Trouble on the Frontier: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sovereignty, and State Violence

Pounamu Jade William Emery Aikman


Beneath the hilarity of Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) emerges a telling commentary on the increasingly normalised presence of paramilitarism in aspects of Aotearoa New Zealand’s society. In this essay, I use Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople as a lens through which to discuss the on-going nature of colonial violence directed towards the Ngāi Tūhoe people, exemplified in the 2007 ‘anti-terror’ raids codenamed ‘Operation 8’, and the more recent (but less well known) raids that have targeted Tūhoe since 2007. I stipulate that such raids demonstrate a return to sites of ‘originary violence’ (as per Irene Watson’s thesis (2009)), where Crown sovereignty is violently reinscribed upon the frontier to reinforce the supremacy of the state. This discussion continues Vijay Devadas’ argument that Operation 8 reflected a ‘…racialised sovereignty the very foundation [of] which the legitimacy and power of state sovereignty is constituted in Aotearoa’ (2008, 124).


Operation 8, Tūhoe, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Indigenous, Foucault, Aotearoa New Zealand

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