Terra in our Mist: A Terra-torial Ethnography of the People of the Mist

Jade Aikman

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 09 November 2017


Minter Ellison Room


Jade Aikman


Jade Aikman

Ten years ago, the paramilitary wing of the New Zealand Police conducted simultaneous ‘anti-terror’ raids throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, targeting Māori sovereignty activists. Codenamed ‘Operation 8’, the largest police presence was centralised in the Ruatoki Valley, in Te Urewera (in the upper North Island), where dozens of black-clad weapon-wielding troopers raided homes, searched vehicles, and illegally detained families. Te Urewera is the ancestral home of Ngāi Tūhoe, the ‘People of the Mist’, who have long fought for their self-determination in the face of settler colonial violence. In the decade since 2007, equally violent paramilitary raids have continued to target the Ruatoki Valley. In each case, however, the Police have relied upon inaccurate intelligence, which has led to a litany of hastily executed raids upon physically incorrect addresses: “‘Wrong car, wrong house’, was all they said, and then they just pissed off”, describes a grandmother whose family homestead was raided in 2014. The propensity to act, without hesitation, upon compromised, unverified intelligence, is revealing. Since their earliest encounters with British emissaries in the nineteenth century, Tūhoe have been repeatedly depicted as an ‘isolated’, ‘primitive’ and ‘non-human’ Other. The Tūhoe body remains indelibly inscribed with these distorted representations, and I stipulate that this discursive infrastructure remains central to the operational logic behind demonstrations of state violence against Tūhoe, exemplified through the raids of the last decade. More broadly, I suggest that the raids typify what Irene Watson (2009) describes as ‘re-enactments of originary violence’, where the existential legitimacy of the state is reinforced through periodic displays of overwhelming force. In this light, Operation 8, and the subsequent raids upon Tūhoe, cannot be considered aberrations of Police procedure – as is sometimes claimed – but instead as nominal functions of the settler colonial state in the twenty-first century.

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