Representing the environment : naming places in Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island (1999)
Place naming is an important means by which humans attach meaning to the physical environment, making it knowable, navigable, and ultimately a 'home' place. The way in which peoples name places depends on their cultural identity, history, and the way in which they perceive their environment. Place names in the South Island/ Te Wai Pounamu reflect the cultural identities and heritages of two peoples: Ngai Tahu and European New Zealanders (Pakeha). The Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 contains provisions for 88 place name changes, which now carry dual names. The issue of reinstating indigenous place names is contentious and involves a cultural politics of place and identity. This thesis examines how people's relationships to place inform their reactions to place name changes. Secondly, the thesis explores the workings of power in place naming debates. It uses three case studies of amendments from the Settlement to achieve this. Insights from theories of place, identity and naming, especially those with a postcolonial focus are used to map out the cultural politics to which the place names speak. It is found that for Ngai Tahu, having their place names recognised is integral to the reclamation of cultural identity and authority over places lost to them under Pakeha colonisation. The thesis identifies a range of Pakeha responses to this postcolonial project to rename and reclaim. Some Pakeha are supportive. Responses of other Pakeha show resistance to this project and some people have worked explicitly to reinscribe the dominance of the Pakeha masculine subject over places and over Ngai Tahu. Other Pakeha responses are more ambiguous, in that the names are accepted but are ascribed meanings which recall colonial constructions of indigeneity. These are used in a manner disempowering for Ngai Tahu. In all, an intensely complex politics of place naming is identified, in which the power to name is not exclusively held by any one group and a multiplicity of colonial and postcolonial visions of places and identity are pitted one against the other in the battle to reclaim or retain the right to name.
KeywordsNames, Geographical--New Zealand--South Island--English; Names, Geographical--New Zealand--South Island--Maori; Postcolonialism--New Zealand--South Island; South Island (N.Z.)--Ethnic relations--Political aspects
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