Sunday, 6 May 2007

Discussion thread: using the word "ethnic"

In our conference title we've used the word "Ethnic", with the following disclaimer: "Ethnic" is used to describe those of a non-Western European ethnicity, excluding Māori. (This is the current standard usage and is used in that context.)

We got a bunch of comments (see below). Kumanan's message was also sent through the Aotearoa Ethnic Network. (You might also like to check out the AEN Journal)

6 comments:

Organisers: said...

Hi Hannah

Looks like a great conference. But it's really unfortunate that a conference that aims to address "whiteness and white dominance", which presumably
includes invisible markers of power, refers to "ethnic New Zealanders" in the way it does.


I note the qualifier: "'ethnic' is used to describe those of a non-western european ethnicity, excluding Maori. This is the current standard usage and
is used in that context." I think this is a cop-out.

Firstly, this is not the "standard" usage a la OEA, because that's a bureaucratic demarcation of their domain - and thus excludes Pacific peoples. Second, you can't get away from the fact that it's a contested term and that there is really no "standard" usage. Furthermore, if you want to use ethnic in this dubious sense, with these etymological roots you would
include Maori and Pacific peoples as "ethnic".

It's not just semantics.

As I go on, at length, suggesting that only some New Zealanders are "ethnic" and thus have an ethnicity is exactly one of the invisible measures of exerting and protecting power that I suspect the conference would like to
consider. The only people who can reasonably be described as "ethnic New Zealanders" are those who ticked "New Zealander" on the Census form contrary to the "standard" usage implied. I imagine the conference may even
have something to say about this phenomenon.

Rant over. Hope you're otherwise well Hannah. Good luck, anyway, with what looks a very useful and interesting event.

Best

Kumanan

Organisers: said...

Hi Kumanan

im real glad someone had us up about that term, it would be worrying if it was just us that found it massively problematic and no one bailed us.

we had a yarn for about four hours discussing the title and the issue of labels etc etc

we first had "descendents of migrants and settlers talk ID and dominance in a colonised land"
but then we discussed about being 5th gen nz chinese youre always seen as a migrant, and how that was offensive etc so we chucked that one out

we discussed the term ethnic a bit, having its roots in pagans/other/heathens what not, as well as the way it gets used as an other-ring term is rough as guts, and also realising that there is a
lack of language and terms that are agreed upon around this stuff in this context

i usually use tauiwi, but thats another term that many non white non tangata whenua people dislike, choosing either 'ethnic' or stating their background. we decided we couldnt list every different group in the world, so yeah, decided to roll with a govt use of the term ethnic. yes it is a bit of a cop out, but also wanting this hui to address that term and terms in general

we are real interested to know if you know of other ways to name label

Hannah

Organisers: said...

From Tze Ming Mok

A while ago when blogging the 2005 general election, I came up with 'NWWOM'... Non-WASP Without Own Ministry.
An acronym within an acronym!
A sort of 'ethnicky' temple gong-sound!
Actually an accurate description of who the Office of Ethnic Affairs is supposed to represent!
I don't think it can be beat.

[You could add this to your blogsite]'Ethnic' disclaimer: 'This is an inaccurate replication (in that it includes
Pacific people) of the current definition employed by the Office of Ethnic Affairs (but no-one else) and is used in that constantly contradictory
context, for lack of a better term to describe non-white, non-indigenous populations.

Organisers: said...

Okay, we're sprung!

We are including Pacific peoples in our use of the word "ethnic", where the Office of Ethnic Affairs doesn't.

Hey, we should go for the world's longest conference title:

'Sweet As?': 'NWWOM (Non-WASP Without Own Ministry) and Pākehā NZers talk identity and dominance in a colonised land

Catchy.

Kirsten

Catherine Delahunty said...

Kia ora all, the way Pakeha co-opt from taking responsibility for their cultural behaviour is to claim they have no "ethnicity" - I welcome the discussion and can see the problem in describing cultures who are not indigenous and not part of western dominance but I personally use the word "ethnic" as a way to force us Pakeha to acknowledge the ethnic markers in our culture - inability to see our own behaviours,individualism,denial of the past, shoes in the house, dead family members left in the fridge downtown - as quite distinct ethnic markers - otherwise it gets back to questions of "colour" and how "exotic" you are - I strongly object to the Minsistry for Ethnic Affairs, and the Office of "race Relations" when its really the Minsitry to Support Marginalised Cultures and the Office to Address Racism, but its a great discussion
Thank you

Russell Brown said...

we first had "descendents of migrants and settlers talk ID and dominance in a colonised land"
but then we discussed about being 5th gen nz chinese youre always seen as a migrant, and how that was offensive etc so we chucked that one out


But that's the way "tauiwi" makes me feel, Hannah. That's what it actually means. OTOH, I have no problem with being the descendant of migrants and settlers.

I think you're probably always going to have a problem with terms though ...