Thursday, December 18, 2008


Strange Xmas, I've yet to hear Snoopy's Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen. But I digress. Here's a pikitia of some Karuparera I harvested last season. This year I'm converting half our vege garden into lawn for Whitiaua and Bruno to tear up at their leisure. A shame but I am hoping the reduced garden will be more productive...somehow. Currently working on an idea of collaboration between halal consumers and tikanga suppliers...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

STS Conference, Wellington, Dec 1-2, 2009

For those observers out there, no I haven't done anything for a long time...apologise to Kumara Rob who sent a message: your email address bounced by response (I've sent a mihi through the MAI forum site).

Upcoming is the inaugural Science, Technology and Science Conference, Wellington, December 1st and 2nd. In attendance will be Profs. Richard Hindmarsh and Frank Fischer.

I've sent in a paper, the abstract of which is below...

Abstract: The return of indigenous land to a productive role in the so-called Knowledge Economy entails the innovation and diffusion of technologies relevant to the sustainable development of this land and the broader socio-ecological resilience of indigenous communities. Such innovation is emerging in tandem with concerns for cultural diversity as political-economic strategies in the Knowledge Economy converge within a global economic space. Indigenous development is often framed in terms of participation, whereby indigenous communities are enticed, assisted or just forced to participate in various ascriptions of modernity. The research tools available in examining this phenomenon have struggled to adequately unpack the degree of participation, its particular form, and the subsequent effects upon development, however that development is defined.

This paper demonstrates Fuzzy-set/Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) in articulating the causal conditions of sustainable development for Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand and shows how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can contribute to understanding the various participations involved in such development. fsQCA is an approach that enables the rigorous investigation of small-N studies (common to collaborative approaches used by researchers when working ethically with marginalised groups) and identifies necessary and sufficient conditions towards goals supported by indigenous collectives. ANT was effective in extending the analysis and provided greater insight into the set-theoretic approach of fsQCA.

Monday, July 28, 2008

He Aitua...Dell Wihongi

While she wouldn't've called herself a politician, Dell Wihongi was most certainly a Maori ecopolitical-activist! I posted a wee profile on her some years ago when Tahuri Whenua (through Richard Hunter) first began to discuss with Dell the possibilities of collaboration focusing on her kumara taonga.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ready, SET, Go...

A new FRST contract has started within the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University. Under the rubric of Innovation Governance, the research team will be investigating the conditions under which socio-technical networks best foster technology development, adoption and commercialisation. The aim is to substantially improve innovation outcomes and innovation governance by providing this critical knowledge to enhance policy decision-making by key sector organisations and government, leading to increased development and uptake of innovative technologies within New Zealand.

The research addresses Theme 2, Priority 2 of the Foundations SET portfolio – Enabling sustainable technology development through understanding technologies in context. The three year study will undertake an international comparison, examine three sectorts (energy, building and Maori agribusiness) and also closely investigate selected innovations.

On a personal note i have been engaged as a fulltime Research Officer for this project, and hope to contribute a greater understanding of the technological context for Maori development. At a recent workshop on New Maori Ventures hosted by FOMANA Capital Ltd., the arena of innovation governance was fleshed out by Professors' Mark Ahn and Michael Meeks. The worksshop outlined the broader commercial context of innovation - Angel investors, Venture Capital - and presented case studies of successful and unsuccessful commercial innovation. This context is the important front-end of innovation. What we in the SET project are wanting to describe and analyse is the all-important end-user, the farm labourer who has to dress the pastures with nitrogen-inhibitors, check stock health, or the builder who chooses the insulation method (or not).

Anyways, the workshop was great fun, a good group, and everything to play for! Nga mihi nui ki a koutou!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Maori Bioprotection: A Conceptual Framework of Modern Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

Draft of a paper I'm working on at the mo'...

Given that all environmental concerns are, at some level, political-economic concerns, issues pertaining to sustainability have seen a convergence of collaborative state-directed science policy, commercial ventures, and the reappraisal by all societies of environmental management. The resulting research, science and technology (RS&T) strategies seek to promote innovation in economic, environmental and social contexts such that one or a combination of contexts is made more resilient. Where the reappraisal includes the insights of indigenous peoples, cultural resilience, always an implicit if contested goal, is made quite explicit by indigenous peoples themselves as they engage in knowledge production activities and attempt to direct their own development.

The conjunction between globalised commerce, regional biotic resources and locally-attuned indigenous ventures provides exemplary case studies of how development (sustainable or otherwise) and its associated RS&T programmes collaborate with indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples will, as a matter of course, seek access to exogenous innovations that are commonly framed as originating with so-called Western science. This paper calls for a shift in emphasis from the historically fundamental but fragmented Traditional Ecological Knowledge(s) to collaborative attempts to answer contemporary challenges to sustainable development. This paper outlines the history of this shift, identifies the fundamental features of the new collaborative efforts made by one indigenous people, the Maori of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and describes institutional adaptations in enabling greater socio-ecological resilience.

Indigenous peoples have an unfortunately close perspective of unsustainable development during the period of supposedly Enlightened interpretation of humanity’s place with each other and within the world. Colonial and modernisation practice presented themselves as a foregone history comprised of the outward diffusion from the spiritual and material ‘core’ of civilisation to a physically and psychologically distant and therefore traditional, backward, and imitative periphery (Blaut 1987, 1993). This paper argues that the significant changes effected by the techno-ecological imperialism of the Post-Colombian trade and transfer of biotic resources (Crosby 1986) conflates high profile epistemological contests but far from diminishing the requirement of accumulating new knowledge for indigenous peoples, positions that knowledge as necessary (though clearly not sufficient) for their reassertion of historical ownership.

Post-colonial critiques have highlighted how the dismantling and diminution of indigenous cultures was an integral component of the supposedly civilising mission of Europeans (Bishop 1996; Walker 1996; Smith 1999; Coates 2004). However, a remarkable ‘shift in respect’ has lead to some indigenous peoples finding themselves courted as collaborators in the drive for (hopefully) sustainable growth, a position not known since the early days of colonisation. The previously distrusted counter-diffusion of what James Blaut called ‘ideological contagions’, of indigenous philosophies, epistemologies and practices, is now encouraged as some sort of panacea for the ills of Western-framed developmental strategies. While proof on concept may exist for this argument, the always limited academic resources have tended to coalesce around the stimulating politics of identity without seriously supporting the evermore difficult politics of redistribution. This phenomenon can be observed within programmes focusing on indigenous ecological knowledge where attempts to secure such knowledge in the aid of Western norms of conservation and anthropological curiosity have acted to temper indigenous self-determination.

Indigenous societies such as Maori, the first people of Aotearoa/new Zealand, increasingly see their cultural resilience as a topic for research but consider it tightly bound to economic growth in a global context where the endogenous invention of new ways is no longer sufficient, and the timely adoption of exogenous new ways is now necessary. Ironically, it is Maori commercial ventures which display precisely the synthesis of indigenous culture and Western science that is sought from within what increasingly appear as isolated academic cultural enclaves. Maori and other indigenous groups thus accumulate and utilise a distinctly modern ecological knowledge comprised of traditional values in formulating contemporary capitalism as they seek to recolonise their own lands and form new civic spaces.

1492 and all that: A (Very) Brief History of Indigenous KnowledgeThe title of this subsection makes two allusions. The first is to the year of one of the more significant meetings in history, that of the so-called Old World (Europe) and the New World (‘new’ to Europeans of course!). Until very recently, this meeting was often described as the discovery of America by Christopher Colombus, the proving of the world as round, an expansion of the world’s known boundaries, a dramatic and beneficial increase in the world’s trade and exchange opportunities and so on. The second allusion is to a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the history of England by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, called “1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates”. Originally serialised by Punch magazine, it was published by Methuen in 1930 and is a humorous take on the Whiggish interpretation of history that sees history as a progression to be understood by a single narrative of a somehow natural human history. The two dates referenced by Seller and Yeatman are 1066 for the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion of Britain, and 55 BC and the first Roman invasion of Britain under Julius Caesar. The Roman Conquest is the first of 103 historical events in the book characterised as a ‘Good Thing’ “…since the Britons were only natives at that time”.

The joke, if it need be explained, is that the Britons – exemplary empire builders – framed what it was to be ‘native’ from the 16th Century onwards, along with several of their European neighbours. For with the discovery of an entire new world populated by radically different peoples, the Enlightenment ideal of ‘one Mankind’ was shockingly contradicted. Whereas heathens were considered to abide outside of the Kingdom of Heaven, those found living in the Americas were beyond the ‘kingdom of civilisation’, existing as nothing more than savages (Sachs 1992). Heathens were merely geographically remote whereas savages inhabited a juvenile stage of history. The contradiction could be resolved by conceiving the ‘multiplicity of cultures in space’ as representing the “…succession of stages of time” (ibid., p. 104). Thus were indigenous peoples thought to need paternal guidance along the path of development, the rules and means of which were already extant in European society. The table below gives an outline of the dichotomous concepts employed in this discourse.

Table 1: Core/Periphery characteristics according to 19th Century diffusionist thought

Characteristics of European Core
rationality, intellect,
abstract thought
theoretical reasoning, mind, discipline
spontaneity, sanity

Characteristics of Indigenous Periphery
irrationality, emotion, instinct
concrete thought
empirical, practical reasoning

Source: Blaut 1993: 17 (see also Said 1979; Habermas 1971: 93; and Smith 1999: 53, Table 2.1).

While these dichotomies may have been applied to earlier historical conquests, Western colonial expansion ca. 1750 onwards occurred within a different mode of production (capitalism) and in conjunction with a radically different means of production (industrialism), both of which were bolstered by a new ‘philosophy’ (science) (Hobsbawm 1973). This greatly increased the geographical reach of colonisation and multiplied the complexity of interaction, especially once the mass migration of European settlers took place. The contemporary position of indigenous peoples is too often glossed as philosophically admirable, an often animist, always eco-centric, perspective that sees their cultures – once disdained and even forcibly banned – now featuring prominently in the debate on cultural diversity. This prominence has two foundations. First there is the demand for social justice in the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination (Coates 2004; Walker 1996b). Second, it is increasingly acknowledged that indigenous peoples have accrued unique ecological insight through the intimate occupation of their historical territories. This knowledge (variously termed Indigenous Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Traditional Knowledge see Berkes 2001) is increasingly incorporated into regional sustainability discourse (Johannes 1981; Eade 1992; Berkes 2001; Musisi 2004). The animism thus goes full circle, as indigenous knowledge diversity is not just analogous to biological diversity (with its role in ecological resilience) but integral to socio-cultural diversity and thus socio-ecological resilience.

Of course the term ‘knowledge’ has a very broad application. In words from the World Bank it can be seen as “any trick, technique, or insight” that allows an economy to produce more out of its existing resources. (Commission on Growth and Development 2008: 41). And what knowledge do indigenous peoples consider important at the start of the 21st Century? Why, all the knowledges (plural) considered important by non-indigenous peoples! While the classical variables in the equation of production are land, labour, and capital, the knowledge of their successful combination includes not only codified knowledge but also the tacit knowledge acquired through experience that, for oral cultures such as Maori, are equally valued, being passed on carefully and selectively. Whereas much debate within the new Knowledge Economies concerns ideas for making more things, cheaper things, or new things, there is also the accumulated wisdom of individual and collective experience. The World Banks Commission on Growth and Development, for instance, notes the invention of the separation of powers between three branches of government, and the checks and balances it ensures, as “possibly one of the most creative and influential innovations of the last few centuries” (ibid., p. 41). While the World Bank may be forgiven its Western bias (after all the ‘three branches’ do not prevent the genocide of indigenous peoples reoccurring), this does emphasise the importance of institutional innovations that are refined through trial and error in the search for ever greater security, resilience and, dare we broach it, happiness!

Indigenous Knowledge TraditionsBefore we can discuss how indigenous peoples use and contribute to modern knowledge systems, and therefore seek their own security and, let us repeat it, happiness, we need at least a superficial understanding of how they undertook such activities in the past. Lurking in the background remain our Heathens and Savages, ascriptive states of unknowing (but enquiring) and unknowable (and therefore irrelevant). To provide some focus, and to build a socio-ecological appreciation, this section will use agriculture as the canvas for epistemological doodling, secure in the knowledge of its continued relevance. And I want to leap over interpretations of indigenous and Western knowledges that founder on arbitrary (but not irrelevant) criteria of rigour: observations are made in both; information is accumulated; there are systems, there is storage, and knowledge is mutually constitutive of its subsequent transmission. And can we ignore the semantics of science, knowledge, belief, and so on and accept the commensurability of indigenous insight with Western science explicitly noted in biology, particularly taxonomy (but see anyway Roberts 1998; Johannes 1981) and within ethnoscience, human ecology, and in (some) development programmes (Sillitoe 1998; cf. Rahnema 1992). The gradual, often grudging, recognition of indigenous knowledge and institutions is often accompanied by rather inexorable social movements concerning jurisdiction and sovereignty (De Lacy 1994; Young 1992; Usher and Bankes 1994; Berkes 1998; Morrison et al., 1994b, 1994c). Although the contribution of indigenous knowledge to improved environmental management is increasingly acknowledged, idealising the potential of this knowledge can be self-defeating, particularly in times of rapid and extensive change (Sillitoe, 1998). The localised relevance of indigenous knowledge is a significant hindrance to its incorporation into large-scale development strategies, and the impact of external, increasingly transnational, influence has led to the fragmentation of traditional societies, and by association the transfer of this type of knowledge. But like ‘Western’ knowledge, indigenous knowledge seeks to understand the natural world, and both claim a legitimacy that is ultimately connected to jurisdiction and civic society (Carew-Reid, 1989; Roberts, 1998).

The binary pairs listed in Table 1 have been applied to Māori vis-à-vis Europeans, as recorded in myriad letters and journal entries of visitors and officials, and official documents of successive New Zealand governments (see, e.g., McNab 1908-1914). And yet there has always been a categorisation of peoples. Many early explorers of New Zealand could not accept that such an advanced culture could have come about through endogenous means and assumed a European origin for Māori culture. The ‘search’ for non-Polynesian origins to Māori culture considered Egypt, Israel, India and the Celts as possible origins of Māori culture, that is the ‘core’ from which Māori diffused and, by implication, degraded (Underwood 2000). Although this search was essentially racist in dismissing self-determined Māori development, the belief that Māori could be ‘redeemed’ allowed that their exposure to innovation might not be wasted (Belich 1996). This was the position of the Church Missionary Society who put prospective missionaries through two years training if destined for New Zealand, as against three for India (ibid., p. 135).

The actual processes of assimilating or collaborating with indigenous knowledge systems (the two are flipsides of the ‘Contact’ coin) can be better understood by examining case studies. Too often our Romantic views of indigenous peoples – perhaps inherited from the fantasies of South Sea sailors finding welcome succour in tropical havens – impinge our analytical starting points. If there is one common acknowledgment by Maori of their cultural evolution alongside those European cultures that established themselves in New Zealand it is the pragmatic nature of the decisions made by Maori to accommodate the new ways.

Background to Modern Indigenous Knowledge: The National Centre for Advanced Bioprotection TechnologiesIn seeking to describe and define contemporary Maori ecological knowledge through a dissection of Maori bioprotection, this paper has described where such a term might have originated, namely traditional indigenous knowledge systems. But where did the concept of ‘bioprotection’ come from? This section outlines the origins of the term from the recent history of a research programme that specifically sought the engagement of two distinct knowledge bases: Western science and matauranga Māori. As such it presents an institutional analysis but lest this seems a little dull – who reading this doesn’t reflect upon the very institutions of modern life on a daily basis! – these institutions claim to be contributing to the knowledge needed for nothing less than the survival of humankind (or at least small taxpaying chunks of it!).

In 2001, the New Zealand government initiated a fund for Centres of Research Excellence (CoRE) with five Centres funded in 2002 and a further two in 2003 (Williamson and Mann 2002). One of those established in 2003 was the National Centre for Advanced Bioprotection Technologies (NCABT) which saw the establishment of four research programmes: agri-biotechnologies, biosecurity, biocontrol and matauranga Māori bioprotection. In addition to staff of the host institution, Lincoln University, researchers from ten other research institutions were to be involved, exhibiting the ‘synergies’ sought by the government. Before examining how Maori were conceptually and practically to engage in bioprotection discourse, a brief outline of the three other collaborative themes will show what neighbours – literally and figuratively – Maori were to have.

While unpacking the theoretical and practical tangents of any collaboration Maori may choose to undertake could comprise a lifetimes work, I will take a most simplistic and merely consider briefly each of the five key words under which the National Centre for Advanced Bioprotection Technologies chooses to identify itself. While the first two may appear the least problematic, locating a ‘National Centre’ of anything in a long skinny country of four million people with ongoing economic vulnerabilities is subject to intense lobbying (Williamson and Mann 2002; Benfell 2003). ‘Advanced’ might be considered a redundant term – who after all would deign to work in a ‘Backward’ research institution?! I see it as an explicit nod to modernity’s almost frantic assumption of progress, more the verb ‘advancing’ than the connotation of evolved.

Bioprotection remains the term we are attempting to define to understand how Maori might be expected to contribute to and benefit from this area of knowledge. The entomologists probably do not need an etymologist to divine the word indicates life and living organisms (from the Greek bios), although we also see the term applied to specifically human life histories and even individual careers. This second connotation might have some relevance given the second half of the dyad: what exactly is being protected, for who and for what purpose? But first what bios does the NCABT investigate? The NCABT’s website provides some coordinates we can locate bioprotection. Theme 1, Biosecurity, seeks to detect “…unwanted organisms at the border using sensor technology and molecular diagnostics” and then develop “intelligent computing systems to predict the potential of new organisms to become pests.” Theme 2, Biocontrol, seeks to manage “…weeds, pests and diseases using environmentally friendly biocontrol agents that are an alternative to chemical pesticides ”. Theme 3, Agri-Biotechnology, will investigate “…the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions” and develop “advanced biotechnologies to confer resistance to pests or pathogens. Theme 4 is somewhat different (for reasons implicit in my interpretation of ‘Advanced’ as the questing van of modernity). Thus the Matauranga Maori Bio-Protection team will research “…bio-protection techniques that are acceptable to Maori growers by incorporating Maori perspectives and tikanga into bioprotection strategies”.

While a perusal of the research publications would, we hope, provide better insight, one could do worse than stroll along the corridors of the research centre itself for the walls are replete with graphics depicting the very bios under examination. [pretty pix still to come!]

The ‘Matauranga Māori’ theme shows all the rhetorical characteristics sought by the government’s various directives to ‘respond’ to Māori, and to seek innovation from resulting collaboration. The project was titled “Indigenous Knowledge and Agri-development” and explicitly sought innovation which was seen as emanating from ‘the border’ between four disciplines: Māori science, matauranga Māori, traditional ecological knowledge and Western science. The relevant section of the proposal is reproduced below:

In Māori terms, social development must be built on economical development that is environmentally sustainable and cognizant of tikanga Māori values such as kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, and rangatiratanga. However, this development must also be informed by innovative bio-protection technologies that originate from Westernised science. … Research at the border between Māori science, matauranga Māori, traditional ecological knowledge and Western science will lead to innovation, the creation of new knowledge and a new paradigm – one that is better equipped to deal with many of the issues confronting agricultural and horticultural development in NZ. (CoRE Fund Application Number 02-LIN-501, p. 22; emphasis in the original)

From this stage, I was involved in ongoing Theme 4 meetings in which the research programme was debated, as well as networking with several groups of Maori growers who were formalising their activities into an organisation that ultimately became the National Collective of Maori Vegetable Growers (Lambert 2008). The key research outcome (i.e., for the NCABT) was to be the identification of “…bioprotection strategies used by a ‘Representative Group of Maori Growers” (benighted with its own acronym, RGMG. This and following references are taken from meeting notes and team communications). The initial approach was hypothetico-deductive; a null hypothesis was posited, “…that there are no strategies or practices that can be identified and described as specifically ‘Māori’”. The key outcome for Maori growers was to be an improvement in the productive capacity of their lands and an increase in their income.

An interesting additional outcome for the NCABT was suggested: What political applications e.g., branding and scientific validity, do any Māori specific bioprotection strategies have? These applications were to be subject to ‘testing and experimentation’, presumably by market success and the preferred deductive methodology respectively. In this they hearken back to two criteria by which actions are to be validated, namely profit and scientific rationality, fundamental to the modernity framing the Western Science that comprises one half of the dyad to be examined by Theme 4, the other being traditional indigenous horticultural praxis.

Yet a methodological paradox was written in to the foundation of the research programme in that it was to be participatory, specifically the engagement with Maori growers was to be undertaken according to Participatory Action Research principles. This proved rather problematic, notwithstanding the ethnicity of all team members being Maori. As the NCABT Theme 4 research programme evolved, it became less and less specific, seeking to help enable the ‘sustainable development’ of Māori horticulture and ‘innovate’ for the economic development of Māori and the wider New Zealand economy. A research review of the NCABT in 2006 presented the following picture:

We have investigated how best to do research within a knowledge system that is currently the subject of its own discourse, and to facilitate research and knowledge production at the border between two seemingly disparate epistemes. In addition, it has considered how to achieve this in the absence of any theoretical or conceptual frameworks to integrate these epistemes. To meet these challenges, the Matauranga Maori Bio-Protection programme has been, and will continue to be, highly participatory. One of the key drivers is case study work with Maori grower groups throughout the country. These studies have been supplemented by analyses of literature on historic and traditional Maori horticulture, to produce a better understanding of the traditional-contemporary continuum of Maori horticulture. A broad conceptual framework for matauranga Maori bio-protection has then been developed around a number of common themes and trends.

What had been a ‘border’ between Māori science, matauranga Māori, traditional ecological knowledge and Western science has now become a continuum, perhaps reflecting the progress from pre-contact savagery to the modernisation of Western civilisation. What were clearer for Theme 4 were the Maori concepts applicable to bioprotection.

The framework can be conceptualised as four pou koko (corner posts) around a pou tokomanawa (centre pillar). The pou koko can be expressed as taonga, kaitiaki, tikanga and ritenga, and the pou tokomanawa theorised as the mauri, life essence or sustainability of the taonga or resource (CoRE 2007: 29).

Thus five Maori terms are thrust to our attention, namely taonga, kaitiaki, tikanga, ritenga and mauri, each of which comprises the foundation for conceptualising Maori bioprotection. A definition is provided for taonga, namely ‘resource’, and by implication the horticultural resources of land and crops. Kaitiaki are the people who individually and collectively act as guardians of, in this case, the horticultural resources of Maori, by which is meant Maori growers (ibid.). Tikanga are generally interpreted as the rules, accumulated over time and in accordance with Maori custom, by which Maori interact with themselves and their world. The CoRE actually asserts tikanga to be values in the context of Maori bioprotection, naming kaitiakitanga – the phenomenon of guardianship – as an example. This leaves ritenga which takes on aspects of tikanga but is more practically aligned to horticultural practise (the example of the Maori lunar calendar, or maramataka, is given).

Using the corner posts and a central pillar kindly supplied, we can see the NCABT posits Maori bioprotection to be built on the assemblages of Maori growers that align their horticulture in a manner cognisant with their traditional knowledge systems. And conceiving Maori bioprotection through recourse to Maori concepts is perhaps the only approach likely to work (i.e., be accepted by Maori).

But Theme 4 researchers do themselves a disservice in assuming they work “in the absence of any theoretical or conceptual frameworks to integrate” the seemingly ‘disparate epistemes’ of matauranga Maori and the Western science of biosecurity, biocontrol, and agri-biotechnology. For what is philosophy if not the love of knowledge taken to the level of complex, evolving, and accumulating study and debate, for individuals and institutions? Again it is early days, so let us continuing walking through the signage of the Pakeha and Maori coordinates for accumulative agro-ecological productivity.

Another brief, but even older, background: Episteme, Techne and PhronesisThus far we can only say the NCABT is focused on somehow improving the productive use of lands and crops, without diminishing the resilience of these assets for ongoing use, indeed into the foreseeable future as per the explicit discourse of sustainability. And so the final term: ‘Technologies’? Surely as simple as nationalising and centring any research major research programme: it just what research utilises and improves…isn’t it? Much as I would direct readers wishing to understand the complexities behind Maori terms, such as the four noted in the original proposal, to the culture from which they arose, and the people who tend them through daily use, perhaps ‘technology’ gives us the entry point we need into the purposes of bringing together disparate workers into a collective strategy around a set of protection strategies. Techne, the origin of the word technology, designated ‘art’ or ‘craft’ among the Ancient Greeks and often appears in conjunction with episteme, the Greek word most often translated as ‘knowledge’. For Parry (2007), the translations “…may inappropriately harbour some of our contemporary assumptions about the relation between theory (the domain of knowledge) and practice (the concern of ‘craft’ or ‘art’)”. Parry bookends his critique with Xenophon, who did not distinguish between the two, and Plotinus, who had little use for techne because it was so far from reality . Many commentators have described the detachment that is possible in a demythologized, rationalized society (see e.g., Rapp, 1981). It is with Plato (427-347 BC) , who like Xenophon, used the terms interchangeably, that Parry identifies knowledge as becoming an end in itself, and the concept of knowledge as pure theory enters Western philosophical discourse.

Other commentators, after Aristotle, distinguish between episteme and techne, and phronesis which is translated as practical intelligence, practical wisdom or prudence (Birmingham 2004). This was, according to Birmingham, seen by Aristotle as being quite distinct from techne. Phronesis is “a state of grasping the truth, involving reason, concerned with action about what is good or bad for a human being” (Aristotle, 1999, cited in Birmingham, 2004: 315). The concept of phronesis has been incorporated into a ‘paradigm of reflection’ in education theory and practice by Birmingham and others (see Noel 1999) and challenges the dualism of episteme and techne, theory and practice, which feature in the introductions of so many technology texts (Lienhard 2000). It enables a very extensive field of research by explicitly stating that with respect to technology there is thought and there is action: the two are mutually constitutive.

There are also the ‘brothers’ that comprise so much of human life, foresight and hindsight, which have paradoxically (in the Greek original) unleashed a life of woe! Of course, comparative mythology enables parallel observation, not least to the Polynesian trickster, Maui, who stole his grandmothers’ flaming fingernails one by one. Suffice it to say coping with radical change has been a standard concern of any and all species, with Homo sapiens having a unique ability to somewhat comprehend dynamism and effect change at a scale beyond any other living species.

Prometheus: Such are the inventions I devised for mankind,
Yet have myself no cunning wherewith
To rid myself of my present suffering.
Aeschylus, “Prometheus Bound”

The role of wisdom in, for want of a better term, the administration of people and their resources, was a common topic for the ancient Greek philosophers. It features in the myth of Pandora and Prometheus which, as befitting any ancient mythology, has several variations. Broadly speaking their ‘roles’ fit within Greek (and hence in many respects Western) creation mythology. The following is taken from Thomas Bulfinch’s “Myths of Greece and Rome”. Prometheus (his name translates as ‘forethought’) and his brother Epimetheus (‘afterthought’) were to make men and all the animals and give them the faculties they needed to survive. Epimetheus began this task, but was so generous to the animals that no gifts remained for Man, who was supposed to be superior. Prometheus then undertook to steal fire and wisdom from the gods, upsetting Zeus who devised to trick the brothers. This trick revolved around Pandora, the first woman, made by Hephaestus (blacksmith to the gods) under the direction of Zeus and bestowed with gifts and talents from the gods. Pandora’s ‘Box’ (originally a jar) is either already in the possession of Epimetheus or given to Pandora before she is sent to tempt Epimetheus (evidently the less intelligent of the two brothers). Epimetheus duly falls for Pandora, whose curiosity (bestowed by Hera, wife of Zeus) ultimately results in the jar containing the ‘multitude of plagues for hapless man’ being opened. Pandora manages to close the jar before ‘Hope’ can escape, yet the damage has been done, and ‘mankind’ subsequently cursed (Bulfinch 1981).

Prometheus has his own, infamous, punishment: he’s tied to a rock and an eagle pecks his liver on a daily basis (as an immortal being, Prometheus cannot die although he is eventually released; see ). Anderson (1995) interprets this from the perspective of a modern philosophy of technology. Drawing on a retelling of the myth by Plato, Anderson points out that although Prometheus gave to man the tools of daily life, ‘civic wisdom’ (politike techne) remained in the possession of Zeus. Prometheus suffers because he stole only a part of what humans need to live. As Anderson points out, “without civic wisdom, human beings are a menace to themselves, to other creatures, and to the earth itself” (ibid., p. 2). Looking back to Maori concepts employed by the NCABT, does this civic wisdom map onto the ideas, beliefs and values held by Maori and practiced by Maori growers? I mentioned at the outset that some indigenous groups, Maori being one, now seek to take back ownership and control of their traditional territories.

Protecting the bios: Who gets what?
First do we need to debunk the eco-centrist tendency to value the environment as all-encompassing thing that is somehow always elsewhere.

And what is a modern institution without employees? The NCABT research projects which were to be developed were to form the basis of two PhDs for Māori students, a group underrepresented within academic and research ranks. A central goal was the construction of a data base of matauranga Māori as it applied to horticulture. For this goal, a Māori student was sought who was fluent in te reo and conversant with the necessary tikanga for working with Māori individuals and communities. Little progress was made in this initial research programme. Potential collaborators and case study participants were identified as a result of personal and professional networks of project members. However, whereas researchers within the other three themes were continuing within their research fields, the ‘Matauranga Māori’ Theme was a new initiative, relying on collaboration between people with no research background in horticulture. Yet it provides us with a sounding board for the transformation of Maori ecological knowledge through the activities and aspirations of those Maori growers – representative or not –

Despite the geohistorical validity of much traditional indigenous knowledge, the context of contemporary self-determination entwines social and ecological actors in extensive and complex research ‘activities’ in which new knowledge is sought as an ongoing necessity to any form of development. Modern research networks, therefore, are fundamental to enabling eco-social resilience, and the establishment, evolution and performance of research, science and technology institutions is of vital importance in achieving sustainability. While participation in these networks is the sine qua non of sustainable development, successful research is difficult due to complexity, non-linearity, and long time-lags separating action and consequences that characterise modern development (Kates et al. 2001). Therefore for Maori to achieve an increase in the


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Friday, May 09, 2008

Maori Ecopolitics: A Preliminary Cut

Having decided to place this blog under the rubric of Maori Ecopolitics following several years as Maori Bioprotection, I’m faced with the task of defining what it is I mean. The original use of ‘bioprotection’ came from the focus of the Centre of Research Excellence established at Lincoln University in 2002, coinciding with my doctoral studies there. The National Centre for Advanced Bioprotection Technologies had within its ambit four themes, one of which was Matauranga Maori Bioprotection. One of the outcomes was to be the actual discourse of Matauranga Maori Bioprotection, entrusted to Theme leader Hirini Matunga. Hirini, bless, has yet to deliver on this chore, and the theme itself has contracted under wizened leadership (I touch on this in my thesis and have presented several papers concerning the CoRE’s institutionalised racism). However, the employment of a new research coordinator – Melanie Shadbolt - who starts May 12th will give the theme a much-needed boost.

Rehash: Maori Bioprotection
I approached the concept of bioprotection by seeking to answer what was being protected, how it was to be protected, and for the benefit of whom. The ‘what’ was broadly answered by the conceptual framework for this project comprised of 4 components: kaitiaki, the growers and holders of the taonga or crops (such as taewa and kumara) through the expression of tikanga (values) and ritenga (practices) all of which swirl around the centre-piece of mauri. (see NCABT 2007).

The ‘how’ was answered by an examination of the CoRE’s other themes which were:
Theme 1 - Biosecurity (“…detecting unwanted organisms at the border using sensor technology and molecular diagnostics, and developing intelligent computing systems to predict the potential of new organisms to become pests.”
Theme 2 - Biocontrol (“…managing weeds, pests and diseases using environmentally friendly biocontrol agents that are an alternative to chemical pesticides. The applied research is underpinned by fundamental studies that examine the specific interaction between biocontrol agents and their host pests).
Theme 3 - Agri-Biotechnology (“…investigating the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions and developing advanced biotechnologies to confer resistance to pests or pathogens).

In other words, the CoRE’s internal capacity would set the parameters for what Theme 4…Matauranga Maori Bio-Protection (“…researching bio-protection techniques that are acceptable to Maori growers by incorporating Maori perspectives and tikanga into bio-protection strategies”) could ultimately undertake. (As things played out, the main collaborative partner was Theme 2 – Biocontrol - under the auspices of Prof. Steve Wratten.

The ‘who’ was tricky, at least for the NCABT. From the outset there were a number of hurdles to this fourth theme. First there was the rather glaring disparity of natural scientists to social scientists: in the post-graduate ranks the ratio was 36 to 1 (me). While the too-easy binary of natural/social science can be overplayed, it is somewhat galling to find a scientific institution so ignorant of the social activity it is undertaking – both in a reflective manner of engaging with Maori and the broader socio-economic goals it is funded to work towards. I recall two written comments from other team leaders on my Ph.D. proposal, the first querying the overexposure of Maori to export-oriented primary industries (a simple statistical analysis); the second wondering – if Maori really were suspicious of ‘research’ as I (and many, many others) noted - why the hell were we wanting to do it anyway!

My default position (after David Harvey, I think) is that any environmental issue is necessarily a political-economic issue. First there is the obvious interpretation of environment, always viewed through the lens of cultural logics (the ideas, beliefs, and values underpinning intersubjectivity). Second, there is the willing or otherwise interaction of societies with their environment, always tempered by the subset of economic logics (as in human activities to satisfy human needs and wants, reflected through the ideas, beliefs and values of the aforementioned cultural logics…new car or new breasts; fresh bread and milk or cigarettes). Thus the internal wranglings of the NCABT are but a subset of the political-economic wranglings of Lincoln University, The Aotearoa/NZ economy (often called a bioeconomy due to our heavy reliance on primary industries), and the global economy that has become something of a ubiquitous explanation for our poverty.

Maori Ecopolitics, therefore, refers to the cultural political economic discourse through which Maori articulate their cultural logics into the political arena of the world at large. It has its origins in the embedded tribal experiences and lived histories of our people, not just how we’ve interaqcted with other Maori but with Pakeha, tauiwi and, increasingly, other denizens of Planet Earth (Check FOMA and their recent China-NZ Free Trade seminars…).

So, everything to play for...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Maori Eco-Politics

Given it's been three years since I left the National Centre for Advanced Bioprotection Technologies, plus my new interests in customary fisheries, it's perhaps time to re-kink this page with a term more in keeping with my focus...hence the new 'Ecopolitics' label above. Surprisingly, this term is not common. It lacks a Wiki entry, unlike its more popular older sibling, 'Biopolitcs'), yet I consider it more accurate than the 'biopower' of Foucault. As for defining the term, it is not that different from how I defined Maori eco-cultural resilience, namely the culture-specific logics by which Maori co-exist with our environment. This environment is physically more extensive and systemically more complex than what had been experienced by our tipuna prior to Contact. I always consider the political-economic and institutional contexts of our resilience within the purvey of bioprotection (unlike my natural science colleagues of the CoRE). That acknowledgement is perhaps more explicit in the term Eco-Politics. Lets wait and see...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tiaki Mahinga Kai

I have recently distanced myself from the newly established Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai project (TMK), a research programme designed around the establishment and management of customary fishing areas, known to Maori as mātaitai, taiāpure , and rahui. There is a wider agenda of sustainable environmental management through the application of kaitiakitanga (Māori environmental stewardship). My concerns echo those I held when a PhD candidate affiliated to the Lincoln CoRE and its Matauranga Maori theme. Essentially these concerns are the lack of a Kaupapa Maori approach (and mere lipservice to Participatory Action Research...PAR); inconsiderate and inappropriate interactions with Maori by non-Maori researchers; unprofessional management that includes endemic bullying, a lack of transparency, and not following agreed processes.

While my concerns are centred on a few leading individuals, it is quite remarkable to observe the repetition of a flawed approach to what is a vital research need. In the FRST (the Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology) proposal, mention of a PAR approach seems to be all that is required. It does raise the question of how PAR is to be audited (Nga Pae o te Maramatanga at least undertakes site visits to ascertain adherence to Kaupapa Maori).

Anyways, I have added TMK and Maori customary fisheries in general to my research interests. For those who followed my earlier travails, I have walked before being pushed, broken the shackles of crap research yet again...always a bettter position to take!

It does beg the (philosophical) question of what exactly does contemporary Maori socio-ecological resilience looks like?. The emphasis from funders, such as FRST through their Vision Matauranga strategy is to assume Matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge and philosophy) has some productive value as a discrete input. Certainly it provides a rationale for research proposals such as that won by TMK ($1 million over 4 years; sounds a lot but doesn't actually go far...those pakeha researchers are expensive!).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sockburn Chillies

This years crop of chillies have a kick beyond anything else I've grown here in the Sockburn Rez. A colleague at Manaaki Whenua - Mexican, so he should know - thinks they're a variety of habanero. He also gave the name "Scotch Bonnets". The maize crop is also shaping up to be a good one, although some ears are being nibbled by mice.

That's the habanero on the right...

...and the beautiful maize grown from seeds sourced through Nick Roskruge at Massey University.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hui-a-Rohe 2008, Omaka Marae, Blenheim

Tahuri Whenua members outside Te Aroha o Te Waipounamu.

The latest Tahuri Whenua hui-a-rohe was at Omaka marae, Blenheim, from April 15th to 17th. Brilliantly organised by Richard Hunter, we were hosted by Ngati Apa in the beautiful whare nui, Te Aroha o Te Waipounamu. The first full day saw us visiting the research facilities at the Marlborough Research Centre where a number of speakers to presented their work, including Richard Williams (Potatopak, biodegradable packaging from potato waste), Elsie Hall (lavender oils and cosmetics), and Mondo Kopu (vineyard manager for Tohu wines). Also displayed was an olive oil made to raise funds for the RSA, and a lesson in local wines by Kerrie Stronge that showed the connection between taste and the whenua. Aerial view of Marlborough Research Centre.

The afternoon involved an extended visit to Danny Watson’s ‘island’. Danny (of television ‘Spot On’ fame) is of Waitaha descent and is bringing several hundred acres of land at Maori Bay, Pelorus Sound, back into production, with planting and cattle strategies implemented. The land is not actually surrounded by the waters of Marlborough Sounds but is only accessible by boat, so the hikoi was ‘book-ended’ by a leisurely cruise on the very comfortable cruising yacht ‘Foxy Lady’.

Foxy Lady parked in Danny's driveway.

The second day began with a trip to the local Farmers Market. Here we saw top-end products, including various nuts, cheeses, wines (of course), fruit and vegetables. Our kuia in particular enjoyed the convivial surroundings and continued their constructive exchange of information. The diversity of stalls was an excellent indication of regional productivity and resourcefulness.

Moana Puha, Ngati Porou, at the Farmers Market, Blenheim.

I shot through back to Otautahi/Christchurch but the rest of the roopu visited a strawberry farm on the outskirts of Blenheim which included PYO and niche product options. This was followed by a short visit to Clem Mellish’s carving studio in Havelock. The majority of the hui participants then relocated to Marahau, about 15k’s west of Motueka, staying at a backpacker facility owned by Wakatu Incorporation, a locally based Maori Incorporation representing local or regional land interests held by Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Koata iwi. Wakatu Inc. and Ngatahi Orchards a JV between NRAIT (Ngati Rarua Atiawa Iwi Trust) and Wakatu were the hosts for the hui for this final leg of the hikoi (journey). A whakatau (welcome) was given by Ropata Taylor of Wakatu and Richard Brown (Ngatahi) to the hui participants to their operations and the opportunity was taken to present them with a copy of a thesis written by Nick Roskruge (Chairman of Tahuri Whenua) – called ‘Hokia ki te Whenua’ which included Wakatu incorporation as one of its case studies on Maori land utility.

Cape Gooseberry at Danny Watson's.

A full day was given to presenting the incorporation and orchard(s) to hui participants including field trips to several production systems; hops, pears, apples and kiwifruit. The afternoon was devoted to visiting a newly established vineyard under the Tohu Wines label. Participants were taken through the establishment mechanisms for creating vineyards from scrub lands by the manager Johnny, including the pitfalls and advantages aligned to such a task. The vineyard staff then took everyone through an exercise in wine tasting – how to identify characteristics of specific wines and the accepted process tasters generally follow in their sampling role.

The hui was brought to an end after the obligatory wine tasting and another night at Marahau before people journeyed home.

Carved kete on the bargeboard of te aroha o te Waipounamu.
Simon Lambert

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