ACCESS Seminar: Purity, place and Pākehā nature imaginaries

ACCESS Seminar: Purity, place and Pākehā nature imaginaries

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In the wake of the 15 March 2019 massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, white New Zealanders were quick to distance themselves from the perpetrator. There was an outpouring of grief and extensions of aroha (love, sympathy) to the Muslim community. Seeking to show solidarity, Pākehā (white New Zealanders) insisted “this is not us”. However, Māori scholars and activists pointed out that the massacre was entirely consistent with the white supremacy that colonisation is rooted in.

This paper locates the eco-fascism of the perpetrator of the massacre within a broader spectrum of Pākehā identity. A central thread that unites this spectrum is the construction of a particular, wild, and pure nature. Pākehā nationalism emphasises the importance of place and natures, while actively ignoring how that place attachment was formed. To understand and confront eco-fascism, the points of continuity and divergence with banal whiteness and colonialism in Aotearoa New Zealand need to be revealed.

Amanda Thomas (Pākehā) is a lecturer in environmental studies at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. Her research and teaching focus on environmental democracy - how people engage with nature and decision making, and the power relations shaping these engagements. She is also a co-author of Imagining Decolonisation and co-organiser of the New Zealand Geographical Society Conference in November 2020.

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