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Meaningful Inconsistencies

Meaningful Inconsistencies: Bicultural Nationhood, the Free Market, and Schooling in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Neriko Musha Doerr
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Meaningful Inconsistencies
    Book Description:

    School differentiates students-and provides differential access to various human and material resources-along a range of axes: from elected subjects and academic "achievement" to ethnicity, age, gender, or the language they speak. These categorizations, affected throughout the world by neoliberal reforms that prioritize market forces in transforming educational institutions, are especially stark in societies that recognize their bi- or multicultural makeup through bilingual education. A small town in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with its contemporary shift toward official biculturalism and extensive free-marketization of schooling, is a prime example. Set in the microcosm of a secondary school with a bilingual program, this important volume closely examines not only the implications of categorizing individuals in ethnic terms in their everyday life but also the shapes and meaning of education within the discourse of academic achievement. It is an essential resource for those interested in bilingual education and its effects on the formations of subjectivities, ethnic relations, and nationhood.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-933-8
    Subjects: Education, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    “How’s racism in the States?” asked one of a pair of Māori students as they passed me in a school corridor. It was my third week at Waikaraka High School (all names are aliases) in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where I did nine months of fieldwork in 1997–1998. The question was tossed out like a casual greeting. The pair never stopped walking, and by the time I mumbled “okay,” they were already a few yards away. I had visited their bilingual class a couple of times before this incident, so they knew that I was visiting from the United States to...

  7. 1 Shifting Terrains: Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Changing Nationhood
    (pp. 25-39)

    Aotearoa/New Zealand offers highly appropriate case studies for research of relations between regimes of difference because its extensive social restructuring over the past forty years—the changing imagining of its nationhood, its institutionalization of biculturalism, and its extensive neoliberal reforms—was conducive to the proliferation of competing regimes of difference. In this chapter, I introduce these social transformations.

    Aotearoa/New Zealand is a former British settler colony in the South Pacific established by the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed by Māori chiefs (it bears a total of 540 signatures but lacks some of the prominent chiefs’, and some chiefs signed...

  8. 2 Categorizing: Changing Official Regimes of Difference in Aotearoa/New Zealand Statistical Publications
    (pp. 40-67)

    Who are “New Zealanders”? This is a simple but significant and often controversial question that lies at the heart of many debates on the politics and policy of immigration, education, language, and so on in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This chapter examines the (Aotearoa)/New Zealand state’s official representations of who “New Zealanders” are and shows how they have been contested and changed over time by focusing on categorizations in (Aotearoa)/New Zealand’s official statistical publications. Pierre Bourdieu (1989) argues that an official regime of difference imposes a universally approved perspective, freeing individuals from the symbolic struggle of all against all. However, the contestation...

  9. 3 Inhabiting Waikaraka High School: Daily Life at Waikaraka High School and Fieldwork Experiences
    (pp. 68-91)

    I carried out my ethnographic fieldwork for nine months, from August 1997 to May 1998, at a state secondary school, Waikaraka High School. Waikaraka is located at the edge of suburban sprawl from a large city in the North Island. In this chapter, I describe the town of Waikaraka and Waikaraka High School, and specifically discuss how bilingual and mainstream students inhabited the space of Waikaraka High School and related with each other as an effect of bilingual education. I then examine how the neoliberal reforms have affected Waikaraka High School and introduce my fieldwork methods.

    One of the two...

  10. 4 Sorting: The Tracking System and Production of Meanings
    (pp. 92-114)

    One of the main regimes of difference at many schools centers on “academic ability.” Such “academic ability” is discursively determined, reflecting what is considered important knowledge, intelligence, diligence, and effort in a given society. Schools create various means by which to show the high “academic ability” of some students, such as giving differentiated grades to students, giving the status of “honor students” to some students, and putting them in upper-track classes¹. This labeling of “academic ability” reifies the qualities of students and creates a regime of difference based on “academic achievement,” which affects students’ subjectivities.

    From the beginning of my...

  11. 5 Calling It Separatist: On Conflating Two Regimes of Difference
    (pp. 115-137)

    “Separatism” was the term some parents chose to describe Waikaraka High School’s bilingual unit. Why did they describe the unit, established to revitalize Te Reo and create a Māori culture–sensitive environment at school, with a term that evokes moral resentment? How can we counter it? When does a division among students become a worrisome instance of separatism? Why? What does the claim of separatism tell us about nationhood in Aotearoa/New Zealand? In this chapter, inspired by a comment by the teacher who founded the bilingual unit (cited as an epigraph to this chapter), I seek answers to these questions,...

  12. 6 Imagining “Failure”: The Illusion of Māori Underachievement and Institutional, Ethnic, and Academic Regimes of Difference
    (pp. 138-155)

    “There are not many Māori in the [upper-track] stream class.” This was a statement I often heard at Waikaraka High School. I took such an assertion to be a concerned one urging action to change the situation. I came to realize later, however, that for Māori students, being in the mainstream upper-track class and the bilingual unit were mutually exclusive choices. Thus, this concerned statement was inaccurate worry that suggested Māori underachievement where it did not exist. This chapter examines three discourses that contributed to the illusion of Māori underachievement: (1) “cultural background does not matter in tracking”; (2) “there...

  13. 7 Laughing: Language Politics in the Classroom
    (pp. 156-172)

    Everyone makes mistakes. But mistakes by teachers are special. Teachers’ mistakes sometimes elicit laughter, other times, contempt. What makes some mistakes laughable and others not? Who laughs and who does not? And what does this tell us about cultural politics and regimes of difference in the classroom and in wider society? This chapter and the next one examine various kinds of such mistakes. This chapter focuses on mainstream teachers’ mistakes in pronouncing Te Reo names and on the resulting laughter by some ex-bilingual students. I analyze the interaction regarding how the teachers and students revealed, ruptured, negotiated, or (re) established...

  14. 8 Laughing Globally: Creation of Alliances and Globally Homologous Regimes of Difference
    (pp. 173-182)

    When a mainstream teacher mispronounced Te Reo names, ex-bilingual students laughed, revealing, rupturing, and negotiating a structure of authority, regimes of difference of teacher vs. student and of Te Reo vs. English placed in hierarchical relations, and the place of Te Reo and its speakers in mainstream classroom, as discussed in chapter 7. In the same mainstream class, ex-bilingual students laughed at another thing: mainstream teachers’ mispronunciation of my Japanese name. This laughter, however, had very different effects: it put me on their side, pulling me into their language politics at a very personal level. This chapter analyzes one such...

  15. 9 Dancing: Cultural Performance and Nationhood
    (pp. 183-204)

    One day I heard a teacher telling students that I would perform a Japanese dance if they “behaved.” It caught me by surprise. It was in a Japanese language class for Year 7/8 “taster” students, who were trying out each elective classes for several weeks in order to make their decision for the year-long elective class taken in Year 9. I visited this Japanese language class not so much for my own research as to give something back to Waikaraka High School in return for its generosity in allowing me to carry out my fieldwork. Being a “native speaker” of...

  16. 10 Conclusion and Departure
    (pp. 205-208)

    Multiple regimes of difference are becoming more and more common features in life around the world, as ways to categorize people have come to be shared globally (Wilk 1995). School is one of the main institutions that not only create and enforce regimes of difference but also provide space for individuals to resist and negotiate regimes of difference. School differentiates students along various axes—by age, by elected subjects, by academic “achievement,” by the language they speak, by gender, and so forth—and gives them differential access to various human and material resources. In Meaningful Inconsistencies, we paid close attention...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 209-210)
  18. References
    (pp. 211-224)
  19. Index
    (pp. 225-228)