Society for Economic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper critiques New Zealand's discourse of biculturalism by examining the role that race played in the production of two recent tragedies in Christchurch: the February 2011 earthquake and the March 2019 mosque shootings. I argue that these two tragedies are the result of what Ann Stoler (2015) has called the durability of imperial forms. By this, Stoler referred to the multiple forms of power that operate simultaneously to give form to the present. Speaking of durabilities rather than legacies frames colonial holdovers not as isomorphic to their past selves. Rather durabilities recognize the affective power of imperial forms in the present as a consequence of their historical origins (but not determined by those origins). In other words, durability does not imply a repetition or extension of the past into the present, but a recognition that the legacy of colonial histories impinges on the present in new and novel ways through the enduring strength of social and cultural institutions, affects, and other forms of social infrastructure that locate their raison d’etre in the history of colonial invasion and imperial domination. In this paper, I show how race acts as an imperial durability by critiquing the adoption of "biculturalism" and New Zealand culture's disavowal of "race" as a factor in the creation of social vulnerability. I show how the repeated tragedies experienced by Christchurch are the direct result of the durability of racial difference that is enabled through a discourse of biculturalism.