Self-determination and cultural difference


Hope S (2006) Self-determination and cultural difference. Political Science, 58 (1), pp. 23-41.

In this paper I raise one objection to the strand of Maori political argument dubbed by its defenders 'Kaupapa Maori theory; the most influential statement of which is Linda Tuhiwai Smith's Decolonising Methodologies (Zed Books, 2001). Kaupapa Maori theory links a claim about the nature of knowledge - concerning who may represent things Maori - with demands for tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) by asserting that Maori can only attain self-determination when the values and beliefs of the Maori worldview are protected from colonising misrepresentations and consequently, that demands for tino rangatiratanga are valid and justified insofar as they articulate the values and beliefs of the authentically Maori worldview. After some ground-clearing considerations, I make three comments. Firstly, I suggest that the distinctive Kaupapa Maori notion of a Maori 'epistemology' is an attractive one for anyone wanting to make such an argument. Secondly, I sketch the extent to which this 'epistemology' can plausibly mark cultural differences. Finally, I argue that the emphasis that defenders of Kaupapa Maori theory place on the differences between Maori and Pākehā worldviews actually undercuts claims for tino rangatiratanga. If Kaupapa Maori assertions on this point are accepted, claims of tino rangatiratanga will not be justifiable to all agents to whom they are addressed.

Kaupapa Māori; tino rangatiratanga; self-determination

Political Science: Volume 58, Issue 1

Publication date30/06/2006