Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Alan Duff: Brown Man’s Burden

Wilson, J. M. (2008) Alan Duff: Brown Man’s Burden. British Review of New Zealand Studies (BRONZS). 17 0951-6204.

Item Type: Article
Abstract: This article positions Maori author Alan Duff in relation to the New Right free market economy which emerged in New Zealand in the late 1980s. It argues that Duff’s ambivalent images of contemporary Maori in his novel Once Were Warriors (1990), its sequel What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted (1996), and his autobiography, Out of the Mist and Steam (1999), ignore postcolonial discourses, clash with values of Maori Renaissance writing, and bypass biculturalism. Duff’s unrepresentative neo-colonialism and his hybrid Maori-Pakeha identity become the ‘brown man’s burden’ rather than the white man, as earlier liberal Pakeha celebrations of the Maori such as Roderick Findlayson’s stories in The Brown Man’s Burden (1938) had acknowledged. Although his raw style and Maori English argot have revitalised the local tradition of realist writing, and his focus on social problems experienced by some Maori has exposed biculturalism’s limitations, Duff’s work remains marginal to identity politics at the national level.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alan Duff, biculturalism, Maori English, violence, New Right free market economy, Once Were Warriors
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR8309 English literature: Provincial, local, etc. > PR9639.3 New Zealand literature
Creators: Wilson, Janet M
Publisher: BRONZS
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Research Centres > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
Date: 2008
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: British Review of New Zealand Studies (BRONZS)
Volume: 17
Language: English
ISSN: 0951-6204
Status: Published / Disseminated
References: See Christine Thompson, ‘In Whose Face? An Essay on the Work of Alan Duff’, in The Contemporary Pacific: Journal of Island Affairs 6:1 (1994), pp. 398-413 (399); Dennis McEldowney in the Otago Daily Times (9 March, 1991), acclaimed it as ‘a landmark’; Finlay Macdonald in The New Zealand Listener (25 February, 1991), pp. 30-32, as a ‘watershed in social realism in New Zealand (and Maori) writing’; Danielle Brown identified a backlash against Duff by 1993; see ‘Pakeha, Maori and Alan: The Political and Literary Exclusion of Alan Duff’, SPAN 40 (April, 1995), pp. 72-80. 2. See in particular Peter Beatson’s review of Once Were Warriors, Landfall 45:3 (1991), pp. 365-68. 3. Once Were Warriors won the PEN Best First Book Award for Fiction and second prize in the Wattie New Zealand Book Awards in 1991; What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted? won the Montana Award for Fiction in 1997. See the entry on Duff in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie, (Auckland: Oxford UP, 1998), pp. 149-150. 4. See Ruth Brown, ‘Maori Spirituality as Pakeha Construct’, Meanjin 2 (1989), pp. 252-258 (257). 5. See Masao Miyoshi, ‘A Borderless World? From Colonialism to Transnationalism and the Decline of the Nation-state’, Critical Enquiry 19 (Summer, 1993), pp. 726-751; and Ruth Brown’s discussion in ‘Aboriginal and Maori Spirituality: Liberal Self-Deception’ in Cultures of the Commonwealth: Essays and Studies 4 (Spring, 1998), pp. 47-56. 6. See Danielle Brown, ‘Pakeha, Maori and Alan’, pp. 77-78. 7. David Eggleton, ‘Site-specific ghetto-centricities’. Review of What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? New Zealand Books 6:5 (December 1996), p. 1. 8. Named after Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance in the Lange government, who pioneered this move. See Wendy Larner and Paul Spoonley, ‘Post-Colonial Politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Unsettling Settler Societies: articulations of gender, race, ethnicity and class, eds. Daiva Stasiulis and Nira Yuval-Davis (London: Sage, 1995), pp. 39-64. 9. Ibid., p. 51. 10. Quoted by Danielle Brown in ‘Pakeha, Maori and Alan’, p. 74. Other critics include Selwyn Muru and Ranginui Walker in a review of Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge, Metro, 145 (July, 1993), pp. 136-37. 11. Christina Thompson claims that Duff uncritically exalts Pakeha values of wealth and success and recasts Maori virtues as Pakeha vices, ‘In Whose Face?’, p. 403; see also Otto Heim, Writing Along Broken Lines: Violence and Ethnicity in Contemporary Maori Fiction (Auckland: Auckland UP, 1998), pp. 50-51; and Bruce Harding, ‘Wrestling with Caliban: Patterns of Bi-racial Encounter in Colour Scheme and Once Were Warriors’, Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 8 (Dec. 1992), pp. 136-155 (149). Ruth Brown argues Duff is in tune with American right-wing propaganda in ‘Once Were Warriors: From book to film and beyond’, JNZL 17 (1999), pp. 141-55. 12. Ruth Brown, ‘Maori Spirituality’, 257; ‘Contextualising Maori Writing’, New Zealand books (June, 1996), pp. 14-15; Duff makes these points in Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge (Auckland: HarperCollins, 1993), p. 52. 13. ‘Gender and the Politics of Tradition: Alan Duff’s Once Were Warriors’, Kunapipi 15 (1993), pp. 57-67 (58); Peter Beatson expresses similar reservations in his review of Once Were Warriors, Landfall 45:3 (1991), p. 368. 14. See Christine Thompson, ‘In Whose Face?’, pp. 405, 409-11; Bruce Harding, ‘Wrestling with Caliban’, pp.149-50. 15. Eggleton, ‘Site-specific ghetto-centricities’, 6; on the Books in Homes scheme, see Alan Duff, Out of the Mist and Steam: A Memoir (Auckland: Tandem Press, 1999), p. 7. 16. See Paul Spoonley, Racism and Ethnicity: Critical Issues in New Zealand Society, 2nd ed. rev. (Auckland: Oxford UP, 1988, 1993), pp. 36-63 (59-60) on redefining Pakeha. 17. The Griffin Press, Auckland; see the edition by Bill Pearson, Brown Man’s Burden and later stories (Auckland: Auckland UP, 1973), p. xvii. 18. See Spoonley, Racism and Ethnicity, pp. 37-38. 19. See Spoonley, Racism and Ethnicity, pp. 37-38. 20. See Pearson’s introduction to Findlayson’s Brown Man’s Burden; p. xiv. 21. In the transcript of an interview with Elizabeth Alley for Radio New Zealand, Concert FM, 28 March 1991. 22. Both Sides of the Moon (Auckland, Vintage, 1998), p. 7. All subsequent references included in the body of the text. 23. Once Were Warriors (Auckland: Tandem Press, 1990), p. 47. All subsequent references included in the body of the text. 24. See Writing Along Broken Lines, pp. 50-51; Harding, op cit. 25. See Thomas, ‘Gender and the Politics of Tradition’, p. 66; Beatson, review of Once Were Warriors, pp. 367-68. Heim, Writing Along Broken Lines, pp. 49-50 and ‘To Be True One Mist Find One’s Kaupapa’, Commonwealth Essays and Studies 19:2 (1997), pp. 1-21 (19, fn 1). 26. On the controversy over assimilation see Tilly Reedy, Listener & TV Times (10 June, 1991), p. 7; Duff’s response, Listener & TV Times (1 July, 1991), p. 7 and subsequent letters to the editor. 27. See the review by Denis Welch in The New Zealand Listener (28 September, 1996), p. 46. 28. Such ‘intercultural’ borrowing is often made at the expense of the material well being of the culture concerned; cultural revival therefore cannot be a solution to socio-economic problems either; and Heim, ‘To Be True One Must Find One’s Kaupapa’, p. 7; see Rustom Bharucha, ‘Somebody’s Other: Disorientations in the Cultural Politics of Our Times’ in The Intercultural Performance Reader, ed. Patrice Pavis (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 196-212. 29. Brown, ‘Pakeha, Maori and Alan’, pp. 72-73. 30. Armstrong, ‘A Child is Being Beaten’, 70. 31. See Heim, Writing Along Broken Lines, pp. 80-82; Thomas, ‘Gender and the Politics of Tradition’, 61. 32. Joshua Fishman, Language and Ethnicity in Minority Socio-linguistic Perspective (Clevedon, Philadelphia UP, 1989), pp. 11, 17; see also Geoffrey Ross, ‘Language and the Mobilization of Ethnic Identity’ in Language and Ethnic Relations, ed. Howard Giles and Bernard St Jacques (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979), pp. 1-13. 33. In a review of this novel Ruth Brown concludes it was published because New Zealand’s brand of ethnic violence is now being marketed as a profitable cultural export. David Eggleton, in The New Zealand Listener (January 16, 1999), p. 42, is also ambivalent about the novel’s excessive violence. 34. See Harding’s analysis of Duff’s style in ‘Bi-Racial Encounters’, pp. 147-48. 35. Ruth Brown, ‘Aboriginal and Maori Spirituality’, p. 50; Harding, ‘Wrestling with Caliban’, pp. 147-48; Eggleton, ‘Ghettocentricities’, p. 6. 36. See Beatson’s criticism in his review of Once Were Warriors, p. 367; also Heim, Writing Along Broken Lines, p. 46. 37. See Janet Wilson, ‘Intertextual Strategies: Reinventing the myths of Aotearoa in Contemporary New Zealand Fiction’, Intertextuality and Transcultural Communication in the New Literatures in English, ed. Woolfgang Klooss, Cross/Cultures 32 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), pp. 271-90. 38. Warwick Roger, ‘The Long Silence of Keri Hulme’, North and South, August 1998, p. 66; see also Rosemary McLeod, ‘The Duff View: One Night out Scheming’, North and South, March 1993, pp. 70-74. Duff has never read the novel. 39. Heim, ‘To Be True One Must Find One’s Kaupapa’, p. 6. 40. On the constructedness of the mode see Mark Williams ‘Literary Constructions of Oral Culture’, Dirty Silence: Aspects of Language and Literature in New Zealand, ed. Graham McGregor and Mark Williams (Auckland: Oxford UP, 1991), pp. 77-95 (88). 41. Thomas, ‘Gender and the Politics of Tradition’, p. 64; Heim, Writing Along Broken Lines, pp. 174-75. 42. See Ken Arvidson, ‘Aspects of Contemporary Maori Writing in English’, Dirty Silence, pp. 117-28. 43 Fear, Temptation and the Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Literatures, (Montreal and London: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1987), p. 86. 44. See Rod Edmond’s reassessment of the ‘comforting myth of race relations’, ‘No Country for Towers: Reconsidering the bone people’, Landfall 186 (1993), pp. 277-90 (288). 45. The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), pp. 27-84. 46. On the definitions of this variety see; Allan Bell, ‘Maori and Pakeha English’ in New Zealand English, ed. Allan Bell and Koenraad Kuiper (Wellington: Victoria UP, 1999), pp. 221-48 (223-24); Harding, ‘Bi-Racial Encounter’, p.147. 47. See Hannah Buchanan, “Rhythm in New Zealand English: a study based on data from Maori and Pakeha speakers”, unpublished MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2000, pp. 3-5. I am grateful to Ms Buchanan for allowing me to use her thesis. See also Janet Holmes, ‘Maori and Pakeha English: Some New Zealand social dialect data’, Language in Society 26:1 (1997), pp. 65-101. 48. See Kate Burridge and Jean Mulder, English in Australia and New Zealand: An Introduction to its History, Structure and Use (Melbourne: Oxford UP, 1998), p. 12. 49. See Bell, ‘Maori and Pakeha English’, p. 227; on preliminary results of the Porirua survey see ‘Study Shows NZ speech changing’, Otago Daily Times, 21 September 1991. 50. See Roger Robinson, ‘“The Strands of Life and Self”: The Oral Prose of Patricia Grace’, CRNLE Reviews Journal 1 (1993), pp. 13-27 (17). 51. See David Novitz, ‘Introduction: Culture and National Identity’, Culture and Identity in New Zealand, p. 5. 52. See Larner and Spoonley, ‘Post-colonial Politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, p. 51; Greenland, ‘Maori Ethnicity as Ideology’, p. 104.

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