“Mixed Race” Identities in Asia and the Pacific: Experiences from Singapore and New Zealand

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, Social Science on 2015-11-04 17:46Z by Steven

“Mixed Race” Identities in Asia and the Pacific: Experiences from Singapore and New Zealand

188 pages
2 B/W Illus.
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-13-893393-4

Zarine L. Rocha, Managing Editor
Current Sociology and The Asian Journal of Social Science

“Mixed race” is becoming an important area for research, and there is a growing body of work in the North American and British contexts. However, understandings and experiences of “mixed race” across different countries and regions are not often explored in significant depth. New Zealand and Singapore provide important contexts for investigation, as two multicultural, yet structurally divergent, societies. Within these two countries, “mixed race” describes a particularly interesting label for individuals of mixed Chinese and European parentage.

This book explores the concept of “mixed race” for people of mixed Chinese and European descent, looking at how being Chinese and/or European can mean many different things in different contexts. By looking at different communities in Singapore and New Zealand, it investigates how individuals of mixed heritage fit into or are excluded from these communities. Increasingly, individuals of mixed ancestry are opting to identify outside of traditionally defined racial categories, posing a challenge to systems of racial classification, and to sociological understandings of “race”. As case studies, Singapore and New Zealand provide key examples of the complex relationship between state categorization and individual identities. The book explores the divergences between identity and classification, and the ways in which identity labels affect experiences of “mixed race” in everyday life. Personal stories reveal the creative and flexible ways in which people cross boundaries, and the everyday negotiations between classification, heritage, experience, and nation in defining identity. The study is based on qualitative research, including in-depth interviews with people of mixed heritage in both countries.

Filling an important gap in the literature by using an Asia/Pacific dimension, this study of race and ethnicity will appeal to students and scholars of mixed race studies, ethnicity, Chinese diaspora and cultural anthropology.


  • 1. Finding the “Mixed” in “Mixed Race”
  • 2. Mixed Histories in New Zealand and Singapore
  • 3. The Personal in the Political
  • 4. Being and Belonging
  • 5. Roots, Routes and Coming Home
  • 6. Conclusion
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Being Maori-Chinese: Mixed Identities

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2015-04-24 20:23Z by Steven

Being Maori-Chinese: Mixed Identities

Auckland University Press
January 2008
238 pages
210 x 148 mm
Paperback ISBN: 9781869403997

Manying Ip, Professor of Asian Studies
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Being Maori-Chinese uses extensive interviews with seven different families to explore historical and contemporary relations between Māori and Chinese, a subject which has never been given serious study before. A full chapter is given to each family which is explored in depth often in the voices of the protagonists themselves.

This detailed and personal approach shows how in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Māori and Chinese, both relegated to the fringes of society, often had warm and congenial bonds, with intermarriage and large Māori-Chinese families. However in recent times the relationship between these two rapidly growing groups has shown tension as Māori have gained confidence in their identity and as increased Asian immigration has become a political issue. Being Maori-Chinese provides a unique and fascinating insight into cross-cultural alliances between Asian and indigenous peoples, revealing a resilience which has endured persecution, ridicule and neglect and offering a picture of New Zealand society which challenges the usual Pākehā-dominated perspective.

Today’s Māori-Chinese, especially younger members, are increasingly reaffirming their multiple roots and, with a growing confidence in the cultural advantages they possess, are playing important roles in New Zealand society.

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Fast Talking PI

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Oceania, Poetry on 2015-04-24 13:35Z by Steven

Fast Talking PI

Arc Publications
July 2012
80 pages
216 x 138 mm (paperback), 223 x 145 mm (hardback)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1904614-35-7
Hardback ISBN: 978-1904614-77-7

Selina Tusitala Marsh, Senior Lecturer of English Drama and Writing Studies
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Fast Talking PI (pronounced pee-eye) reflects the poet’s focus on issues affecting Pacific communities in New Zealand, and indigenous peoples around the world including the challenges and triumphs of being afakasi [mixed race]. The book is structured in three sections, Tusitala (personal), Talkback (political and historical) and Fast Talking PIs (dialogue). She writes as a calabash breaker, smashing stereotypes and challenging historic injustices; also exploring the idea of the calabash as the honoured vessel for identity and story. Her aesthetics and indigenous politics meld marvellously together.

List of Contents

    • Googling Tusitala
    • Not Another Nafanua Poem
    • Afakasi
    • Calabash Breakers
    • Hone Said
    • Things on Thursdays
    • Song for Terry
    • Langston’s Mother
    • Cardboard Crowns
    • The Sum of Mum
    • Wild Horses
    • Three to Four
    • Le Amataga
    • The Beginning
    • Spare the Rod
    • A Samoan Star-chant for Matariki
    • Circle of Stones
    • Guys like Gauguin
    • Nails for Sex
    • Mutiny on Pitcairn
    • Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach, 1894
    • Venus in Transit
    • Realpolitik
    • Contact 101
    • Has the whole tribe come out from England?
    • What’s Sarong With This?
    • The Curator
    • Hawai’i: Prelude to a Journey
    • Touring Hawaii and Its People
    • Alice’s Billboard
    • Fast Talkin’ PI
    • Acronym
    • Outcast
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • Biographical Note
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Census categories for mixed race and mixed ethnicity: impacts on data collection and analysis in the US, UK and NZ

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Oceania, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-03-01 03:23Z by Steven

Census categories for mixed race and mixed ethnicity: impacts on data collection and analysis in the US, UK and NZ

Public Health
Published online: 2015-02-25
DOI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2014.12.017

S. A. Valles, Assistant Professor
Lyman Briggs College and Department of Philosophy
Michigan State University

R. S. Bhopal, Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health;Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

P. J. Aspinall, Emeritus Reader in Public Health
Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)
University of Kent, United Kingdom


  • The census mixed race/ethnicity classification systems in the US, UK and NZ are reviewed.
  • These systems have limited success for monitoring mixed populations’ health.
  • Obstacles to successful use are data input problems and data output problems.
  • Data input problems include recording practices and fluidity of self-identification.
  • Data output problems include data ‘prioritization’ and non-publication of data.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2015-01-21 20:07Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

The British Scholar Society
Book of The Month
November 2014

Lachy Paterson
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Salesa, Damon Ieremia, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 308 pp. $US 45 (paperback).

Race has always been an important preoccupation in New Zealand society. In the country’s popular imagination, its past is predicated on national myths that it had the best race relations in the world, and that its Māori citizens were the best treated of all indigenous peoples. Intermarriage between Māori and the Pākehā settlers, a practice encouraged even prior to formal colonisation, was often given as evidence for such claims. Damon Salesa’s Racial Crossings is an exciting investigation of the theories, discourses and policies that underpinned intermarriage, and the broader colonial project of racial amalgamation.

The volume’s subtitle, Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire, is a little misleading. The book is not a social history of intermarriage: indeed the story concerns itself more with the discourses of racial crossing, than the lives of the actual people doing the crossing. Its focus is on roughly four decades of New Zealand history, one preceding the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) and the three following. A reader will find little detail on the policies and practice of intermarriage of colonial India, Canada, Australia or South Africa, or even of New Zealand in the last three decades of Victoria’s reign. As Salesa notes, power was generally devolved to colonial governors, whose actions and policies were shaped by local conditions. Although conditions may have been localised, ideas flowed more freely around the Empire. New Zealand’s pertinence to “imperial” studies is that it was colonised when humanitarianism was flourishing. After earlier examples of destructive colonisation, Britain sought to protect New Zealand’s promising “aborigines” through civilisation and amalgamation. Although missionaries, officials both in Britain and New Zealand, intellectuals and settler politicians may have had differing (and sometimes competing) agenda, a general consensus prevailed that intermarriage would benefit both Māori and colonisation…

Read the entire review.

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Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2014-03-08 06:13Z by Steven

Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

National University of Singapore
345 pages

Zarine Lia Rocha


“Mixed race” identities are increasingly important for academics and policy makers around the world. In many multicultural societies, individuals of mixed ancestry are identifying outside of traditional racial categories, posing a challenge to systems of racial classification, and to sociological understandings of race. Singapore and New Zealand illustrate the complex relationship between state categorization and individual identities. Both countries are diverse, with high rates of intermarriage, and a legacy of colonial racial organization. However, New Zealand’s emphasis on voluntary, fluid ethnic identity and Singapore’s fixed four-race framework provide key points of contrast. Each represents the opposite end of the spectrum in addressing “mixed race”: multiple ethnic options have been recognized in New Zealand for several decades, while symbolic recognition is now being implemented in Singapore.

This research explores histories of racial formation in New Zealand and Singapore, focusing on narratives of racial formation. The project examines two simultaneous processes: how individuals of mixed heritage negotiate identities within a racially structured framework, and why—how racial classification has affected this over time. Using a narrative lens, state-level narratives of racial formation are juxtaposed with individual narratives of identity. “Mixedness” is then approached from a different angle, moving away from classifications of identity, towards a characterization of narratives of reinforcement, accommodation, transcendence and subversion.

Drawing on a series of 40 interviews, this research found similarities and differences across the two contexts. In Singapore, against a racialized framework with significant material consequences, top-down changes sought to symbolically acknowledge mixedness, without upsetting the multiracial balance. In New Zealand, state efforts to remove “race” from public discourse allow ethnicity to be understood more flexibly, yet this has not always translated easily to everyday life. For individuals in Singapore, narratives were shaped by a racialized background, as they located themselves within pervasive racial structures. In New Zealand, stories were positioned against a dual narrative of fluidity and racialization, reflected in narratives that embraced ambiguity while referring back to racialized categories.

The four narrative characterizations illustrated the diversity of stories within each context, yet highlighted certain patterns. Narratives of transcendence were present in both countries, illustrating how historical racialization can be rejected. Narratives of accommodation were more common in New Zealand, as the dissonance between public and private understandings of mixedness was less stark. Narratives of reinforcement were more frequently seen in Singapore, mirroring colonial/post-colonial projects of racial formation in which personal stories were located. Narratives of subversion were present in both countries, but were more common in New Zealand, where subversion required less conscious effort.

Overall, this research drew out how identity can diverge from official classification, as individuals worked to navigate difference at an everyday level. State acknowledgements of mixedness served to highlight the continued dissonance between fluid identities and fixed racial categories, as well as the unique balance of racialized choice and constraint in Singapore and in New Zealand. Personal narratives revealed the creative ways in which people crossed boundaries, and the everyday negotiations between classification, heritage, and experience in living mixed identities.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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A Show of Justice: Racial ‘Amalgamation’ in Nineteenth Century New Zealand

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2013-12-12 22:03Z by Steven

A Show of Justice: Racial ‘Amalgamation’ in Nineteenth Century New Zealand

Auckland University Press
400 pages
230 x 150 mm, illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9781869401214

Alan Ward

First published in 1974, A Show of Justice remains the essential and definitive text on official policies towards the Māori people in the nineteenth century. Professor Ward shows how an understanding of the past explains why Māori today, formally equal under the law, continue having to demand rights assured under the Treaty of Waitangi and why major issues have yet to be recognised and addressed. A Show of Justice also has a glossary of Māori terms, a full index and notes.

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Half-castes between the Wars: Colonial Categories in New Zealand and Samoa

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-04-21 23:48Z by Steven

Half-castes between the Wars: Colonial Categories in New Zealand and Samoa

New Zealand Journal of History
Volume 34, Number 1 (2000)
pages 98-116

Tocolcsulusulu D. Salesa
Oriel College, University of Oxford

BY THE 1930s ‘half-castes‘ seemed a near-universal product of colonialism. They were a natural outcome of the human activity of procreation, and not a colony in the world was without them. In New Zealand and Samoa, half-castes had risen to prominence, not always with admiration, and occupied a territory somehow between natives and Europeans. They were a kind of human borderland, markers of the differences between the two populations. Half-castes were born of a ‘queer magic’, as Noel Coward called it, children of natural human desires, yet often treated as unnatural; left in a position which could attract both envy and disdain. In the years between the World Wars, the well- known figure of the half-caste gained a new kind of relevance as, among others, eugenicists, racial biologists, colonial experts and governments found newer ways of considering them. The prevailing contemporary view did not seem a kind one. The anti-racist scientist Cedric Dover lamented in 1937 that the half-caste was depicted as ‘an undersized, scheming and entirely degenerate bastard. His father is a blackguard, his mother a whore. His sister and daughter . . . follow the maternal vocation.’

Colonial authority was built on the assumptions that European society in the colonies was an obvious and discrete social and biological whole—a ‘natural’ community—and that the boundaries which separated colonizer from the colonized were easily drawn and unmistakable. Half-castes were living proof that these assumptions were false, and daily they had to deal with the trauma their existence exposed. Unintentionally they had the capacity to traverse categories, or be cast from one to another, and this often attracted distrust and suspicion. Their variability meant that although the term ‘half-caste’ was in use from the mid-nineteenth century in both New Zealand and Samoa, the substance it enclosed continually changed. Moreover, each reconfiguration of what half-caste meant potentially reconfigured the limits of ‘Native’ or ‘European’, and how distant or different these categories were. This changing nature of the half-caste reveals the creative and plastic nature of colonialism and its terms of government. But it does much more than this, as such terms were part of a vocabulary commonly used by colonizers, and government was implicated in a broader discussion where varied definitions and understandings of half-castes might inform each other, and where definitions remained mercurial and contested. In Samoa and New Zealand half-castes attracted not only political and social interest, but also scientific and scholarly concern. The years on which this article focuses, the 1920s and 1930s, were a highpoint for this.

At this time both New Zealand and Samoa were under the same colonial power—New Zealand—yet in the two countries the half-caste category was not the same. The many differences make comparison intriguing. Samoa was a tropical, plantation colony, with a small population of Europeans; New Zealand was a temperate, settler colony, with an increasing white population. Their histories, however, are entangled, and in several ways the fortunes of half-castes in Samoa and New Zealand shaped each other. Margery Perham, a colonial ‘expert’ and Oxford don, passed through both New Zealand and Samoa in 1929 on a worldwide tour of British colonies. She realized the degree of entanglement between New Zealand and Samoa when she observed that ‘every event in the [Samoan] islands found immediate echo in New Zealand, and New Zealand’s response re-echoed back in the islands’ .Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler have written that ‘metropole and colony, colonizer and colonized, need to be brought into one analytic field’. Half-castes in Samoa and New Zealand offer an opportunity to do just that…

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Crossings: Race, intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire by Damon Ieremia Salesa (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-04-20 02:30Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire by Damon Ieremia Salesa (review)

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2013
DOI: 10.1353/cch.2013.0015

Sarah Carter, Professor of History
University of Alberta

Damon Ieremia Salesa, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

With a focus on New Zealand to 1872 but with attention to other British colonies, Damon Ieremia Salesa finds that “€œthe “€žcrossing”€ of races: different races associating, liaising, reproducing, marrying or consorting,”€ (1) was everywhere. Racial crossings both fascinated and concerned the British of the Victorian era in the colonies and the metropole, yet rarely were they punished, or legislated against. One of the major insights of this study is that racial crossing (properly managed and administered) was seen as a strategy of colonialism, not a challenge to it, and was a “€œcornerstone of the colonial management of races”€ (13), although there were dissenting voices and intense debates. But while the book deals with intermarriage and more informal crossings, there is greater focus on the concept and pervasiveness of “€œracial amalgamation,”€ as opposed to separation or segregation, as a strategy for dealing with and solution to the “€œproblem”€ of different races. Racial amalgamation was a method of erasure, of obliterating difference peacefully. A central argument of this book is that race was constitutive and elemental, that New Zealand was “€œa “€žracialized state,”€ one associated and with a nineteenth-century British Empire increasingly organized and ruled through discourses and practices of race”€ (17).

Advocates of the “€œsystematic”€ colonization of New Zealand including Edward Gibbon Wakefield proposed policies that included variants of racial amalgamation, which was a foundation of the land policy of the New Zealand Company, the focus of the first chapter. There were to be no vast tracts of land set aside as reserves in New Zealand, no separation of the races. Instead the Tangata Whenua would be interspersed and sprinkled among the colonizers. This would permit an expansive, intensive colonization and at the same time speed the “€œcivilization”€ of the Tangata Whenua who, it was assumed, would naturally desire to acquire the habits and comforts of their new neighbours. The second chapter traces the development of “€œtender ties”€ between Tangata Whenua and foreigners, the emergence of the term “€œhalf caste“€ by the 1820s and the growing perception of New Zealand as a place of disorder and pandemonium in need of intervention. Yet no steps were taken to obstruct or abolish intermarriage by colonial government; it was actively supported by authorities as long as it was “€œlegitimate”€ according to British law. At the Colonial Office at mid-century, Herman Merivale was the “€œphilosopher”€ of the amalgamation of colonists with Indigenous people, which he saw a “€œsensible, humane and practical course”€ (95), compared to the other two alternatives: extermination, or segregation on reservations. Merivale imagined a peaceful “€œeuthanasia of savage races”€ (157). The goal of peaceful disappearance of Indigenous people through amalgamation, however, had the effect of sharpening racial categories and hierarchies. A racialized colonial regime based on strategies of amalgamation was etched onto the land in New Zealand and entrenched in related legislation and policy.

An important chapter is devoted to debates about racial crossing in science and scholarship. Those who saw race crossing in a positive light drew on views of the Britons as a mixed race people who had grown in strength and superiority as a result. Organizations such as the Aborigines Protection Society, and the Ethnological Society of London, promoted the benefits of race crossing, while others, most notably the Anthropological Society of London, sharply disagreed. Influential authors in the colonies, such as A.S. Thomson, writing about New Zealand, saw amalgamation as the hope for the future, arguing that by the third generation “€œthe features of the Maori race will disappear from among the half-castes”€ (157). While Salesa notes that Indigenous voices and actors were absent from science and scholarly circles, throughout the book there is an important thread of Tangata Whenua discourses of racial crossings. A major point of the book is that Indigenous understandings contrasted fundamentally with colonial taxonomic practices. “€œHalf castes”€ found an accepted place; they were born members of a hapū or clan through their mothers and were not fractionalized into “€œhalves.”€…

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(Mixed) Racial formation in Aotearoa/New Zealand: framing biculturalism and ‘mixed race’ through categorisation

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2013-03-17 00:37Z by Steven

(Mixed) Racial formation in Aotearoa/New Zealand: framing biculturalism and ‘mixed race’ through categorisation

Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online
Volume 7, Issue 1, (May 2012)
DOI: 10.1080/1177083X.2012.670650
pages 1-13

Zarine L. Rocha, Research Scholar
Department of Sociology
National University of Singapore

This paper explores racial formation in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the impacts of state categorisation on understandings of ‘mixed race’. Processes of racial formation have undergone significant shifts over time, from initial colonial understandings of racialised domination and hierarchy, to present-day narratives of a multicultural society within a bicultural national framework. Connecting these narratives is a constant thread of racial differentiation, framing inter-group relations within society and underpinning contemporary state and social understandings of (mixed) race. Although New Zealand maintains an innovative method of measuring ethnic (self) identification, this fluid categorisation is constrained by existing classification structures and dominant racial narratives. ‘Mixed race’ identity is thus firmly positioned within the bicultural/multicultural tension, which characterises ‘race relations’ in New Zealand. Mixed identities for the individual can be seen as reflecting the ‘mixed’ nature of the state and society, with the narrative of a bicultural nation providing a macro level depiction of personal mixedness.


Omi and Winant’s theory of racial formation (1986, 1994) provides a lucid and grounded framework to explore and analyse the politics of race and ethnicity. The term racial formation describes the complex interrelationship between social, economic and political forces, the creation of racialised categories and hierarchies, and the content and influence of racial meanings (Omi & Winant 1986:61). Placing race at the heart of social analysis, racial formation theory emphasises the centrality of race in social structures, as well as its socially constructed, politically contested and historically flexible nature. Racial categories, historically created and embedded, both dictate and reflect individual understandings of race, where micro understandings meet macro structures (Omi & Winant 1994, 2009; Winant 2000:182).

Processes of racial formation in New Zealand have undergone significant shifts across different stages of nation-building, moving from colonial understandings of racialised hierarchy, to the present-day complex narrative of a multicultural society within a bicultural national framework. Connecting these narratives over time is a constant thread of differentiation along racial and ethnic lines, framing inter-group relations and underpinning understandings of race and ‘mixed race’. Despite a shift towards conceptions of ethnicity, the country’s racialised colonial past continues to influence social policy and popular understandings of identity and belonging. This article illustrates the temporal continuities and changes in macro narratives of race and ethnicity, exploring historical processes of racial formation through colonisation and categorisation, with a focus on how ‘mixed race’ has been understood in policy and practice.

As a lingering colonial legacy, the idea of ‘race’ in New Zealand as a means to structure and understand society remains pervasive and powerful, for the state and the individual (Spoonley 1993:2). As racial narratives have shifted over time, from colonialisation and amalgamation, through assimilation, and towards biculturalism (Bozic-Vrbancic 2005:518), state, social and individual understandings of what it means to be ‘mixed race’ in the New Zealand context have also developed and changed. Although 90% of the population reports a single ethnic group (Statistics New Zealand 2009), these groups are complex and fluid, representing a multiplicity of understandings and practices. Within the contemporary overarching binary narrative (potentially illustrating a ‘mixed’ identity at the state level), individual mixed identities have been simultaneously acknowledged and ignored – recognised officially through categorisation, but practically subsumed under the broader categories of Māori, Pākehā, Asian and Pacific Peoples, which structure institutional and everyday interactions. This article traces the origins of this dissonance and complexity, looking primarily at the Māori and Pākehā populations, and changing constructions of race and ethnicity in New Zealand…

…Race, ethnicity and projects of categorisation…

…Further complicating understandings of race, the concept of ‘mixed race’ has been the subject of increasing interest over the past two decades (Parker & Song 2001; Ifekwunigwe 2004). In multicultural societies, greater numbers of individuals of mixed ancestry are identifying outside of traditional racial categories, posing a challenge to existing systems of classification, and to sociological understandings of the significance of ‘race’. Highlighting wider questions about the consequences of and motivations for identification, ‘mixed race’ identities were recognised by the American and British censuses in 2000/2001. New Zealand provides a particularly interesting contrast, highlighting policy and individual outcomes in a context where multiplicity has been formally recognised for an extended period of time. Applying racial formation theory to ‘mixed race’ illuminates new ways of understanding both racial formation processes, and what it means to be ‘mixed’. More broadly, placing ‘mixed race’ at the centre of racial formation theory, this paper illustrates the shifting and problematic concept of race in New Zealand, and the ‘crisis of racial meaning’ that is posited to occur when racial categorisation is not possible (Omi & Winant 1994:59)…

…Racial formation in New Zealand…

…New Zealand’s first national census in 1851 included only the European population, providing a clear message as to which population counted (literally) in the nation-building process. A partial census of Māori was carried out in 1857–1858, before full and regular censuses of Māori became institutionalised from 1867, with this separation in measurement continuing until 1951 (Statistics New Zealand 2004:21). This delimiting of the Māori population combined ideas of race and culture, measuring those identified as Māori, but also, interestingly, those who lived as Māori, highlighting the importance of the practice of racial identities for the state (Callister et al. 2006:5; Howard & Didham 2007:2). The application of race as practice was directed particularly at those who were classified as ‘half-castes’. After 1916, data on race was systematically collected, and those in the middle, the ‘half-caste’ population, were classified by their modes of living (Statistics New Zealand 2009:11).

In contrast to many other colonial societies, the New Zealand state closely monitored racial mixing and attempted to structure private lives through colonial policy, but never prohibited miscegenation, intertwining racial identities, gender roles and empire building (Wanhalla 2004:39, 2009:15). The Māori population were viewed as biologically ‘close’ to the European settlers, and intermarriage was seen as a viable method of social and biological assimilation, as well as of appropriation of land (Freeman 2005). Intermarriage generally occurred between Māori women and European men—initially due to the population of single European men involved in early trade, and later continuing a pattern of gendered power imbalances. Inter-racial unions, as gendered crossings of racial boundaries, represented an important point of contact between the colonisers and the colonised, and a disruption of the racial hierarchy, particularly if they produced biological evidence—the ‘half-caste’ (Grimshaw 2002:12; Wanhalla 2004:28).

‘Half-caste’ children were viewed as in-between the two populations in terms of traits and worth, and were practically included as Māori or Pākehā, depending on the cultural associations of the parents (A. Anderson 1991; Meredith 2000:11). However, despite the lack of legal prohibition, neither group viewed mixed children positively, particularly as they disrupted popular settler notions of a ‘white New Zealand’. Differential understandings of land and inheritance also highlighted how colonial ‘mixed race’ differed significantly from Māori understandings of belonging. Traditionally, measurements of ‘blood’ were not used to defined ‘Māoriness’: rather, being born with links to other Māori made an individual a grandchild of the tribe, regardless of blood percentage (Jackson 2003:62; Howard & Didham 2007).

Official understandings and measurements of ‘mixed race’ were complex and often inconsistent—based on biological understandings, but tempered by the realities of cultural practice. The concept of ‘half-caste’ both described and dictated relationships between racialised groups, acting as a means to promote certain processes of land acquisition and cultural dominance, in favour of the British settlers (Wanhalla 2004:9; Kukutai 2007:1151). By troubling the binary mode of Māori/non-Māori for the census enumerators, and often relying on subjective judgements of living conditions or skin colour rather than ‘scientific’ measures of blood, the category of ‘half-caste’ ‘continued to defy categorisation and instead occupied an ambivalent and unstable position in the national census’ (Wanhalla 2004:296–297)….

Read the entire article here.

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