Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Pluralistic and Monocultural Facets of New Zealand National Character and Identity

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Pluralistic and Monocultural Facets of New Zealand National Character and Identity

Article excerpt

The study explored the content and hierarchical structure of representations of New Zealand national character and identity. We argue that at the most abstract level perceived elements of New Zealand national character reflect a tension between two different domains. The first reflects an Anglicized monocultural representation of what it means to be a "true New Zealander" derived primarily from dominant majority (NZ European or Pakeha) groups' symbols and values. The second reflects an inclusive recognition, albeit tokenized, of symbolic aspects of Maori culture and pluralistic intergroup relations. Exploratory Factor Analysis identified Ave distinct sub-factors of national character nested within these two broader exclusive (Anglicized monocultural) and inclusive (pluralist) factors (or overall representations). Monocultural aspects of national character included representations of rugby/sporting culture, citizenship and ancestry, and to a lesser extent patriotic values. Pluralistic aspects of national character, in contrast, included representations of cultural/bicultural awareness and liberal democratic values, but also patriotism. The socio-cultural geneses of this hierarchicallyorganized representational structure are discussed.

What is the content of a national identity? Is being a New Zealander, for instance, seen as being determined primarily by demographic characteristics, such as being born in New Zealand and having ancestral ties to New Zealand, or are other markers of national identity perceived as equally, perhaps even more, important? By assessing opinions concerning the extent to which different characteristics are perceived to define a 'typical member of a nationality', we can make broad claims about national character in much the same way that personality researchers use trait ratings to identify the dimensions underlying individual differences in personality. Empirical research mapping the representational structures of national character is sorely lacking, however (cf. Citrin, Reingold, & Green, 1990; Terraciano et al., 2005; Smith, 2001; Pehrson, Vignoles, & Brown, 2009).

The present research provides a first step in addressing this lacuna in the New Zealand context. Specifically, we employ Exploratory Factor Analysis to investigate the hierarchical structure and content of the dimensions most commonly perceived as contributing to and defining New Zealandness. Toward this goal we first offer a sociocultural analysis of the ways in which New Zealand identity and national character have been (re-)presented in national consciousness. Based on this analysis we argue that social representations (Moscovici, 1988) of New Zealand national character are hierarchically structured.

At the most abstract (higher-order) level, we propose that subjective elements of New Zealand national character reflect a tension between two different content domains, one reflecting Anglicized monocultural representations of what it means to be a New Zealander that are derived primarily from representations of the dominant majority (White European) group's symbols and values; the other reflecting a recognition, albeit tokenized, of symbolic aspects of Maori culture and bicultural (pluralistic) intergroup relations (Liu, 2005). We argue that this should parallel a more general distinction made in the international literature between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism (Smith, 2001). Civic nationalism tends to define membership in the national category in terms of participation, citizenship and commitment--aspects that any citizen can (arguably) engage with. Ethnic nationalism, in contrast, tends to define membership in the national category in terms of a specific ancestry or distinct cultural heritage that cannot be readily shared or adopted by others.

Constitutive factors in New Zealand identity

New Zealand has a relatively short formal national history of less than 200 years. …

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