Feb 12, 2014

Kaupapa Maori politics: a definition

The tino rangatiratanga flag: the symbol of kaupapa Maori politics?

It’s election year. Expect to regularly encounter politicians who represent “kaupapa Maori politics”. But don’t expect a definition. No one – or no one I’m aware of - has bothered to properly explain what kaupapa Maori politics means. The definition has always been intuitive and subjective. Maybe that's why it's used only as a rhetorical tool when it should be used as an ideological claim too.

Kaupapa Maori research is well defined. But kaupapa Maori politics isn't. My take is this: kaupapa Maori politics provides a Maori account of power-relations – one underpinned by the Treaty partnership; a Maori account of the desired future - one where bicultural and multicultural pluralism is valued through mana motuhake (self-governance); and a Maori account of how politics should work – through consensus politics as exemplified in the Maori Party’s constitution.

We also know some of the governing principles - for example kotahitanga - some of the doctrines - think integration of Maori into New Zealand power structures and integration of Maori values into public policy - and some of the symbols - for example the tino rangatiratanga flag.

That’s a wordy and passive definition. It's also quite unclear and underdeveloped. I’d welcome others who have a different take or can build on what I've written to comment below. It might be useful to hammer this out before the election season proper. Kaupapa Maori politics shouldn’t be an empty rhetorical tool. It should be an ideological claim.

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