Being Present: Embodying Political Relations in Indigenous Encounters with the Crown

Contemporary Political Theory 20 (3):502-523 (2021)


Political encounters between settler governments and indigenous communities are freighted with the unresolved issues of indigenous independence asserted under ongoing conditions of colonial domination. Within political science, these encounters have been primarily theorised and analysed as struggles of indigenous communities for political recognition from settler states. Further, the politics of recognition is widely understood as colonising by indigenous scholars, with some arguing for an alternative politics of resurgence and refusal, a ‘turning away’ from the state. In this article, we argue that in the case of Māori in Aotearoa ‘turning up’ is the ethical and correct practice of politics, a practice stemming from the relational ontology of the Māori world. Thus ‘turning up’ rather than ‘turning away’ can, for Māori, itself be a practice of refusal. We outline the centrality of the embodied, face-to-face encounter within Māori politics, and identify the ongoing presence of the sovereign’s body and embodiment more broadly within the Westminster tradition, as symbolised in the concept of the Crown. Building on these compatibilities within distinct political ontologies, we argue for the potential and productivity of face-to-face political encounters, and call on the New Zealand Crown to also prioritise ‘turning up’ in its engagement with indigenous communities.

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Inclusion and Democracy.Iris Marion Young - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Bound by Recognition.Patchen Markell - 2003 - Princeton University Press.

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