The Uncanny Place of the Bad Mother and the Innocent Child at the Heart of New Zealand’s ‘Cultural Identity’
Thesis DisciplineCultural Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis is a study of dominant forms of Pākehā banal nationalism within Aotearoa/New Zealand. A diverse range of contemporary non-fiction texts from Aotearoa/ New Zealand are analysed in order to explore the ways in which notions of a ‘New Zealand national identity’ are created. These texts include television programmes, advertisements, opinion columns, editorials and letters to the editor. The analysis of these texts reveals a complex circulation of ideas around innocence and guilt, history and nostalgia, childhood and good motherhood/bad motherhood. These ideas, as this thesis demonstrates, are central to the functioning of nationalism. Yet they also serve as a focus for the anxieties of nationalism: anxieties which arise from the impossibility of securing the desired nation. Drawing on Freudian psychoanalytic concepts such as repression and projection, and on Kristeva’s notion of abjection, this thesis examines the way in which attempts to secure a comfortable, homelike nation are forever undermined by the return of repressed elements of the nation’s past and present. Within Pākehā nationalism, a nostalgic vision of a unified, innocent, childlike nation is used as a defence against undesired knowledge of national disunity. National discomforts, which are generated by the impossibility of repressing the nation’s history, are projected onto those assigned an abject position in the nation. As a result of this process of projection, mediated by the association of national identity with childhood and home, the fantasised figure of the ‘bad Maori mother’ emerges as the ultimate uncanny element within the nation.