PAKEHA TAONGA AND THE SOCIOLOGY OF DRESS

Elaine Webster

Abstract


When in 2004 a Pakeha student was not allowed to wear her amethyst pendant to school, she claimed it as her taonga since it was spiritually and culturally significant to her. Through this she entered a cultural and political debate about what it means to be Pakeha, drawing on Maori cultural meanings to do so. Demonstrating the dynamic and transformational nature of culture, her actions contributed to constructs of cultural identity in Aotearoa New Zealand in a vital way, although her arguments to wear her pendant were never formally recognised. The ensuing struggle over cultural meanings and interpretations which her situation provoked has some parallels with that of Muslim schoolgirls in France wanting to wear headscarves to school, highlighting what it means to wear culture. Their claims are for diversity in the face of a dominant monoculturalism, exposed through this debate as defining cultural identity in its narrowest sense. The debate also exposes some beliefs about where Pakeha stand in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol4iss1id30