist upsurge, and unearths the colourful activities of New Zealand’s most radical advocates for social and economic change.
By Jared Davidson. Published by AK Press (April, 2013). Includes illustrations by Alec Icky Dunn (Justseeds) and a foreword by Barry Pateman (Kate Sharpley Library, Emma Goldman Papers).
“A ground breaking tale of a rebel life, skillfully unearthed by Davidson. A must read.” - Lucien van der Walt, co-author of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism
“Filling a much-needed gap, Sewing Freedom deserves a treasured place within the pantheon of serious studies of the origins of the far left in New Zealand.” - David Grant, New Zealand Books Quarterly Review
“Jared Davidson has produced much more than a soundly researched and very engaging biography of ‘the most prominent anarchist in New Zealand’. This is an excellent, wide-ranging contribution to our knowledge of the international (and indeed transnational) anarchist movement, and sweeps us along in a fascinating story that takes us from the pogroms in Russian Latvia, to the working-class slums of Victorian Glasgow, to the early struggles of the nascent labour movement in New Zealand.” - Dr David Berry, author of The History of the French Anarchist Movement
“This is a fine book that sheds another clear beam of light on the complex puzzle that is anarchist history. Meticulously researched, sometimes following barely perceivable trails, thoughtful and incisive, it presents us with an, as yet, uncharted anarchist history in a controlled and engaging way. Like all good history it leaves us with much to think about; and like all good anarchist history it encourages us to consider how we read, interrogate, and assess the long and, sometimes, confusing journey towards anarchy.” - Barry Pateman, Kate Sharpley Library archivist & Associate Editor of The Emma Goldman Papers
“Many millions of words have been written on New Zealand history. The labour movement does not feature prominently in this vast corpus; in fact, quite the contrary. And within this relatively sparse coverage, anarchism is almost invariably assigned at best a passing mention. We must be grateful for Davidson’s determination to restore an anarchist voice to the history of the outermost reach of the British Empire. In piecing together the life and beliefs of Philip Josephs, often from the most fragmentary of surviving evidence, Davidson helps us situate anarchist beliefs and activities within broader international socialist currents. By focusing on a significant individual and his tireless advocacy in several countries, he indicates how such belief systems transcended national boundaries, not only in the restless lives of theoreticians and practitioners, but also –and most important of all –in their universalist message.” - Dr Richard Hill, Professor of New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington & author of Iron Hand in the Velvet Glove: The Modernisation of Policing in New Zealand 1886-1917
“Jared Davidson has written a ripping narrative, extensively and thoroughly researched, with a flair and flavour that takes the reader into the backrooms of the radical movements of anarchism in its early days in New Zealand. I am delighted with this work of history which involved my own grandfather so closely.” - Dr Caroline Josephs, artist/writer/storyteller and granddaughter of Philip Josephs, Sydney
“Sewing Freedom works on several levels. It is a meticulous biography, a portrait of an era, a sophisticated discussion of anarchist philosophy and activism, and an evocation of radical lives and ideas in their context. Davidson has designed a fresh, crisp book with visual impact, nicely enhanced by Alec Icky Dunn’s wonderful sketches of key places in this history: working class backyards, a miner’s hall and striking workers under attack by the forces of the state. This beautifully-executed book tells an important story in New Zealand’s political history.” - Chris Brickell, Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Otago University and author of Mates and Lovers
Media & AwardsReview by Lucien van der Walt in Anarchist Studies 22 (December 2014)
Shortlisted: Bert Roth Award for Labour History Labour History Project (Sep 2014)
Shortlisted: Best Non-Illustrated Book PANZ Book Design Awards (June 2014)
Review by David Grant in New Zealand Books Quarterly Review (Winter 2014)
Review by Cybele Locke in Australian Historical Studies 45 (2014)
Review by Cam Walker on Scoop (Sep 2013)
‘Denying authority’ – article in Working Life: PSA Journal, p.30 (September 2013)
‘Anarchy stitched into Wellington’s streets’ – article in the Dominion Post (July 2013)
‘Anarchist history wins praise’ – article in the Hutt News (June 2013)
Radio interview with Jared Davidson on 95bfm (June 2013)
Review by Dougal McNeill on the ISO blog (May 2013)
Review on the korynmalius blog (May 2013)
Review by Chris Brickell, Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Otago University on the AK Press tumblr (April 2013)
Video of the Wellington launch On 15 May 2013, Sewing Freedom was launched in Wellington, New Zealand. Held at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea, the launch featured talks by Mark Derby, Barry Pateman, and Jared Davidson. This is a film of those speeches, delivered to around 65 people in the historic Boardroom (38 min.)
MP3 sound recording of the Wellington launch. (38 min.)
Philip Josephs and anarchism in New Zealand by Jared Davidson in Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library (July 2012)
Philip Josephs – early anarchist in New Zealand by Jared Davidson in Kosher Koala (May 2012)
StockistsAsk your local bookshop for Sewing Freedom, or buy it online at AKPress, Amazon, or Book Depository (free shipping). To find your closest Library copy, try WorldCat.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Happy Christmas fellow wage-slaves! I'm re-reading this Endnotes #2 text and wanted to share a great segment from it:
"The theory of communisation emerged as a critique of various conceptions of the revolution inherited from both the 2nd and 3rd International Marxism of the workers’ movement, as well as its dissident tendencies and oppositions. The experiences of revolutionary failure in the first half of the 20th century seemed to present as the essential question, whether workers can or should exercise their power through the party and state (Leninism, the Italian Communist Left), or through organisation at the point of production (anarcho-syndicalism, the Dutch-German Communist Left).
On the one hand some would claim that it was the absence of the party — or of the right kind of party — that had led to revolutionary chances being missed in Germany, Italy or Spain, while on the other hand others could say that it was precisely the party, and the “statist,” “political” conception of the revolution, that had failed in Russia and played a negative role elsewhere.
Those who developed the theory of communisation rejected this posing of revolution in terms of forms of organisation, and instead aimed to grasp the revolution in terms of its content.
Communisation implied a rejection of the view of revolution as an event where workers take power followed by a period of transition: instead it was to be seen as a movement characterised by immediate communist measures (such as the free distribution of goods) both for their own merit, and as a way of destroying the material basis of the counter-revolution.
If, after a revolution, the bourgeoisie is expropriated but workers remain workers, producing in separate enterprises, dependent on their relation to that workplace for their subsistence, and exchanging with other enterprises, then whether that exchange is self-organised by the workers or given central direction by a “workers’ state” means very little: the capitalist content remains, and sooner or later the distinct role or function of the capitalist will reassert itself.
By contrast, the revolution as a communising movement would destroy — by ceasing to constitute and reproduce them — all capitalist categories: exchange, money, commodities, the existence of separate enterprises, the state and — most fundamentally — wage labour and the working class itself."
So what the hell are 'communist measures'? There's a text on communist measures here, but one Libcom posters note that:
'communisation is a movement at the level of the totality'. So it's not a question of particular acts being communising, and enough of them adding up to communism/revolution, but that acts take on a communising character depending on the movement of which they're a part. This is all a bit abstract, so I'll give an example.
Let's imagine a single factory closes down, and is occupied, taken over and self-managed by its workers. This may or may not be a good thing; I doubt many communisation theorists, even those most critical of self-management would begrudge workers trying to survive, though some argue occupying to demand a higher severance package would be a better approach than assuming management of a failing firm. But a single act like this doesn't challenge the totality of capitalist relations, it would just swap a vertically managed firm for a horizontally managed one, leaving the 'totality' unchanged.
However, if factory takeovers were happening on a mass scale, such that they could start doing away with commercial/commodity relations between them; and at the same time there were insurgent street movements toppling governments; mass refusals to pay rent/mortgages and militant defence of subsequent 'squatting'; collective kitchens springing up to feed insurgents (whether they're 'workers' in a narrow sense, or homeless, or domestic workers, or unemployed or whatever); and free health clinics being opened either by laid off doctors/nurses, or in their spare time, or in occupied hospitals and other buildings... If this was happening across several countries then we might be looking at a communising movement at the level of the totality; toppling state power, superseding commercial relations, making possible social reproduction (housing, food, health) without mediation by money, self-management of the activities necessary for this etc (rather than self-management of commodity production and wage labour).
All a long way to say that: a) things can't go on the way they are, and b) the struggle against the way things are can't necessarily be the same as struggles of the past.
Time for some more reading!
Thursday, October 29, 2015
It's been a while, but here's my latest poster for the Labour History Project. It's a play on Lenin's famous text, the red flag, etc etc.
If you're in Wellington make sure to get to this event and help support the work of the LHP: http://www.lhp.org.nz/?p=1208
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
A fundraising celebration of radical and independent publishing in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond!
AK Press is a worker-run, collectively managed anarchist publishing and distribution company, in operation since 1990. On March 21st of this year, a fire in a building behind AK’s caught fire and the fire spread to AK’s warehouse. Two people living in the building died in the fire, much of AK’s inventory was damaged by water and smoke, and the city has deemed their building uninhabitable. While they have suffered a major blow they are carrying on and continue to publish and distribute anarchist and radical literature around the world, including to Aotearoa New Zealand. But they need all the help they can get and all money raised at this event will go directly to their fire relief fund.
More information about AK Press and the fire can be found at http://www.akpress.org/fire-relief.html
Speakers so far:
The Freedom Shop
Leilani A Visesio
Kerry Ann Lee
With music by:
Mr Sterile Assembly
Gold Medal Famous
The All Seeing Hand
When: Saturday September 26, 2015
Where: Moon, 167 Riddiford St, Newtown, Wellington
$10 to $10 million depending on how generous you're feeling!
Readings from 6:30 pm, music from 9pm
AK Press books will be available for sale through The Freedom Shop.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance
By Scott Nikolas Nappalos, ed. (Alberta, Canada: Black Cat Press, 2013)
Review by Jared Davidson, first published in LHP Bulletin 64.
Lines of Work is a fascinating, at times bleak and emotive volume of stories about work and its effect on our lives. How fitting then, that my review copy was waiting for me after my usual 20-minute trip home from work had stretched to four hours, thanks to the flooding in Wellington of 14 May 2015. Work (with a little help from the weather) had kept me away from my loved ones even more than it already does on a day-to-day basis. That period after clocking out was clearly not my own time, but that of capital.
The thirty-two stories in Lines Of Work explore similar examples of contemporary working life. It brings together texts originally published on “Recomposition”, an online publication run by a collective of worker radicals based in the US and Canada. Written between 2009 and 2011, we hear from a range of people in various jobs, including non-profit organisations (which are no different from the rest). The writers are not professionals, and rightly so—the purpose of Lines of Work stems from a desire to link and explore the everyday experiences of people who work as an organising tool. As we know, “the personal is political”, and Lines of Work is an example of a radical praxis that supports the power of discourse without drifting into a Foucauldian abyss.
“In the eyes of dominant culture and the opinions of political culture” writes editor Scott Nappalos in the Introduction, “stories play second fiddle. In political life, literature is at best an emotional tool for theory, something to motivate people around a cause or worse, simply pure entertainment.” Yet “looking at stories in that way is out of step with working life. The lives of working-class people are filled with stories people share every day about their struggles, perspectives, and aspirations” (p.1).
With this in mind, Lines of Work asks us to take a serious look at the way stories can help us build a better society. “There is something powerful in the process of someone who participates in struggle finding a voice to their experiences… reframing the role of stories requires us seeing this process as both part of being an active participant in social struggles, and as a way to participate” (p.2). In doing so a transformation can occur, opening “up space for deeper work” (p.2). Stories about work should be seen “not only for their beauty, tragedy, and motivating power in our lives, but also as a reflection of workers grappling with their world and creating new currents of counter-power autonomous from the dominance of capital and the State” (p.7). Stories of work, therefore, are a “part of workers’ activity to understand and change their lot under capitalism… through storytelling, [the stories] draw out the lessons of workplace woes, offering new paths and perspectives for social change and a new world” (blurb).
As another reviewer has pointed out, “a good amount of these jobs—finance, food service, clerical work, manufacturing bullets for imperialist wars—are not the seeds of a future society but a blight on the present one. There is no straight line from these jobs to a libertarian communist society, nor are most of them (except for the bullet factory, really), strategic ‘choke points’ of capital, as the present theories of circulation dictates that we seek out. A revolutionary struggle would be waged to eliminate these jobs, not to make them cooperative”. Yet this is not necesarily the point of the book. While it may lack the “what next” element some readers crave, Lines of Work is a welcome addition to the subjective aspect of working-class experience that is often missing from theoretical accounts of struggle.
In Lines of Work, the stories are organised into three sections: resistance, time, and sleep. The theme of “resistance” “gives accounts of trying to correct problems at work, and collective lessons that came out of those struggles” (p.7). What struck me about this section was the arbitrariness that so many workers have to deal with in their day-to-day work, from not being allowed to celebrate birthdays to managerial changes to a roster. These are not tales of general strikes or historic moments, but stories of little struggles: of the mundane yet important tasks that can either foster resistance or keep a workforce down. Some victories are shared, but so are many losses and regrets at what happened, or what could have been done differently.
“Time” was my favourite section and the largest in the book. It covers “the world of work, in all that it demands and takes from us” (p.7). What this means is spelled out in rare, intimate detail, and in a way that instantly resonates (well, for me at least). Travel to and from work, repetitive on-the-job tasks, shitty customers, shitty bosses, sexism and difficult workplace conversations, racism, identity, class, job control, poor health, despair—are explored across workplaces totally different yet unsurprisingly the same. I light-heartedly explained this to a friend as “the commonalities of crappiness”. But in all seriousness, what is great about this book is how the stories connect the common elements of working life, and place our own experiences of work into an international context.
The section titled “Sleep and Dreams” shares examples of how capital invades what is supposedly our “own” time: our sleep. Who hasn’t dreamed about work? Had a nightmare of turning up to work a job they quit years ago? “Awaking from a work dream only to find one’s work day only beginning is perhaps one of the banal horrors shared most widely by the entire worldwide proletariat”. These stories of dreams and (lack of) sleep are sad yet fascinating in their own right. But the underlining idea of un-free time and the reproduction of capital (in the form of what we do in between clocking out and signing in) is a strong critique of work as a separate activity of life—of alienation. It is the perfect way to end an engaging and highly readable expose of contemporary working life, and how unnatural the wage relation truly is.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
|AD1 Box 771/ 23-8 Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, Wellington Office|
For those in Wellington, I’d like to invite you to my free lunchtime talk at the National Library on Tuesday July 28.
Seeing Red: Censored Letters of the First World War
A lunchtime talk at the National Library corner Aitken and Molesworth Streets, Thorndon
Tuesday 28 July 12.10pm – 1.00pm
From the outbreak of the First World War until November 1920, the private letters of mothers, lovers, internees and workmates were subject to a strict censorship. A team of diligent readers in post offices across the country poured over pounds and pounds of mail. Some were stamped and sent on; others made their way into the hands of Police Commissioners. In an era when post was paramount, the wartime censorship of correspondence heralded the largest state invasion of private life in New Zealand’s history.
Using a unique, little-used collection of censored letters at Archives New Zealand (the Army’s ‘Secret Registry’) I hope to offer a fascinating insight into postal censorship, state attitudes toward dissent, and the New Zealand home front during the First World War.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Seeing Red’ in the subject line.
Hope to see you there!
Monday, June 29, 2015
My paper from Archifacts: Journal of the Archives and Records Association of New Zealand, April 2015. Many thanks to Julie Black, Kim McBreen and Hinerangi Himiona for their input and support.You can download a PDF version here.
Abstract: As Ann Laura Stoler notes, “what constitutes the archive, what form it takes, and what systems of classification and epistemology signal at specific times are (and reflect) critical features of colonial politics and state power.” These forms and systems determine what records are discovered, how they are accessed, and the experience of the user.
Drawing on work with Māori/iwi/hapū groups, this paper addresses settler colonialism and its continuing impact on records creation, archival access, and knowledge production. It argues that archivists should address the way our institutions are organized (both spatially and structurally), and our obligations under te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The use of public records is at the heart of my job as an archivist. I view myself as a facilitator of cultural production, someone who aids the accessing of stories in order to weave new narratives (including counter-narratives). But this image of myself is constantly challenged in my day-to-day practice. As an archivist working with government records, my relationship with the user is immediately complex: I become the personification of the state.i As a Pākehā archivist working with government records that document settler colonialism in its many forms—dispossession, theft, cultural suppression, sexism, murder—I become something more specific. Whether I like it or not, in my role and in relation to Māori researchers, I embody settler colonialism.
I am challenged by this idea, and feel uncomfortable that I may be seen as a gatekeeper to stolen knowledge—literally the person between the researcher and their tūpuna. Both the physical space of institutions, and the process of accessing records, does little to damper the perception that I serve the government of past and present. In the words of Sue McKemmish, “the very form of the archive provides evidence of the power relationships and social values of the society that produced it, including the prevailing evidentiary paradigm.”ii
If we are to shake off what colonial dust we can within current social and economic limitations, then questions relating to settler colonialism, records creation, archival access, and knowledge production need to be addressed. While I touch on these topics below, and highlight possible organizational models based on tikanga Māori and te Tiriti o Waitangi, my polemic does not pretend to cover them in any detail. Rather, it forms part of a wider constitutional discussion taking place outside of the archive—one I think archivists could and should be participating in.
Settler colonialism is “a process in which colons emigrate(d) with the express purposes of territorial occupation and the formation of a new community.”iii Rather than just the extraction of labour or resources (although this is still a feature), these new communities settle on land already occupied by indigenous peoples. Through various means, some more insidious than others, land and sovereignty was (and is) taken from these peoples for the benefit of settler communities.iv As Edward Cavanagh and Lorenzo Veracini note, “settler colonialism is a global and transnational phenomenon, and as much a thing of the past as a thing of the present.” There is no such thing as post-colonialism, they argue, because settler colonialism—and the white supremacist, patriarchal capitalism that drives it—“is a resilient formation that rarely ends.”v
The effects of settler colonialism on indigenous peoples have been felt in every aspect of their spiritual and material lives. In her excellent paper on the tapu of taonga, Kim Mcbreen notes how colonialism attempts “to destroy the structures of Māori society including mātauranga Māori, and the tikanga based on it.”vi Not only does it impose “western authority over indigenous lands, indigenous modes of production and indigenous law and government, but the imposition of western authority over all aspects of indigenous knowledge’s, languages and cultures.”vii As Waziyatawin, a Minnesota professor and activist, writes:
Colonialism is the massive fog that has clouded our imaginations regarding who we could be, excised our memories of who we once were, and numbed our understanding of our current existence. Colonialism is the force that disallows us from recognizing its confines while at the same time limiting our vision of possibilities. Colonialism is the farce that compels us to feel gratitude for small concessions while our fundamental freedoms are denied. Colonialism has set the parameters of our imaginations to constrain our vision of what is possible.viii
Because of this, indigenous peoples have struggled in various ways against settler colonialism. For some this entails a radical social shift, one that dismantles the entire colonial system, decentralizes power, and reestablishes the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. Without this, any repatriation of land or principles of partnership fall short of meaningful change. Glen Sean Coulthard (Yellowknives Dene) argues forcibly that “accommodation of cultural differences, and even transfers of land, can be accepted by the state so long as the power relationship remains intact and the capitalist system animating it remains unquestioned... accepting these offers of recognition has only meant the continued dispossession of our homelands."ix
The colonial continuum and issues of access
This is not the place to assess the Aotearoa experience with regard to decolonization or tino rangatiratanga. But with the ongoing settlement of claims relating to te Tiriti o Waitangi, more and more iwi and hapū are visiting archives for cultural redress. With this comes the very real issue of access. Writing of her work with an indigenous community in northern Australia, activist and intellectual property scholar Jane Anderson posits this challenge:
Imagine that members of the community have grown tired of having to travel for several days in order to see any documentation about the community. They have grown tired of people turning up with documents and information that they didn’t know existed. They have grown tired of being told their own history by non- indigenous people with greater access to archives in metropolitan centres. They have grown frustrated at not being able to control the circulation of the knowledge held within documents that they have not been given time to assess; that they do not own.x
My cultural biases may cloud my experience of iwi visits, but a recent example is telling. On the surface there is excitement at the prospect of accessing their stories as viewed and documented by the state. It is acknowledged that the collection is important, sacred, and one that must be cared for. But the colonial context and history that led to the creation of the records is always present. “The colonial collecting endeavor was not innocent,” argues Anderson. “It had intent, it had effects and it has remaining consequences.”xi For example, when showing a deed of purchase for a large tract of land to one researcher, I could feel the anger and emotion the record stirred. And there is every right to be angry—both at the undoing of indigenous sovereignty, and the fact that to access an account of that undoing has to be through a Pākehā intermediary, through a Pākehā finding aid and system of organization, and inside a Pākehā institution.
We cannot change the past; nor should we abandon core archival principles that help illuminate it. But as Ann Laura Stoler notes, “what constitutes the archive, what form it takes, and what systems of classification and epistemology signal at specific times are (and reflect) critical features of colonial politics and state power.”xii This relates as much to current practice as it does to the past.
The issue of colonial power manifests itself in other ways. Research shows that monocultural spaces such as government buildings can act as a barrier to access. A survey conducted by Auckland Libraries found that nearly a third of Māori participants reported feelings of discomfort, while my own research into non-users found that participants interviewed felt some form of institutional anxiety.xiii Such anxiety will always likely to be present for Māori until they see their culture reflected in public institutions; until information systems and spaces are truly “based on the philosophies or belief systems of iwi.”xiv Yet according to Luqman Hayes’ 2012 study, there was “scant evidence that kaupapa Māori, mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori form part of a formalized bicultural strategy within small and medium (that is, level two and three) public libraries in New Zealand.”xv That libraries are still ahead of archives in this area is revealing.
Records creation and the ownership of knowledge
The question of access leads on to records creation and the ownership of knowledge, especially indigenous knowledge. Anderson writes of colonial law being the “archon of the archive.” It governs the collection and ensures indigenous peoples, as the ‘subjects’ of records, are “not recognized as having legal rights as ‘authors’, ‘artists’ or ‘owners’. Simply, and literally, they did not ‘make’ the record.”xvi This paradigm of colonial control has “ongoing legacies in archives where indigenous people still have to mount arguments for why they also have rights to access, to copy and to control material that documents and records their lives and cultures in intimate detail.”xvii
Some may argue that according to the Public Records Act the records are ‘theirs’, in that the collection exists as a cultural memory accessible to anyone. They are, after all, public records. But this says nothing of power dynamics and the many barriers to access, let alone non-western understandings of knowledge and ownership. As one participant in my research argued, western paradigms, coupled with socio-economic factors, would prevent many like him from accessing archives. “There are all sorts of ways that people are disenfranchised from accessing information,” he said, “whether that’s various kinds of literacy i.e. the most basic literacy, or literacy on the level of being able to filter and understand the particular languages that are used by officialdom.” There was also the “emotional reality of being disenfranchised—what’s your motivation to access information and know about the particulars of your disenfranchisement if you don’t have hope for things being different?”xviii
To paraphrase Anderson and Stoler, the colonial continuum reveals and reproduces the power of the state. At its most basic level, it determines what records are discovered and accessed. For example, the iwi researcher could not understand why the deed, which contained many names of family signatories and sites of immense importance, were not listed in the finding aid. Why, he could have asked, was a detailed series description on the government agency that created the record available, but nothing existed on the other party? Were not the Māori signatories equal creators of the record, equal predecessor agencies? Where was the metadata that he could search, that he could relate to? Adding intuitive metadata for Māori to existing records is just one small way of unsettling such power. An EDRMS based on mātauranga Māori would be another way to future-proof intuitive access.
Tikanga Māori and te Tiriti o Waitangi
If we are to remain custodians of documented interaction with tangata whenua, then we have a responsibility to continue changes in the archival profession. The way our institutions are organized (both spatially and structurally), and the way we approach knowledge production, need to be governed with those whose land our archives possess. In doing so we acknowledge that Māori, in signing te Tiriti o Waitangi (and not the English ‘version’) never ceded their sovereignty. In doing so we acknowledge that tikanga was the first law of Aotearoa, and that it has a place outside of policy documents or powhiri.
According to Moana Jackson, “tikanga has been diminished and constrained by the labels of colonization... tikanga has been transformed from its expanding site of freedom and political sovereignty into a subordinate place of ceremony.”xix Ani Mikaere writes how this elaborate system of balance and regulation “was ensured through the exercise of rangatiratanga, which was ‘a total political authority’. Importantly,” she notes, “both the Declaration of Independence and te Tiriti o Waitangi that followed it reaffirmed that authority.”xx If we are to acknowledge te Tiriti as understood and documented in te reo Māori, then tikanga Māori and its political framework cannot be divorced from it.
This is not a matter of ‘special treatment’. Nor is it the imposition of the past actions of others onto future generations. It is the recognition that unlike Pakeha or other cultural groups that make up Aotearoa, “Māori are tangata whenua—Māori culture, history and language have no other home.”xxi Sven Lindqvist in Terra Nullius reminds us that as beneficiaries of settler colonialism, Pākehā have no right to disown the dirtier aspects of our past: “I’d had my share of the booty, so I had to take my share of the responsibility, too.”xxii
With this responsibility comes a unique opportunity—one that could inform others the world over. Recent debates around constitutional reform show us that sincere, Tiriti-based models of governance and organization are available. A long-standing example is the Raukawa-Mihinare Model. This decision-making structure consists of three houses:
Tikanga Māori House: where the Māori partners plan and prepare their proposals
Tikanga Pākehā House: where the Pākehā partners plan and prepare their submissions
Two-Tikanga (or Tiriti o Waitangi) House: where a council of representatives of the two tikanga houses consider individual and joint proposals against a set of criteriaxxiii
According to this structure, all proposals are tested against te Tiriti o Waitangi, and decision making within both the Māori and the Two-Tikanga house is by consensus.xxiv
One organization that has formally adopted and adapted this framework is the NZ Playcentre Federation. It is also governed at a national level by the Raukawa-Mihinare model. Decisions made by Te Whare Tikanga Māori and Tangata Tiriti House are brought together and then celebrated in Te Wa o Rongo, The Treaty of Waitangi House. In the words of Rachelle Hautapu, “we have said yes to the opportunity to show Aotearoa New Zealand what a Tiriti based partnership can look like, to demonstrate how we can preserve the mana of both Māori and Pākehā in ways that are authentic and meaningful.”xxv
This model had already been extended to the GLAM sector. Whatarangi Winiata from Te Wānanga o Raukawa talks of the relationship between a Māori worldview and the organization of their library, and the development of a kaupapa-tikanga framework.xxvi Winiata gives examples of how this works in practice:
Other examples exist, such as that used by The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (which has their own tikanga house model). The Independent Iwi Constitutional Working Group, convened by Professor Margaret Mutu and chaired by Moana Jackson, has also been developing a constitutional model based on tikanga Māori, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni (1835), and te Tiriti o Waitangi. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is core to their work.xxvii
In conclusion, there are past and present examples of how our institutions could be organised differently, as well as future opportunities not yet developed. A wider conversation is needed to see how an archival model could be implemented; one that is beyond the scope of this short text. Nonetheless, I want to end by echoing the words of Ani Mikaere: the recognition of tikanga Māori as the first law of Aotearoa need not be a cause for alarm. As Pākehā, confronting our past and our colonialism “might prove liberating.”xxviii Acknowledging tikanga Māori and the overriding authority of tino rangatiratanga that was reaffirmed in 1840 allows us to create a meaningful Tiriti relationship, one that carries the seeds of a fruitful future.xxix While extra metadata and the recognition of tikanga in the archive falls short of decolonization, it goes some way to address the promises made by the Crown. By honoring such promises, we honor the importance of our collection, our collective past, and our future users.
i. Given that the state is an abstract way of defining social relationships between people, it’s not technically correct for me to say that I personify it. More fitting would be that my relationship with the user becomes ‘statist’, but I didn’t want to bore with ultra-left semantics in the first paragraph.
ii. Sue McKemmish, ‘Traces: Document, record, archives, archives’ in Sue McKemmish, Michael Piggott, Barbara Reed & Frank Upward (eds.), Archives: Recordkeeping in Society, New South Wales: Centre for Information Studies, 2005, p.18.
iii. Ashley Wiersma, ‘What is settler colonialism?’, available online at http://colonialismthroughtheveil.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/what-is-settler-colonialism/
iv. It is important to note that settler communities are not homogenous—divisions of class, gender etc ensures certain parts of the community benefit more than others. However, the fundamental fact that all settlers benefit from colonialism remains.
v. Edward Cavanagh and Lorenzo Veracini, as cited by Wiersma, ‘What is settler colonialism?’
vi. Kim Mcbreen, ‘The tapu of toanga and wāhine in a colonized land’, available online at http://starspangledrodeo.blogspot.co.nz/2011/02/tapu-of-taonga-and-wahine-in-colonised.html
vii. Linda Smith, as cited by Mcbreen, ‘The tapu of toanga and wāhine in a colonized land’
viii. Waziyatawin, ‘Colonialism on the Ground’ in Unsettling Ourselves: Reflections and Resources for Deconstructing Colonial Mentality, Minnesota: Unsettling Minnesota, 2009, p.192.
ix. Glen Sean Coulthard (Yellowknives Dene), as cited by Daniel Tseghay, available online at http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/mainlander/2014/08/book-review-red-skin-white-masks-rejecting-colonial-politics-recog
x. Jane Anderson, ‘(Colonial) Archives and (Copyright) Law’, available online at http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/colonial-archives- and-copyright-law/
xii. Ann Laura Stoler, ‘Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance’, Archival Science, 2007, p.87.
xiii. Luqman Hayes, ‘Kaupapa Māori In New Zealand Public Libraries,’ New Zealand Library and Information Management Journal 53 (December 2013). Available online at http://www.lianza.org.nz/resources/lianza-publications/nzlimj-e-journal/kaupapa- m%C4%81ori-newzealand-public-libraries; Jared Davidson, ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Non-user Understandings of Archives in Aotearoa New Zealand’, Masters Research Essay, February 2014, available online at http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/3397/thesis.pdf?sequence=2
xiv. Hayes, ‘Kaupapa Māori in New Zealand Public Libraries, p.87.
xvi. Anderson, ‘(Colonial) Archives and (Copyright) Law’.
xvii. Anderson, ‘(Colonial) Archives and (Copyright) Law’.
xviii. Davidson, ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind?, p.22.
xix. Moana Jackson, as cited by Ani Mikaere, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi and Recognition of Tikanga Māori’ in Michael Belgrave, Merata Kawharu, & David Vernon Williams (eds.), Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi, Oxford University Press, 2005, p.330.
xx. Ibid., p.332.
xxi. Constitutional Advisory Panel, New Zealand’s Constitution: A Report on a Conversation, November 2013, p.33.
xxii. Sven Lindqvist, Terra Nullius: A Journey through No One’s Land, London: Grata Books, 2007, p.12.
xxiii. Whatarangi Winiata, ‘Raukawa-Mihinare Constitutional Model - Our People, Our Future, Our Way’. Presentation at Our People, Our Future, Our Way, Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Ōtaki, 18 November 2013.
xxv. Rachelle Hautapu, ‘A Perspective on the New Federation Structure’, Playcentre Journal 142, 2011, p.27.
xxvi. Whatarangi Winiata, ‘Our knowledge, our future: Puna maumahara & the mātauranga continuum’. Presentation at Sixth International Indigenous Librarians' Forum , Ōtaki, 1-4 February, 2009.
xxvii. Independent Iwi Constitutional Working Group, http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/iwi.htm
xxviii. Mikaere, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi and Recognition of Tikanga Māori’, p.345.
Monday, June 22, 2015
|New Zealand. High Commission (Great Britain). New Zealand wants domestic servants; good homes, good wages. [ca 1912].. Information about New Zealand for domestic servants / issued by the High Commissioner for New Zealand...London, [ca 1912].. Ref: Eph-A-IMMIGRATION-1912-cover. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22908679|
There is a perception held by many that New Zealand as a nation state is somehow exceptional. 'We did things differently here'; 'we are unique and unlike any other nation in the world'. From this stems a number of myths, from 'the best race relations in the world' myth to 'our liberal democratic traditions'. In this way, the feel-good, capitalist, settler narrative succeeds in its task: the reproduction of the capitalist settler state.
One myth of New Zealand exceptionalism that I addressed in Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism (AK Press, 2013) was the idea of nineteenth century New Zealand being a 'workers' paradise'. This was important to bring up, because this idea seemed to deny the need for (or the existence of) an anarchist movement in New Zealand. In this post I'm sharing parts from Chapter Three of Sewing Freedom.
Despite an upsurge of new unionism where workers “began to see themselves as representatives of a class rather than a craft or trade” (culminating in the national Maritime Strike of 1890), New Zealand at the turn of the twentieth century has predominately been viewed as a ‘Workingman’s Paradise.’1 The arcadian imagery of New Zealand that was sold to its early immigrants—a ‘land of milk and honey’ where natural abundance and the innate moderation of its inhabitants would abolish the necessity for social organization and its by-products of wealth, power, and status—has lingered on, partly because the workers who packed up and left the Old World did not want to admit that their sacrifices had been in vain, and also because “powerful mechanisms prevented the formation of alternative and contrasting visualizations.”2
Historical narratives are one such mechanism. In Miles Fairburn’s The Ideal Society and its Enemies, casualized labour relationships and mobility between employment; the prevalence of the individualist, nomadic, and transient single male; and a minimal development of working class communities (or cohesive social organization in general), are upheld to illustrate that New Zealand society, at least before 1890, was relatively free of hierarchy and class divisions.3 One historian even goes so far as to ask whether New Zealanders “have or have had a bourgeoisie and a proletariat, and a struggle between the two.”4 Relatively progressive laws, coupled with perceived egalitarian attitudes of the population, led historians and contemporaries alike to promote the country as an equal society: a land without strikes.5 From 1894, when legislation was introduced that outlawed strike action and forced unions and employers into negotiated industrial awards governed by the Arbitration Court (known as the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or ICA), until a strike by Auckland tramway workers in 1906, there were no recorded strikes in New Zealand.
Yet such a view conveniently precludes the existence of class struggle outside of strike action. The notion that the colony was free of class and hierarchy also neglects the fact that New Zealand’s Pākehā culture was founded on the destruction, exploitation, and colonization of the local indigenous population and their resources. And while it is true that before 1904 explicitly anarchist activity is minimal, it hides the fact that from the arrival of its very first settlers in the early-nineteenth century, New Zealand has been a capitalist society—divided by class and informed by social relations of production and accumulation in both urban and rural New Zealand.
Hierarchy, gender division, the subordination of all aspects of life to work, and the constant reproduction of capital is intertwined with such relations, and whether those relationships were casualized, sporadic, or isolated does not negate their existence. Even if workers had managed to avoid the wage relation for a short time (and worked for themselves), wage relations dominated the wider society in which that labour was performed. “Capitalism is not just a social system that exploits people through work,” but does so through its ability “to turn all of life into work for its own reproduction.”6 In other words, individuals—directly or indirectly—were always dominated by capitalist relations. As one of the world’s youngest colonies, New Zealand was no exception.
It is clear that the global reproduction of capital was a driving factor in the colonization of New Zealand. Capitalist relations were “transplanted quite deliberately by the sponsors of the New Zealand Company,” an organization that competed with the British government in the quest to monopolize New Zealand pastures. In response to the American and Australian example, and in order to give capital the opportunity to accumulate in New Zealand, the director of the company, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, repeatedly argued that:
the ruling authority should put a high price on virgin land so that the labourer would have to work a considerable time before he could save enough to become a landowner… before he withdrew [from the labour market] he would have to work long enough to provide capital accumulation for the original landowning employers and to save a sum to provide a fund to bring out other wage workers to take his place.7
Accordingly, land prices were kept high to ensure a class of labourers, agricultural mechanics and domestic servants would be available for exploitation by landowners who remained home in England, helping to cement “not a subsistence but a capitalist economy.”8 This economy, geared to provide British capital with fruits from New Zealand’s “quarry of stored-up natural resources,” relied on the suppression of Māori and the labour power of the working class.9 As a result, New Zealand soon featured the evils many immigrants thought they had left at the docks: wage labour, want in a land of plenty, strikes, and unemployment. The withdrawal of labour as acts of protest broke out in 1821, 1840, and again in 1841, and as early as 1877, large meetings of the unemployed could be found on the street corners of the colony.10
One early example is telling. Problems with the Pākehā settlement of Nelson by the New Zealand Company caused many issues for workers. Class relations were deliberately transplanted to Nelson by the Company: in 1842 four ships carried 60 cabin passengers and nearly 800 labourers, while two-thirds of Nelson land-owners were absentee (remaining back in Britain). This led to under cultivation and unemployment, and for months workers and their families had to survive on meagre aid from the Company. As Bill Sutch notes, many lived on fern roots, native berries, and potatoes (when they were available).
On 14 January 1843 a petition by 'The Working Men of Nelson' was sent to Captain Arthur Wakefield, the brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Company's agent in Nelson. "You sir are well aware that we have been seduced from our fatherland our homes and friends by the flattering pretensions of the New Zealand Company," began the petition. Arguing they had come to New Zealand as "honourable and Industrious men wishing only to live by our own industry and to produce a comfortable maintenance for ourselves and our family's," they wanted Wakefield to look into their situation and improve the Company's rations. "If you refuse to stand by the working men of Nelson you sign its Death warrant & seal its doom as a colony."
The workers' predictions almost came true when the Company stopped paying relief in 1844. Facing starvation and the swearing in of special constables at the request of landowners, workers squatted on Company reserves, and in the end the Company allowed settlers to lease or buy small allotments of land from the absentee landowners.
Teething pains for the new colony? No. If class was solely based on income (which it is not), one could also point out that between 1903 and 1904, 0.5 percent of the New Zealand population owned 33 percent of its wealth.11 Stevan Eldred-Grigg in New Zealand Working People notes that many landowners earned £20,000 to £30,000 a year, often tax free, while the wages of a farm labourer were £41 per year. Female nursemaids working the same estate house sometimes earned as little as £13 annually. While an idle few pocketed huge fortunes, such as Sir George Clifford and his £512,000 worth of assets (over 30,000 times the average working wage), the majority worked, and worked hard—a simple commodity in the eyes of some employers. “I just look on them as I do on a bag of potatoes,” claimed one factory owner.12 Again, it was worse if you were female. When the Wellington Domestic Workers’ Union asked the Arbitration Court for the hours worked by maids to be reduced to sixty-eight a week, they were turned away.
There is no doubting the fact that early colonial New Zealand was a considerable improvement on the Old World for Pākehā, that individualism was the prevalent ideology, and that some immigrants did find relative freedom when compared with their past lives. “It is clear that there was a high degree of transience and that the working class was fragmented in New Zealand,” writes Melanie Nolan, “fragmented by sex and race into pockets, and by the smallest of workplaces and communities.”13
But this does not equal a society without class. Likewise, the colony may have been free of recorded strikes for a short period, but it was never without capitalist relations—locally or globally. No amount of state liberalism in the form of women’s suffrage, pensions or law-locked unions could ever abolish hierarchy, class and gender divisions. In reality, these reforms were the direct response of capital to the resistance of New Zealand workers in the late 1880s, and while they certainly improved some aspects of working life, they simply helped file down the rough edges of capitalism’s chains. As Edward Tregear, ex-Secretary of the Labour Department, wrote: “there had been a feeling (perhaps unconscious) that they [the Government] had to settle every [Parliamentary] Session with how few bones could be thrown to the growling Labour Dog to keep him from actually biting.”14
1. Herbert Roth, Trade Unions in New Zealand: Past and Present, Reed Education, 1973, p. 10.
2. Miles Fairburn, The Ideal Society and its Enemies: The Foundations of Modern New Zealand Society 1850–1900, Auckland University Press, 1989, p. 22.
4. W.H. Oliver, “Rees, Sinclair and the Social Patern,” in Peter Munz, (ed.), The Feel of Truth: Essays in New Zealand and Pacific History, A.H. Reed, 1969, p. 163.
5. Stuart Moriarty-Patten, “A World to Win, a Hell to Lose: The Industrial Workers of the World in Early Twentieth Century New Zealand,” Thesis, Massey University, 2012, p. 6; p. 117.
6. Harry Cleaver, “An Interview with Harry Cleaver,” available online at http://libcom.org/library/interview-cleaver.
7. W.B. Sutch, The Quest For Security in New Zealand 1840 to 1966, Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 8.
8. Bert Roth & Jenny Hammond, Toil and Trouble: The Struggle For a Better Life in New Zealand, Methuen, 1981, p. 10; Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, Penguin, 2000 Edition, p. 158.
9. Sutch, The Quest For Security in New Zealand, p. ix.
10. Roth & Hammond, Toil and Trouble, p. 12–14; Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, p. 168.
11. Moriarty-Patten, “A World to Win,” p. 6.
12. Steven Eldred-Grigg, New Zealand Working People 1890–1990, Dunmore Press, 1990.
13. Melanie Nolan, “Family and Culture: Jack and Maggie McCullough and the Christchurch Skilled Working Class, 1880s–1920s” in John Martin & Kerry Taylor, (eds.), Culture and the Labour Movement: essays in New Zealand Labour History, Dunmore Press, 1991, p. 165.
14. Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, p. 209.