Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Friday, December 09, 2011

A few of my favourite things (or, what I read and loved in 2011)

Summer is a time for geeking outside with some good reading (as opposed to the rest of the year when I geek inside). With that in mind, I thought I’d post a short list of things I have loved reading this year. I’d love to hear what you all have been reading too. Most of my reading has been related to work, so my list is mostly indigenous writing on decolonisation. Every writer here has stretched my thinking, but their writing is universally straightforward and uncomplicated.

“The basic population of New Zealand is still not prepared to hear and cope with the colonial history and will not be so while the general education system does not include this material for all citizens to evaluate for themselves. It is from this level of educational paucity that nursing and midwifery students, practitioners and teachers are usually drawn. For patients to be considered in terms of their political status and historical circumstances requires an understanding and knowledge of history which continues to be uncommon in New Zealand currently.” (Ramsden, p 180)
2011 reading started well. Moana Jackson lent me Irihapeti Ramsden’s 2002 PhD thesis “Cultural Safety and Nursing education in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu”. She has been one of my favourite writers for a long time; her writing is clear and honest, so her ideas seem deceptively obvious. Yet her work has always been ground breaking, especially when it comes to nursing and cultural safety. Irihapeti’s thesis is an incredibly accessible background to that work.

Ramsden, Irihapeti (2002) Cultural Safety and Nursing education in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu. PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington

Cultural Safety and Nursing education in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu online

“I maintain in this thesis that presenting menstruation and menstrual blood as putrid is a politically motivated act of colonial violence that specifically targets the source of our continuity as Indigenous People, the whare tangata (house of humanity – womb of women). I pose the question ‘if menstrual blood symbolises whakapapa, what does it mean to present it as ‘unclean’ and how do such representations cut across the politics of tino rangatiratanga (autonomy)?’” (Murphy, p ii)
I was blown away by Ngāhuia Murphy’s 2011 master’s thesis “Te Awa Atua, Te Awa Tapu, Te Awa Wahine”. This is exciting work that will change lives. Her analysis is strong, her writing is accessible and she pulls no punches.

Murphy, Ngāhuia (2011) Te Awa Atua, Te Awa Tapu, Te Awa Wahine: An examination of stories, ceremonies and practices regarding menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world. Master of Arts thesis, University of Waikato

Te Awa Atua, Te Awa Tapu, Te Awa Wahine pdf

“For people committed to transcending the imperialism of state sovereignty, the challenge is to de-think the concept of sovereignty and replace it with a notion of power that has at its root a more appropriate premise... Maintaining a political community on the premise of singularity is no more than intellectual imperialism. Justice demands a recognition of the diversity of languages and knowledge that exists among people—indigenous peoples’ ideas about relationships and power holding the same credence as those formerly constituting the singular reality of the state. Creating a legitimate postcolonial relationship involves abandoning notions of European cultural superiority and adopting a mutually respectful posture. It is no longer possible to maintain the legitimacy of the premise that there is only one right way to see and do things.” (Alfred, pp 46-47)
Taiaiake Alfred is one of those writers whose work is impossible to take notes on—every sentence he writes is gold. The above quote is from his essay “Sovereignty” in Sovereignty matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self Determination (2005, edited by J Barker). I highly recommend his book “Peace, Power, Righteousness”. So good.

Alfred, Taiaiake (2009) Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press

“It is crucial that Māori continue to think and to imagine beyond the intellectual imprisonment of what our colonisers deem to be realistic. So long as we do, and so long as we do so in concert with our Indigenous sisters and brothers in our common struggle for self-determination, who can predict where the relation of forces may lead us.” (Mikaere, p 204)
Ani’s writing continues to shine, and I was stoked that her book came out this year. I reviewed it here already.

Mikaere, Ani (2011) Colonising Myths—Māori Realities: He Rukuruku Whakaaro. Huia Publishers and Te Tākupu, Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa

“With the end of Jim Crow and with the rise of opportunities to become middle-class, the problem for people like me is not whether I'm black or not; everybody knows I'm black... What matters now is what kind of black person I am, which I must demonstrate by the brand of blackness I perform through my speech and behavior.” (Young, pp 131-132)

“Literacy is not chiefly about matching pronouns with the right antecedents or comprehending why Willie and Janet went up the hill. Literacy is first and foremost a racial performance. Take the code switching ideology I’ve discussed and that informs most speaking and writing instruction. When we ask black students to give up one set of codes in favor of another, their [Black English Vernacular] for something we call more standard, we're not asking them to make choices about language, we're asking them to choose different ways to perform their racial identities through language.” (Young, p 142)
Last year, most of my reading was about gender, masculinity in particular. I finished taking notes on Vershawn Ashanti Young’s “Your Average Nigga” this year, and he gave me heaps to think about around race, gender and literacy. Again, accessible, well-constructed arguments and examples.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti (2007) Your Average Nigga : performing race, literacy, and masculinity. Wayne State University

I have a bunch of books I can’t wait to read this summer. If you have recommendations to add, I’d be keen to hear them.


  1. Awesome Kim, thanks for that. The last quote reminds me of African American June Jordan's work - she writes a lot about language and who it "belongs" to and how - absolute genius if you haven't read her, makes my heart sing everytime I do :-)

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, I'm excited to read her.