The Problem of Landscape
Thesis DisciplineReligious Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis argues for the recognition that the New Zealand obsession with iconic national images is detrimental to the development of a balanced and fully functioning national society. It specifically critiques the way that these images are created, presented and received as a form of visual piety in contemporary New Zealand society. Such images only appear to be national because they are presented to and received by New Zealanders as a unified ‘face of the nation.’ This thesis argues that national icons actually serve to hide the underlying fragmentation of ‘New Zealand’ culture and society and that it is only through critiquing the image that we can be freed from the tyranny of the image that presents a pseudo-religare: that which superficially ties us together. The underlying focus of this thesis is that whilst these images were propagated to society to nullify the voice of the dissenter and those different to ‘us’ in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, in actuality the forced acceleration of national culture and identity that these images represent has in fact created an identity paradoxically entrenched in nihilism. Whilst acknowledging that the development of New Zealand’s national images precedes the latter half of the Twentieth Century this thesis suggests that the current obsession with these images as the ‘face of the nation’ dramatically accelerated to its maturity as what is essentially a ‘patriot’s canon’ aiming to reunite all New Zealanders after the 1970’s. This occurred notably in response to the white unease associated with increasing Maori activism and pacific immigration, and changing government social and economic policies. This thesis will finally argue that such a canon is destined to fail in its attempt to unite because the belief propagated reflects nothing other than what it ‘is’ which is a strained attempt at national identity and community and not anything outside/beyond/behind this attempted unity.