Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Imagining New Futures: Kaitiakitanga and Agri-Foods

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Imagining New Futures: Kaitiakitanga and Agri-Foods

Article excerpt

Abstract

Introduction of a European style of agriculture accelerated transformation of the Aotearoa New Zealand physical, political and cultural landscapes. Over time, this situation unravelled the multitude of customary relationships that Maori had established with whenua. This article uses a governmentality approach to explore links between regulation of the environment, agricultural practice, and Maori environmental agendas. A key focus is whether it is possible to imagine new agri-food futures where Maori environmental ethics underpin "business as usual" to sustain customary relationships with whenua. It is argued that progression of Maori contemporary socio-political and environmental aspirations are dependent on Maori agency and a greater recognition of kaitiakitanga within standard business practice. Substantive kaitiakitanga however is difficult to achieve within a political environment that prioritises increased productivity over social responsibility.

Introduction of a European style of agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand accelerated transformation of the physical, political and cultural landscapes (Brooking & Pawson, 2011; Park, 2001; Pond, 1997; Young, 2004). Over time, agricultural development made a significant contribution to unravelling the multitude of customary relationships that Maori (indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand) had established with whenua (land) (Durie, 1998; Forster, 2012; Knox, 2011).

A central focus of this article is regulation of the environment and management of natural resources; in particular, whether the current system that prioritises agricultural development also enables Maori cultural resilience and environmental sustainability. The assumption is that the environment is expected to contribute to a multiplicity of social, economic and ecological goals. This assumption emerges from a Maori worldview where identity, culture and tribal authority are determined by customary relationships with the environment.

This article is divided into three parts. The first part is focused on regulation of the environment and introduces a theoretical lens through which to consider the power dynamics that drive society-environment relations. The second part of the article explores relationships with the environment particularly the implications of the introduction of a European-style of agriculture on Maori participation in new agricultural economies. The final part of the article applies the theoretical lens to explore Maori agency in Aotearoa New Zealand agricultural and food worlds to consider why it is useful to imagine new futures and how the current system can be transformed to provide for greater recognition of Maori rights and environmental interests.

Regulation of the environment

Governmentality, a Foucauldian inspired analytic of political power (Foucault, 1991) will be used to explore links between regulation of the environment, agricultural practice and Maori environmental agendas. This theoretical frame is particularly useful for making explicit the thoughts that are involved in the way we govern and are governed (Dean, 1996; Rose & Miller, 1992). Such deliberations consider whether it is possible to think and act in a different way. Governmentality is an "ethos of investigation, a way of asking questions, a focus not upon why certain things happened, but how they happened and the difference that that made in relation to what had gone before" (Rose et al., 2006:101). Application of governmentality in this article explains how and why Maori relationships with whenua changed as British land tenure ideals began to dominate governance of natural resources. This critique involves an exploration of how natural resources are governed, in particularly the impact of certain pressures, positions and priorities on how the environment and appropriate resource use are determined. A specific focus is whether current systems for governance of natural resources reinforce or diminish Maori societyenvironment relations. …

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