by Marise Lant and Mohan J. Dutta, Center for Culture – Centered Approach to Research & Evaluation, Massey University
In this white paper , we outline the vitality of connecting across cultures, anchored in Māori leadership in shaping and guiding anti-racist interventions in Aotearoa New Zealand, connected to anti-colonial struggles by Māori. Noting that the entrenched settler colonialism in New Zealand is based on a history of Whiteness, we argue that witnessing this Whiteness in the colonial configuration of New Zealand is the first step to dismantling it. Māori have historically experienced, negotiated and resisted the racist structures of Whiteness that form the architectures of settler colonialism in New Zealand through their everyday organizing across whanau and hapū. We center Whiteness to the colonial structures of racism in New Zealand because of the centering of White norms as the basis for perpetuating oppression, expulsion, genocide, rape, and murder of indigenous communities (Māori in New Zealand) and the simultaneous marginalisation of communities of colour, many of whom have experienced similar histories of expulsion, genocide, and violence.
In this paper, we argue that recognizing and centering the leadership of Māori as people of the land lies at the heart of the process of cultural centering we discuss here, anchoring interventions seeking transformations in racist structures in the everyday lived experiences of the indigenous people of the land. The leadership of Māori is vital to anti racist struggles not only as a way for building strategies that work but more fundamentally as the basis for turning to Te Tiriti. At the same time, connecting with the struggles of communities of colour, migrants and refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand creates a framework of solidarity that sees the Whiteness percolating through racist structures, witnesses the connections between them, and seeks to decolonize them. We argue here that seeing the connections between and across indigenous, ethnic, migrant and refugee struggles is central to culture-centered strategies of anti-racism that seek to dismantle Whiteness in colonial organisations, institutions, and society.
 We note in the naming of the white papers as authorial sources of knowledge the logics of Whiteness that constructs it.
 Whiteness refers to the hegemonic values of the colonising white culture, established as universal. See Moreton-Robinson, A. (2015). The white possessive: Property, power, and indigenous sovereignty. U of Minnesota Press
 Here we note the ongoing efforts at silencing conversations on Whiteness in Aotearoa by both white liberals and white supremacists. While white liberals suggest that the concept of Whiteness does not apply to Aotearoa, white supremacists deploy the age-old strategy of using communicative inversion by labelling anti-racist critiques of Whiteness as racist toward white communities.
Marise Lant is a Māori leader; Lobbyist,an Indigenous rights protector; Founder of 250 Years of Colonisation – The Aftermath leading the protest and burning of the Union Jack in opposition and response to the arrival of the year replica of Endeavour to Gisborne on 8 October 2019;Previous chairperson of the Tairāwhiti District Māori Womens Welfare League; Current representative on the Tairāwhiti District Māori Council;Supporter of the Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council.
by Catherine Delahunty and Mohan J. Dutta, Center for Culture – Centered Approach to Research & Evaluation, Massey University
The climate and environmental crises we are in the midst of are symptoms of the failed extractive economic system based on colonial theft. The disproportionate burdens of climate change borne by Indigenous and local communities across the Global South foreground the importance of locating justice as the anchor to climate change organising. In this white paper, we argue that climate change cannot be addressed without the recognition of the racial capitalist processes that drive it. Based on the recognition that both colonialism and capitalism shape climate change, we propose that we cannot solve the crisis of climate change by relying on the colonising traditions and profit-driven techno fixes offered by the west, immersed in the ideology of whiteness. We offer the argument that addressing climate change calls for centering a justice-based framework that is both anti-colonial and anti-capitalist, and that looks to Indigenous peoples and local communities in the Global South to learn to rebuild relationships with the earth and with each other.
CARE was proud to host and welcome our next Activist In Residence- Catherine Delahunty who will be conducting Activist in Residence public events and collaborating with Prof. Mohan Dutta on Replacing Colonial Theft and Capitalism by Lunch Time between, 10- 14 October 2022 at CARE, Manawatū campus, Massey University.
Bio: Catherine Delahunty is a Pākehā activist and educator with a long history in critical thinking and radical organising. She organised the first high school students union in Aotearoa when she was 15 and at 68 she is still organising and teaching in environmental activism, Te Tiriti workshops,anti racism education and the campaign to support a free West Papua. She was a Green MP from 2008 until 2017 and is a Trustee and tutor at Kotare Trust, The Basket – social and environmental justice Hauraki, and member of West Papua Action Aotearoa, and is Chair of Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki who work to protect Hauraki Coromandel from multinational mining. She has been active in the group over 40 years. Her writing includes essays and columns in anti colonisation and Te Tiriti issues, the struggle against mining and in valuing participatory radical education, as well as poetry and fiction.
Friday, 14 October 10.30 am NZDT Activist In Residence: CARE White Paper Launch- Replacing Colonial Extractivism and Capitalism by Lunch Time with Catherine Delahunty and Professor Mohan Dutta Venue: CJM COMMS LAB BSC B1.08 and Live on the CARE Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/live_videos
by Christine Elers & Prof. Mohan J. Dutta , Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE)
The erasure of indigenous voice goes hand-in-hand with the occupation of indigenous land. What we witness over the past seven years at Ihumātao, as an extension of over a century of colonialism in Aotearoa, is the deployment of colonial tactics to erase and silence the voices of indigenous Māori peoples. Through a variety of tactics the controls over which are held by the colonizers, Māori voices resisting colonialism are silenced. The very uses of communicative strategies of indigenous participation are deployed in logics established by the colonizer to prop up and perpetuate the colonial-capitalist structure, with the state making claims to having created opportunities for participation. The capitalist interests, served through naturalized logics of the market, reflect the oppressive nature of colonialism, all the while working to erase through the very performance of tools of participation and engagement. In this backdrop, drawing from the ongoing protests at Ihumātao, in this white paper, we attend to the organizing role of indigenous voice as the basis for dismantling colonial capitalism. The Māori voice of resistance in Ihumātao, resounds with indigenous voices in Hawaii, who are protecting their sacred land – Mauna Kea from the construction and intrusion of a giant telescope on the summit. Elsewhere across the globe the plurivocality of resistance offer pathways for addressing the very challenges that have been brought on by the accelerated corporate-colonialism of neoliberal governmentality.
A Washington Post story published on June 2, titled “Google’s plan to talk about caste bias led to ‘division and rancor’,” documents the resistance put up by employees at Google identifying themselves as Hindu protesting the platforming of a pedagogy-based lecture by the dalit rights activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder and executive director of Equality Labs. Equality Labs is a nonprofit that advocates for Dalits.
What is powerful about the story is the complicity of the infrastructure of Google in de-platforming the event and in targeting the organizer of the event at Google, Tanuja Gupta, who worked as a senior manager at Google News.
The disinformation campaign organized by Hindu employees targeting Soundararajan called her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company’s leaders.
I am very familiar with these tropes, rooted in disinformation, that are increasingly being deployed by Hindutva adherents to target critics of Hindutva, particularly academics, journalists, and activists.
Over the course of the past year, in response to my scholarship on Hindutva and the support of CARE, the center I direct, for a conference titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva,” I have experienced relentless attacks fuelled by a disinformation campaign labelling me Hinduphobic and accusing me of spreading “Hindumisia” (both Hinduphobia and Hindumisia are terms concocted by Hindutva to silence critics of the hateful ideology). These attacks have taken the forms of letter-writing campaigns directed at my employer, threats on Twitter, sexually violent emails threatening rape, and death threats on digital platforms.
What is critical to this global disinformation campaign is the role of formally recognized organizations such as Hindu Council and Hindu Youth here in Aotearoa, Hindu American Foundation in the US, as well as professionals and business owners in disseminating the disinformation.
In the context of Google, the disinformation is seeded and disseminated by employees.
In doing so, Hindutva adherents draw on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, making the claim that the criticism of caste or Islamophobia in Hindutva violates the principles of DEI.
The Indian Institutes of Technologies that both the Google CEO Sundar Pichai (a Tamil Brahmin) and I attended (Pichai graduated two years ahead of me from IIT Kharagpur), and that boast of having trained the leaders of the global tech sector (IIT Bombay alumnus Parag Agarwal is the Twitter CEO, the chairman and CEO of IBM is the IIT Kanpur B.Tech Arvind Krishna, among many other alums who lead the tech sector) were founded on the principle of cultivating the scientific temper and preparing the engineers that will build the newly independent postcolonial nation.
Inherent in the construction of the IITs is a Brahminical structure that privileges specific forms of merit that draw upon the historic hierarchies of caste in India.
The very notion of merit is rooted in and intrinsically intertwined with caste in the Indian context.
That caste hierarchies and the accompanying oppressions have shaped access to learning resources and opportunities for learning are erased from the hegemonic caste formations that shape education, and certainly engineering education, in India.
These caste hierarchies are intensified in the IITs, with their projection of elite education based on the hyper-competitive joint entrance examination.
At IIT, Kharagpur, the Institution I attended, the caste structure played out in the largely Brahmin men, and the occasional Brahmin women, that formed the professorial ranks. The Mukherjees, Chatterjees, Banerjees, and the Bhattacharyas (Bengali Brahmins) made up these ranks, replete with the taken-for-granted practices of inclusion and exclusion, rooted in caste supremacy. In the 1990s when I attended the IITs, it was rare to take a course from a dalit professor.
It would be worthwhile to examine the caste composition of the Professoriate in the IITs in 2022.
Marked as “quota students,” dalits are subjected to racialized slurs challenging their intelligence and their right to be in the IITs. These racialized slurs were often uttered by peers and reinforced by Professors.
The power of the caste infrastructure is held up through communication, through gossip networks that undermine, through racialized slurs, and through practices of touch and body that exclude.
In 2021, an IIT Kharagpur Professor was video recorded bullying and verbally abusing dalit students. This recording offered an account of practices of casteist violence that are deep-seated in the institutions.
Caste-based inequality flows from education into the technology sectors, with discriminatory practices around touch, racialized verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of opportunities to dalits built into organizational structures.
Global technology organizations such as Google have large representation of South Asians, with a strong presence of Indians.
For Indians in such tech organizations, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) forms a key resource in addressing the challenges of organizational bias and structural racism.
Hindutva-espousing professionals within organizations such as Google then communicatively invert caste, on one hand, erasing the presence of caste, and on the other hand, claiming that any discussion of caste in Hinduism is Hinduphobic and will result in discrimination of Hindus. The erasure of caste oppression then is incorporated into the discursive architecture, denying caste oppression while perpetuating it.
Salient in the farewell note of Tanuja Gupta to Google is the following account:
“Of all the organizing I have done at this company, I think many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down. But I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s happened. I know this because multiple VPs and Directors confirmed that in Sundar’s Leads meeting, they discussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers to ensure this doesn’t happen again. So my hope is that Googlers start to understand the magnitude of this issue, and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power.”
The discussion of caste in global tech organizations threatens the power consolidated by upper caste Indians within these organizations. The discussion of caste disrupts the carefully crafted model minority narrative that is essential to the upward mobility of Indians in the tech sector and to the perpetuation of the meritocratic myth that fuels the tech sector. The discussion of caste threatens to reveal the misogyny, violence, and racism that forms the communicative infrastructure of a cross-section of Hindu society.
Paradoxically, the claims to DEI serve as tools for shutting down necessary discussions of caste violence in tech.
The silencing of the voices of dalits within organizational structures is violence that perpetuates Hindutva. Moreover, the erasure of conversations on caste in tech forecloses critical conversations on the role of caste in shaping algorithms and platform infrastructures. These are critical questions as the speak to the organizing role of a racist ideology in shaping platform algorithms and search engines. Critical conversations on caste led by dalits is vital to building just platform architectures.
Professor Mohan Dutta isDean’s Chair Professor of Communication. He is the Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right.
Google #ThenmozhiSoundararajan #EqualityLabs #Dalits #IITKharagpur #IndianInstitutesOfTechnologies #Hindutva #CAREMassey #CAREMasseyNZ #CARECCA
Executive Summary: As a Māori Expert Advisory Group (MEAG), the advice in this report for the Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora (the Ministry) has been undertaken with a clear view of accountabilities and Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations.The MEAG was asked to provide leadership and advice on scoping a training programme for the routine enquiry of family violence, sexual violence, child abuse and neglect (FVSV), for primary health care and community providers, to benefit our whānau. Part of the brief was to examine what elements from the Violence Intervention Programme (VIP), a training programme implemented across all district health boards (DHBs), could be used in the Primary Health Care Sector. This report outlines the work undertaken over eighteen months and includes a final set of recommendations for the Ministry to consider.
In writing this report MEAG have been conscious of the multiple audiences, from ministerial and Ministry of Health observers through to whānau and health providers, as contributors.
This audience-based focus is part of the promise of reciprocity to our Māori and Pasefika providers and other organisations who provided their insights, knowledge and experience – this report is to honour their voices.
From those commitments and the desire for an open readership, the content is created to be accessible to all readers. Context explanations in several sections may seem repetitive to some experienced ministry level analytical audiences, but this stance is deliberately taken by MEAG to provide for the whole audience.
The MEAG developed a three-part approach and framework for our work, that is based on the idea of understanding and interpreting the signs from our environment and responding appropriately. The report is laid out using theseheadings – but emphasises that processes are rarely linear and cycle from, responding to our environment, regularly switching from information gathering to analysis to imagining the future back to information gathering again. The intersectionality and the contextual impact of violence inform each hui we held, and the knowledge that was shared.
Ibrahim Omer became an MP to represent communities who often struggle to have their voices heard. His experience spans fleeing his home country, being in a refugee camp, working as a minimum wage cleaner, graduating from university, and representing low paid workers as a union organiser.
Rebecca Macfie is an award winning New Zealand journalist, with a background in workplace, health and safety, business and climate writing. She is the author of Tragedy at Pike River Mine:How and why 29 men died (2013), and Helen Kelly: Her Life (2021).
Anita Rosentreter is the Strategic Project Coordinator for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing at FIRST Union. She leads the campaign Real Work Real Jobs, which aims to turn insecure work into secure work. Target groups include gig workers, those in labour hire, and dependent contractors.
Superficial attempts at listening and dialogue can have the effect of normalising the far right, giving it credibility and the opportunity to grow, writes Professor Mohan Dutta.
One of the mainstream liberal responses to the angry anti-mandate, anti-vax, anti-everything protests that we’ve been seeing around the country are calls for dialogue.
These calls, coming from a wide array of mainstream sources, including the Human Rights Commissioner, suggest that dialogue promotes social cohesion. Dialogue, so the theory goes, creates a middle ground through listening to all communities, thereby preventing polarisation.
Implicit in this approach is the “both sides” logic, with dialogue serving as a resource for developing mutual understanding between the two differing constituencies.
But what exactly is the middle ground when democracies are faced with viral disinformation campaigns organised by powerful political and economic interests?
What exactly are the characteristics of dialogue when dealing with a protest that is propelled and co-opted by disinformation and hate, that is deeply rooted in the ideological apparatus of white supremacy, and that is seeking to seed chaos and capture power by undermining democratic institutions?
What message does the performance of dialogue with campaigns fed by white supremacy send out to Māori, Pacific and ethnic communities who are the targets of the hate perpetuated by the far right?
In the backdrop of the Christchurch terror attack, what message does dialogue with a protest fuelled by white supremacy send to Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand, who continue to grapple with the trauma of that violence?
Instead of building social cohesion, superficial attempts at listening and dialogue can have the effect of normalising the far right, giving it credibility and the opportunity to grow.
There is profound irony in the fact that the reference to “listening to communities — all communities”, in calls for dialogue covering the statements by the Human Rights Commissioner, relates to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attack targeting Muslims and migrants.
Consider this irony in the context of the voices of Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand, who continue to highlight the erasure of their voices and the unresponsiveness of the Crown structures to Muslim voices documenting and raising concerns about Islamophobic hate.
In an Official Information Act response to Christchurch youth advocate Josiah Tualamali’i, Crown Law (the organisation responsible for drafting the terms of the Royal Commission inquiry), stated that “in drafting the terms of reference, Crown Law did not consult with Muslim community leaders and/or victims of the attacks.”
Whiteness and dialogue
The uncritical and celebratory view of dialogue as a human right reflects the whiteness of the mainstream approaches to dialogue, which upholds as universal the values of the dominant white culture.
Instead of building a framework for justice that pays attention to the inequality inherent in many white spaces, the upholding of dialogue as a panacea reproduces and magnifies the disinformation and hate perpetuated by white supremacists.
The protests we’ve seen in Wellington and around the country have been shaped by disinformation and hate, seeded and circulated by right-wing white supremacist hate infrastructures, connected to and imported from Trump-aligned fascist groups in the United States.
You’d have to be blind not to see the convergence in strategies between the recent protests at parliament and the Capitol riots which called for citizen-led arrests of policymakers, jailing them, and even carrying out their executions.
Counterspin Media, a platform that’s been covering the protests and feeding protesters with disinformation, has been a key media resource in the mobilisation of the protests.
As observed by digital activist Byron Clark, who has co-written a white paper on resisting digital hate, Counterspin is streamed on the Steve Bannon-led GTV network and is a key player in organising and circulating disinformation and hate here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In spite of multiple early warning signs about the presence of this hate infrastructure, the Crown has largely been unresponsive, and digital platforms have continued to profit from the virality of hate content. This is particularly disappointing given the rhetoric of the Christchurch Call.
The host of Counterspin, Kelvyn Alp, has actively promoted disinformation and hate propaganda, calling on protesters to storm parliament and arrest members of parliament, and making multiple references to killing them. On March 2, the day police finally ended the 23-day occupation, Alp opined that things would have gone differently if protesters had been armed:
“Can you imagine if a few boys brought out of their boot a few AK-47s? Those muppets would have run for the hills. That’s the problem. You disarm a population under a false flag so they can then come and eviscerate you.”
Alp is joined by other white supremacists: Brett Power, Philip Arps, Damien De Ment and the white nationalist group Action Zealandia.
Counterspin has also circulated the Christchurch conspiracy video during the Wellington protest, claiming the falsehood that the Christchurch terrorist attack was a false flag.
White supremacists systematically target Indigenous and other minority communities with disinformation and hate propaganda. White supremacist propaganda targeted at Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) communities seeds chaos and amplifies and multiplies disinformation and hate. We saw examples of that in the US, where white supremacists co-opted Black Lives Matter protests and organised violence.
These propaganda infrastructures operate largely on digital platforms such as Telegram, Facebook and Twitter. Simultaneously, they create and craft spectacles — the protests — that draw mainstream media attention, further perpetuating the disinformation. The production of the spectacle is a key strategy in placing disinformation and hate into the mainstream media.
Inequalities and dialogues at the margins
Communication is deeply infected by colonial, race, class, and gender inequalities.
Calls for dialogue that overlook or erase these inequalities uphold the power and control of the coloniser. A framework of dialogue rooted in justice recognises these inequalities and seeks to build spaces for the voices of the margins.
Just dialogues need to begin with developing culture-centred methods and practices for communities at the margins, created and led by communities at the margins, that challenge disinformation and hate.
Across digital platforms, I’ve witnessed a number of anti-racist Māori activists and leaders such as Tame Iti, Marise Lant and Matthew Tukaki, who have taken the leadership in countering the disinformation fuelling the protests. They’ve been engaging communities in critical conversations, and have simultaneously been exposing the underlying ideology of white supremacist hate driving the protests.
Respecting the commitments of te Tiriti would put Māori leadership at the heart of any strategy of dialogue and social cohesion.
Respecting the voices of Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand who have in recent years borne disproportionately the burden of violence emerging from white supremacy would centre the voices of Muslims in building solutions for social cohesion.
In creating opportunities and safe spaces to listen to the voices of those on the margins, we would also attend to the ways in which the whiteness of the Crown’s Covid-19 response has produced forms of marginalisation — including among some of those who took part in the #Convoy22NZ protest — and help to build solutions that address the economic disenfranchisement resulting from government policies.
Partnering with, and supporting, the leadership of communities at the margins as the drivers of solutions is going to be vital to countering the Trumpian web of disinformation and hate that has planted its roots in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Professor Mohan Dutta (Photo supplied)
Professor Mohan Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at Massey University. He is the director of the Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centred, community-based projects of social change, advocacy and activism that articulate health as a human right.
presented by Prof. Mohan Dutta and Dr. Leon Salter with panelists Ibrahim Omer, Anita Rosentreter and Rebecca Macfie
CARE EVENT UPDATE: Unfortunately, tonight’s CARE White Paper Launch: Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers is rescheduled to Monday 14th March 2022.We will be in touch with you soon with an updated time. Apologies for any inconvenience. Thank you.
CARE White Paper Launch: Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers- presented by Prof. Mohan Dutta and Dr. Leon Salter with panelists Ibrahim Omer, Anita Rosentreter and Rebecca Macfie.Abstract: Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers : Findings from interviews with 25 rideshare and delivery drivers about their navigation of precarious working conditions in a pandemic environment.Monday, 14th March 2022 @ 12 pm NZDT-TBC Location Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/984089835577558 and on CARE YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF760E7rBst3U5GmJ5FhDDw