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Seuffert, Nan --- "Circumscribing knowledge in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Just epistemology" [1997] NZYbkNZJur 7; (1991) 1 Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence

Last Updated: 15 April 2015


Nan Seuffert *


Eurocentric epistemologies,' as theories of knowledge, have underpinned the production of knowledge across disciplines, including knowledge produced in law and in the social sciences. A consideration of epistemology is therefore one of the necessary inquiries for a research project into Laws and Institutions for a Bicultural New Zealand2 that seeks to develop bicultural3 research

Nan Seuffert, LLM(Hons) Victoria, JD(Hons) Boston, BA Virginia, is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato School of Law. I would like to thank Marama Henare and Fran Wright for helpful comments, and Leah Whiu and Wendy Lamer for stimulating ideas for this article.

I use "Eurocentric philosophy" to denote what is often known as philosophical modernity in order to emphasise the cultural specificity of this philosophy. For a concise discussion of philosophical modernity see Margaret Davies, Asking the Law Question (1994) 221223.

  1. The University of Waikato School of Law received funding for this research project from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in the 1996 funding round; the project began on 1 January 1997.
  2. "Biculturalism" is an often contested term created by Maori activists and academics in response to policy discourses of multiculturalism in Aotearoa/New Zealand developed in the later 1970s and 1980s. It was argued that a focus on multiculturalism was an excuse for "doing nothing" and a means by which the state could "quieten Maori demands for their language and culture to be taught in schools, as well as to placate mainstream New Zealand and encourage tolerance and restraint". Kuni Jenkins, "Maori Education: A Cultural Experience and Dilemma for the State—A New Direction for Maori Society" in Eve Coxon, Kuni Jenkins, James Marshall and Lauran Masey (eds) The Politics of Learning and Teaching in Aotearoa-New Zealand (1994) 153. Arguments for biculturalism based on the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 were also expounded in reports of the Waitangi Tribunal:

We do not accept that the Maori is just another one of a number of ethnic minority

groups in our community. It must be remembered that of all minority groups the

Maori alone is party to a solemn treaty made with the Crown. None of the other

migrant groups who have come to live in this country in recent years can claim the

rights that were given the Maori people by the Treaty of Waitangi.

Because of the Treaty Maori New Zealanders stand on a special footing reinforcing, if reinforcement be needed, their historical position as the original inhabitants, the tangata whenua of New Zealand, who agreed to allow our European forbears to come and settle here with them.

Waitangi Tribunal, Te Atiawa Report,Te reo Report section 5.11, 37 (Wai-6, Wellington, 1983).

methodologies as a preliminary step for the development of bicultural laws and institutions. The project begins from the position that the existing law, legal system and legal and political institutions of New Zealand, as well as the dominant methods of social science research, are generally monocultural. The first objective of the research is therefore titled "Bicultural Methodology and Consultative Processes". It requires creating and identifying epistemologies, methodologies and methods for bicultural socio-legal research.

My interest in the project springs in part from my conviction that law and society are inextricably intertwined and mutually reproductive, and from the recognition that social change is necessary to produce a just society for Aotearoa/New Zealand. Any analysis of the laws and legal system that purports to be conducted outside of, or separate from, the society in which that system operates will have a severely limited potential for social change. My work in the past therefore has been interdisciplinary, involving both social science research and legal analysis. Two aspects of these past projects resonate with this project: a focus on locating knowledge and an interdependent focus on the processes of knowledge production.

Traditional Eurocentric theories of epistemology have claimed universal applicability across disciplines, cultures and historical periods. These theories have been styled as quests for the theory of knowledge, meaning one universal theory of knowledge. This approach has logically and politically circumscribed the legitimation of knowledge. Logically, these theories of knowledge have developed and used the criteria of objectivity, universality and rationality to legitimate and limit the production of knowledge. Politically, these criteria reproduce the dominant social order; the criteria produce and legitimate knowledge that reflects and reproduces power in the already powerful groups in society.4 Through the processes of imperialism and colonisation, traditional Eurocentric epistemology has been imposed throughout the Commonwealth and the United States. It is reflected in the dominant approaches to producing knowledge in law and in social science research methodologies and methods.

Challenges to Eurocentric epistemology have come from, among others, Anglo-American and other feminists, and Maori women and men. The claim to the production of objective knowledge has been thoroughly critiqued, resulting in convincing arguments for recognition of the stakes of the location of the production of knowledge, including the position in society of the knowledge producer, and the historical, geographical and political context in which knowledge is produced. One powerful argument has been made by the American feminist Donna Haraway, critiquing claims to objectivity in the production of knowledge as "god tricks".5 Haraway argues for the recognition

  1. Sandra Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking From Women's Lives (1991) 143-147.

5 Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women (1991) 183-201.

of the partiality of knowledge production, and for situating knowledge in the particular historical, political, social and legal contexts in which it is created. Haraway's argument has been interpreted by some theorists as defining all knowledge as situated.6 Focusing on the location of knowledge production also highlights issues of the process of production. When can knowledge legitimately claim broad applicability?

Maori women, feminists and others in Aotearoa/New Zealand have questioned the relevance of Anglo-American theories to Aotearoa/New Zealand, discussing issues surrounding importing, recreating and situating such theory in Aotearoa/New Zealand.? This essay considers the implications of importing Haraway's argument for use as a tool of feminist epistemology in Aotearoa/ New Zealand; Haraway's argument is itself particular to its situation as an American critique of the dominant Eurocentric epistomological traditions. I first discuss traditional Eurocentric epistemology and its Anglo-American critiques, making the argument for situating knowledge production in response to the hegemony of these epistemologies. I then consider the implications of using this argument in the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand, beginning with the argument that traditional Eurocentric epistemology has facilitated the process of colonisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The particular context of relations between Maori and Pakeha8 women in Aotearoa/New Zealand is central to situating feminist theories here. Finally, I consider assertions by Maori women that Anglo-American postmodern theories, adopted by Pakeha feminists and others in Aotearoa/New Zealand, are culturally specific to the dominant culture and exclude some Maori women's conceptions of aspects of identity. I conclude that feminist epistemology requires theories of situated knowledges that are internally circumscribed, both deconstructing the universalist, exclusive umbrella of the dominant Eurocentric theories, and leaving space for multiple theories of knowledge which may be inconsistent.

  1. See eg Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman, "Introduction" in Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman (eds) Feminism and the Politics of Difference (1993) xiii (citing Haraway); supra n 4 at 11 "all scientific knowledge is always, in every respect, socially situated".
  2. Feminists in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia have engaged in re-creating feminist theory from the US and elsewhere into theories with local relevance and significance. See eg Vicky Kirby, "Feminisms, reading, postmodernisms': Rethinking complicity" in Gunew, supra n 6 at 20, 21; Wendy Lamer, "Theorising Difference in Aotearoa/New Zealand" (1995) 2(2) Gender, Place and Culture 177, 182-184.
  3. "Pakeha" is a Maori term, used by Maori to refer to descendants of colonisers, to persons of predominantly European descent, or to all non-Maori people in Aotearoa. See HW Williams, Dictionary of the Maori Language (1992) 252. Use of the term by white people has been contested and described as part of a politics that marks the dominant group racially and culturally. Paul Spoonley, "The Post-Colonial Politics of Pakeha" in Margaret Wilson and Anna Yeatman (eds) Justice and Identity: Antipodean Practices (1995) 96115.

This essay therefore focuses on developing the epistemological stance for the first objective of the Laws and Institutions for a Bicultural New Zealand project, leaving the development of research methodologies and methods for further work. Both critiquing the dominant traditional epistemologies and circumscribing the feminist epistemology of situated knowledges, it aspires to just epistemology.


Any attempt at a concise exposition of the voluminous works that have contributed to the development of Eurocentric epistemologies, the critical work of Anglo-American feminists and the deconstruction of its facilitation of colonisation by Maori people and others, is inevitably reductionist and distorting. Here I attempt only to discuss some general aspects of traditional theories that assist in highlighting the gender and culture specificity of those theories in the analyses that follow.

A. Traditional Eurocentric Epistemology

An epistemology is a theory of knowledge.9 Traditionally in Eurocentric philosophy it has been assumed that one universal theory of the nature and limits of knowledge existed a priori, and that the philosopher's quest was one to discover this theory.10 The term epistemology was used to indicate the theory of knowledge, "[e]pistemology, or the theory of knowledge, is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, its presuppositions and basis, and the general reliability of claims to knowledge...".11 In fact, the proponents of many different theories argued for acceptance of their theory as the theory. Many of these theories share a number of epistemological beliefs. The first belief is that there are simple rules ordering the behaviour of matter and the evolution of the universe. The second belief is that there are eternal, objective, extrahistorical, socially neutral,

9 Sandra Harding, "Introduction: Is There a Feminist Method?" in Sandra Harding (ed) Feminism and Methodology (1987) 1. Harding's definitions are not the only ones for these terms, and there has been debate among feminists about both the categories and the contents of the categories that she proposes. Mary Maynard, "Methods, Practice and Epistemology: The Debate About Feminism and Research" in Mary Maynard and June Purvis (eds) Researching Women's Lives From a Feminist Perspective (1994) 10.

10 Linda Alcott and Elizabeth Potter, "Introduction" in Linda Alcott and Elizabeth Potter (eds) Feminist Epistemologies (1993) 1.

  1. DW Hamlyn, "History of Epistemology" in Paul Edwards (ed) Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    vol. 3 (1967) 8-9.

external and universal truths. Finally, is assumed that natural laws can be discovered that are universal, genderless and verifiable.12

The central epistemological belief that knowledge can be "objective" has had several interconnected meanings.13 The first of these meanings is that the producer of knowledge is the subject and knowledge is produced about an object of study. Objectivity also implies that the subject producing the knowledge has no interaction with or effect upon the knowledge produced, so that knowledge can be verified by interchanging knowledge producers without affecting the knowledge. The knowledge produced is therefore universal truth, distanced or "free" from the knower's position in society and his or her political beliefs.14 The subject who is the producer of knowledge is autonomous and instrumental and produces universal objective knowledge (knowledge about objects) using the rational mind.15 Reason as a tool16 is unconnected to both the knowledge producer's position in society and his or her body. The mind is therefore privileged over the body and the emotions in the production of knowledge. The assumption that knowledge produced by the mind will be the same regardless of who the producer is, that the scientist or academic only "reveals" the "Truth", has freed the knowledge producers from any responsibility for the knowledge.

The mind/body dichotomy is one example of the predominant dichotomous manner of organising phenomena and legitimating knowledge that is integral to traditional Eurocentric epistemology The assumptions that underlie this method of organisation include: that all relevant phenomena is captured by the two dichotomous categories; that each category represents a universal, homogenous essence; that the categories are mutually exclusive; and that therefore any phenomena not captured by the two categories represents an "abnormal" case.18 For example, traditional Eurocentric epistemology is based upon the assumption that all people fall into one of the two categories in the dichotomy man/woman, that all men and all women share in the essence of

12 See Lorraine Code, "Taking Subjectivity into Account" in Alcott, supra n 10 at 15,16.

13 Sandra Harding, Strong Objectivity': A Response to the New Objectivity Question" (1995) 104 Synthese 331, 333.

  1. See Sandra Harding, "Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is 'Strong Objectivity'?" in Alcott, supra n 10 at 49, 63.

15 Ngaire Naffine, "Sexing the Subject (of Law)" in Margaret Thornton (ed) Public and Private: Feminist Legal Debates (1995) 21-26 at fnt 22 "My focus here is on English legal thought from about the late eighteenth century."

16, Maynard, supra n 9 at 18.

17 Ibid.

  1. See eg Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman, "Introduction" in Gunew, supra n 6 at xiii, arguing that binary logic is "homogenizing and universalist, built on the principle of exclusion and the tyranny of the familiar."

"being" a man or a woman, that the two categories explain everything that we need to know about sex, and that anyone who does not fit into one of these categories is abnormal. Hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transgendered people, gays and lesbians and indeed anyone who does not conform to the dominant discourses' construction of gender is therefore considered abnormal.19

Other dichotomies that have been central to traditional epistemology include: subject/other; objective/subjective; neutral/biased; universal/particular; and rational/irrational. Traditional epistemology links the categories on each side of the dichotomy to each other. Each characteristic which is important to the legitimation of knowledge in Eurocentric epistemology is found on the left side of the dichotomy; conversely association of knowledge with the categories on the right side is considered delegitimating.

These three aspects of the legitimation of knowledge—the centrality of objectivity, the interconnected meanings of objectivity, and the use of dichotomies—are all reflected in the production of knowledge in both law and the social sciences. For example, in law the assumption that judges are objective legitimates their decisions: it is assumed that their decisions are uninfluenced by their positions in society and their political beliefs. Many substantive areas of law assume that a rational subject is the actor of the law." It has been argued that the ideal of the autonomous rational subject is central to the idea of law itself.21 The mind/body binary has also been central to mainstream Anglo-American legal theory; it is the rational mind, using the power of reason, that obeys the law.22 The substantive law has reflected the dichotomous ordering of the binary man/woman by, for example, criminalising gender "abnormalities",23 restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples,24 and prohibiting women from practising as lawyers.25 The connections between the two sides of each dichotomous pair are also reflected in the law:

  1. See Amy Kastely, "Out of the Whiteness: On Raced Codes and White Race Consciousness in Some Tort, Criminal and Contract Law" (1994) 63 U Cin LR 269, 277 "I have met people whose gender I could not discem....If I cannot figure out a person's gender I do not know how to act; and if a person's gender is unclear, then the person must be a strange character, no matter what."

20 Supra n 1 at 223.

21 Ngaire Naffine, Law and the Sexes (1991) ch 5.

22 Pheng Cheah and Elizabeth Grosz, "The body of the Law: Notes Toward a Theory of Corporeal Justice" in Pheng Cheah, David Fraser and Judtih Grbich (eds) Thinking Through the Body of the Law (1996) 3.

  1. Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women From the Renaissance to the Present (1985) 54, 419; Ruthann Robson, "Lesbianism in Anglo-European Legal History" (1990) 5 Wisc Women's LJ 1, 26.

24 Quilter v Attorney General [1996] NZFLR 481.

25 See Margaret A Wilson, "Towards a Feminist Jurisprudence in Aotearoa" in Rosemary Du Plessis (ed) Feminist Voices: Women's Studies Texts for Aotearoa/New Zealand (1992) 266, 267-270.

The mind/body polarisation has historically functioned hand-in-hand with the ways in which the relations between the sexes are conceived and particularly, with the social, cultural and legal homogenisation of women's specificities into models produced by and functioning in the interests of a universalism that disguises its affinity with patriarchy.26

The mind/body binary reflects and is reflected in the man/woman binary.

The influence of these epistemological traditions in the social sciences has produced, for example, the assumption (or aspiration) that good social science research can be duplicated by any competent researcher; thus the researcher's position in society and political beliefs are irrelevant to the knowledge produced.27 In order to maintain the distance necessary to the production of objective knowledge the researcher is traditionally taught not to reveal anything about his or her background or beliefs, and not to engage in any information exchange with the research participant (or object of study).28 Any relationship between the researcher and the research participants is seen to "taint" the study and is therefore inappropriate.29

Traditional Eurocentric epistemologies have underpinned the production of knowledge in law and in the social sciences, resulting in claims that knowledge produced in these disciplines is objective and therefore universally applicable across cultures and historical periods. The next two sections focus on critiques of these claims to universal applicability that insist on recognising the limitations of the traditional theories as both gender and culture specific.

B. The Gender-Specificity of Traditional Eurocentric Epistemologies: Anglo-American Feminist Critiques

Anglo-American feminists and others have critiqued Eurocentric epistemological beliefs and the use of dichotomies as an organisational tool. While these critiques have been multiple and interconnected, at least two major strands are identifiable. The first is the critique of objectivity and the related concepts of rationality, universality and impartiality as the legitimators of knowledge and knowledge production. The second major strand critiques the pervasive use of binary categories as the underlying foundation of epistemological theory. Iris Young provides an excellent analysis of the theoretical interconnections between objectivity (or impartiality) and

26 Supra n 22 at 4.

  1. Michael Quinn Patton, Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods (2d ed 1990) 5456.
  2. Ann Oakley "Interviewing Women: a Contradiction in Terms" in Helen Roberts (ed) Doing Feminist Research (1981) 31, 47.

29 Supra n 27 at 54.

dichotomous ordering, and the link between these concepts and the perpetuation of power:

The stances of detachment and dispassion that supposedly produce impartiality are attained only by abstracting from the particularities of situation, feeling, affiliation, and point of view. These particularities still operate, however, in the actual context of action. Thus the ideal of impartiality generates a dichotomy between universal and particular, public and private, reason and passion.... the ideal of impartiality serves ideological functions. It masks the ways in which the particular perspectives of dominant groups claim universality, and helps to justify hierarchical decision making structures.30

The first strand of feminism critiques objectivity as a "myth" that masks the dominant epistemological stance of knowledge, perpetuating the production of a partial world view consistent with the interests of certain groups who have traditionally produced knowledge, usually privileged white men.31 Knowledge produced from these very particular and partial perspectives therefore masquerades as universal Truth. Donna Haraway uses sight as a metaphor to highlight the partiality of knowledge production. She argues that claims of objectivity in knowledge production have been false claims that the knowledge producer can see the "object" of the knowledge from all perspectives equally at once without actually being situated anywhere, "the god-trick of objectivity".32 Human beings are always located in a very specific place in relation to the subject of knowledge. As a human being, one can never "objectively" see from every perspective at once, without actually being situated anywhere. Claims of objectivity are therefore false claims of superhuman vision.

The second strand, critiquing the pervasive use of binary categories, notes that each dichotomy also represents a hierarchy, with one category constructed as subordinate to the other.33 For example, the use of the subject/object dichotomy in epistemology, linking the producer of knowledge with the subject and objectifying the person or thing studied, has been critiqued for its tendency to reproduce the power of those usually in the privileged position of producing knowledge. It has also been pointed out that any "knowledge" which transgresses traditional epistemological structures by starting from the particular position of the subject or (worse still) from her political beliefs, or by challenging the mind/body dichotomy, cannot by definition be "objective" or "rational", is obviously not scientific, and therefore has a dubious status as "knowledge":34

30 his Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (1990) 97.

31 Catharine A MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989) 120-124.

32 Supra n 5 at 190-91.

33 Supra n 31 at 113-120.

34 I am indebted to Margaret Davies for this particular phrasing.

[A] process will be considered to be "scholarship" to the extent that it appears to conform to norms of objectivity, rationality, and so on; and it will be considered to be "not scholarship" to the extent that it overtly attempts to take account of women's social experiences, as expressed through a deconstruction of falsely universalized knowledge and theory.35

Similarly, races that are constructed as "other" to "white" tend to be marked by traditional Eurocentric epistemology with subordinate characteristics: emotional, irrational, savage, uncivilised, earthy, unable to escape the constraints of the body for the pure rationality of the mind and therefore producers of inferior knowledge (if any).36

Haraway's argument interweaves aspects of the second strand of feminist critique. Relativism is the mirror opposite of objectivity, a binary integral to traditional epistemology's binary logic. Relativism is also constructed as subordinate to objectivity. The assumption that a critique of objectivity leaves relativism as the only option perpetuates the dominance of binary logic. Haraway and others have argued that highlighting the partiality of knowledge production does not mean that any perspective is as good as any other.37 Relativism, like objectivity, relies on the assumption that knowledge can be produced that does not reflect the knowledge producer's position in society or political beliefs. To argue that we are faced with an illimitable variety of perspectives of equal value is also an argument which purports to start from a position outside the cultural context. Further, responses to critiques of objectivity that assume relativism as the only, and inferior, option, have historically been made when this dominant binary logic is under attack in order to preserve the status quo.38

Haraway's insistence on the location of knowledge production as an integral element of knowledge moves beyond the objective/relative dichotomy.39 All knowledge is located in particular social contexts: situating knowledge is

  1. Kathleen A Lahey ...Until Women Themselves Have Told All That They Have To Tell... (1985) 23 Osgoode Hall LJ 525.
  2. Aida Hurtado The Color of Privilege: Three Blasphemies on Race and Feminism (1996) 15; Patricia Johnston and Leonie Pihama, "What Counts as Difference and What Differences Count: Gender, Race and the Politics of Difference" in Kathie Irwin and Irihapeti Ramsden (eds) Toi Wahine: The Worlds of Maori Women (1995) 80-81; see generally Elizabeth V Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (1988).

37 Supra n 5 at 191; Hurtado, supra n 36 at 36; supra n 4 at 152-156.

  1. Supra n 4 at 152 "Historically, relativism appears as a problematic intellectual possibility only for dominating groups at the point where the hegemony of their views is being challenged."
  2. For a critique of Haraway suggesting that she unwittingly sets up further dichotomies, see Kirby, supra n 7 at 23-25.

about recognising the stakes in that location. The recognition that perception is inevitably located, and therefore political, leaves a space for criticising knowledge-claims on the basis of what Haraway calls their "irresponsibility" 40 This irresponsibility includes failure to locate the knowledge as situated, unreflective assumptions of objectivity, and the perpetuation of invisible power structures which universalise certain forms of perception. Haraway argues that we should value knowledge that recognises its own partiality, (the beliefs and value systems of the communities41 through which it is produced) and takes responsibility for that partiality.42 In other words, knowledge producers are accountable for the knowledge produced. We cannot claim that we are not responsible for the "truth" that we "reveal".43

Anglo-American feminist critiques of the traditional Eurocentric epistemological focus on objectivity as a criteria legitimating knowledge have had both logical and political dimensions. Knowledge cannot logically be objective as objectivity is traditionally defined (and therefore is not). Knowledge is always produced and interpreted by a subject who knows.44 Claims to objectivity in knowledge production are politically a way of protecting the privileged point of view of the group of people who have the power to define what counts as truth. In Eurocentric society, educated white men have created knowledge in their own images as a dominant minority, and have presented this knowledge as universal, and themselves as therefore unaccountable. Reliance on binary logic in the production of knowledge is ubiquitous, simplistic and irrational; its use is also pervasive and deeply rooted.

Anglo-American feminist critiques of traditional Eurocentric epistemological assumptions and logic are also reflected in feminist critiques of law and social science research. For example, drawing on the critique of objectivity, Martha Minow has argued that justice requires recognition of the partial perspectives of judges:

Justice is engendered when judges admit the limitations of their own viewpoints, when judges reach beyond those limits by trying to see from contrasting perspectives, and when people seek to exercise power to nurture differences, not to assign and control them. Rather than securing an illusory universality and objectivity, law is a medium through which particular people

40 Supra n 5 at 191.

  1. For excellent discussions of community epistemology, or epistemological communities, see Lynn Harkinson Nelson, "Epistemological Communities" in Alcott, supra n 10 at 161.

42 Supra n 5 at 190.

43 Supra n 4 at 149, 152, 156.

44 Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified (1987) 55 "Objectivity is a stance only a subject can take.. . . Anyone who is the least bit attentive to gender since reading Simone de Beauvoir knows that it is men socially who are subjects, women who are objects."

can engage in the continuous work of making justice."

The critique of objectivity and the resulting universality in law has sometimes resulted in feminists focusing on the particular narratives of women's experiences, and using women's narratives in legal arguments."

In the social sciences feminists have argued that the irrationality of claims of objectivity require researchers to situate themselves in their research projects and reflect on and analyse the implications of their locations.47 Rather then creating distance from the research subjects, it has been argued that researchers who share experiences with research participants produce better knowledge about those experiences." These critiques have resulted in the production of knowledge in which the researcher's position is acknowledged as an integral part of the knowledge."

These Anglo-American critiques of the traditional Eurocentric epistemology underlying the law and social sciences contributed to a crisis of legitimacy. This global crisis of legitimacy exhibited its own specificities in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.50 One aspect of this crisis particular to Aotearoa/New Zealand is the form of claims for Maori sovereignty.

45 Martha Minow, "The Supreme Court 1986 term—forward: justice engendered" (1987) 101 Hary LR 10, 95.

46 Kathryn Abrams, "Hearing the Call of Stories" (1991) 79 California LR 971; Richard Delgado, "Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative" (1989) 87 Michigan LR 2411; Martha Mahoney, "Legal Images of Battered Women: Redefining The Issue of Separation" (1991) 90 Michigan LR 1; Elizabeth M Schneider, "Particularity and Generality: Challenges of Feminist Theory and Practice in Work on Woman-Abuse" (1992) 67 New York University LR 520; Nan Seuffert, "Locating Lawyering: Power, Dialogue and Narrative" (1996) 18(4) Sydney LR 523.

  1. Maynard, supra n 9 at 16, Mary Margaret Fonow and Judith A Cook, "Back to the Future: A Look at the Second Wave of Feminist Epistemology and Methodology" in Mary Margaret Fonow and Judith A Cook (eds) Beyond Methodology (1991) 1, 2-5; see generally Patti Lather, Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy With/In the Postmodern (1991); Liz Stanley and Sue Wise "Method, Methodology and Epistemology in Feminist Research" in Liz Stanley (ed) Feminist Praxis: Research, Theory and Epistemology in Feminist Sociology (1990) 20-59.

48 Maynard, supra n 9 at 15-16; supra n 13; Nancy Harstock, "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism" in Harding, supra n 9 at 157.

49 See Nan Seuffert, "Hanging Out at the Gap: A Dialogue Reading of Experiences of Survivors of Domestic Violence With Legal Representation" (1996) 8(2) Canadian JWL 290.

50 See Jane Kelsey, A Question of Honur? Labour and the Treaty 1984-1989 (1990).

C. The Cultural Specificity of Traditional Eurocentric Epistemologies

Aotearoa/New Zealand was colonised by the British beginning in 1769. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the British and some leaders of the various Maori iwi. The British quickly proclaimed absolute sovereignty over Aotearoa/New Zealand. However, the Treaty guarantees Maori te tino Rangatiratanga (loosely translated as chieftainship), and control over taonga (treasures) and resources, such as fishing.51 The discussions of Maori surrounding their signing52 indicate that most Maori did not believe that they were ceding sovereignty, or granting control of their land to the British. The most logical and well-developed analyses of the Treaty signing suggest that what Maori people were agreeing to, and what the British knew that Maori people were agreeing to, was the British coming into the country to govern the British, while the guarantee of te tino Rangatiratanga ensured that Maori people retained the right to govern Maori people.53 Implementation of this agreement would have been likely to result in two systems of governance, contrary to the British claim to absolute sovereignty.

The physical processes of colonisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand, as elsewhere, were facilitated and legitimated by traditional Eurocentric epistemology. The ubiquitous binary logic that underpinned the definitions of Eurocentric knowledge as universal, and the Eurocentric subject that it produced as the measure of all things, resulted in all other knowledges and peoples being labelled partial and inferior, justifying the imposition of colonisation:

those who embrace the Euro-derivation of "universal knowledge" are considered by definition to be the normative expression of intellectual advancement among all humanity....having inherent rights to impose themselves and their "insights" everywhere and at all times, with military force if need be...54

The assumptions regarding one universal, correct theory of knowledge also legitimated the imposition of one absolute sovereign as legal ruler.55

  1. Ranganui Walker, "The Treaty of Waitangi as the Focus of Maori Protest" in IH Kawharu (ed) Waitangi: Maori and Pakeha Perspectives of the Treaty of Waitangi (1989) 263, 263269.
  2. One influential Maori leader at the time described the effect of the Treaty in the debates surrounding the signing as "the shadow of the land goes to the Queen but the substance remains with us". Ranganui Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End (1990). Maori also had concerns with the lawlessness of British and thought that the Treaty would clarify the need for British to rule their own.

53 Supra n 51 at 263-265.

  1. Wendy Rose, "The Great Pretenders: Further reflections on Whiteshaminism" in The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance (1992) 407.

55 Paul McHugh, "Constitutional Voices" (1996) 26 VUWLR 499.

Colonisation involved not only the physical imposition of "settlers" on thelands of indigenous peoples and the imposition of a British form of law, but also the domination of the production and legitimation of knowledge and culture. The term "epistemic violence" has been coined to represent the colonisation of the processes of the production of knowledge:

the discourses on the colonized that the colonizer produced were, for the most part, distorted at best, fabricated at worst. The notion of `epistemic violence' captures the idea that associated with West European colonial expansion is the production of modes of knowing that enabled and rationalized colonial domination from the standpoint of the West, and produced ways of conceiving 'Other' societies and cultures whose legacies endure into the present.56

These Anglo-American critiques of the colonisation of knowledge production were preceded here in Aotearoa/New Zealand by Maori critiques of epistemology. Linda Tuhiwai Smith has been one of the leading commentators in this area, arguing that:

In creating a 'new' nation, the colonisers placed great emphasis on how different they were from (and much 'better' than) the native inhabitants. The emphasis placed on the constructed dualisms of savage and civilised, heathen and Christian, immoral and moral, provides examples.57

Consistent with use of the ubiquitous binary logic that Smith recognises, from the colonisers' perspectives knowledge produced consistent with Eurocentric epistemology was defined as superior to knowledge produced by Maori knowledge processes:

In general, consistent with traditional epistemology's dichotomous and hierarchical ordering, Maori knowledge processes were devalued by colonisers at the same time that Eurocentric knowledge production was valorised.58

An important aspect of these critiques is the focus on the cultural specificity of the production of knowledge consistent with Eurocentric epistemology. Not only is this knowledge gender-specific consistent with constructions of the male gender as the subject producing the knowledge, but it is also culturally specific to the West European colonising cultures.

56 Ruth Frankenburg, The Social Construction of Whiteness: white women, race matters (1993) 16.

57 Linda Tuhiwai Smith, "Maori Women: Discourses, Projects and Mana Wahine" in Sue Middleton and Alison Jones (eds) Women and Education in Aotearoa/New Zealand 2 (1992) 33; Kathie Irwin, "Towards Theories of Maori Feminisms" in Du Plessis, supra n 25 at 1.

58 Rusell Bishop, Whakawhanaungatanga: Collaborative Research Stories (1996) 14.

These critiques are, of course, applicable to the production of knowledge in both law and the social sciences generally. Moana Jackson's eloquent indictment of the racism of the New Zealand Criminal Justice System in 1988 critiqued its basis in a monocultural philosophy and the substantive outcome of criminal convictions.59 He concluded, based on the argument that the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed to tino Rangatiratanga to Maori, that the effects of the cultural specificity of the colonisers' legal system mandated culturally appropriate parallel legal systems for Maori and non-Maori.69

Traditional Eurocentric research epistemology has also been critiqued from a Maori perspective:

Traditional research epistemologies have...developed methods of initiating research and accessing research participants that are located within the cultural preferences and practices of the Western world as opposed to that of Maori people themselves. For example, the preoccupation with neutrality, objectivity and distance by ... researchers has emphasised these concepts as criteria for authority, representation and accountability and has distanced Maori participants from participation in the construction, validation and legitimation of knowledge.61

This critique encompasses research methodologies and research design. Research designs based on Eurocentric epistemology, often used by Pakeha researchers studying Maori, have tended to objectify Maori people by transforming them into objects of study.62 Maori researchers have explicitly used Maori processes to locate the power and control in the research process with the Maori research participants.63 This centring of Maori processes in the production of Maori knowledge is consistent with an epistemology "based within Maori cultural specificities, preferences and practices".64

59 Moana Jackson, The Maori and the Criminal Justice System- He Whaipaanga Hou: A New Perspective, Pt 1 (Department of Justice, Wellington, 1988) 42; The Maori and the Criminal Justice System- He Whaipaanga Hou: A New Perspective , Pt 2 (Department of Justice, Wellington, 1988) 265.

6° Ibid Pt 1 at 42; Pt 2 at 265.

61 Supra n 58 at 14-15.

  1. Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, "He Tikanga Whakaaro: Research Ethics in the Maori Community" (Manatu Maori, Wellington, 1991); Jackson Pt 1, supra n 59 at 3.

63 Supra n 58 at 11; Stephanie Milroy, "Maori Women and Domestic Violence: the Methodology of Research and the Maori Perspective" (1996) 4(1) Waikato LR 58.

64 Supra n 58 at 15 (citing Kathie Irwin, "Maori Research Methods and Processes: An Exploration and Discussion" Paper presented to the joint New Zealand Association for Research in Education/Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Geelong, Australia, 9).

Eurocentric epistemology as the basis for the production of "universal', "objective" knowledge in both law and social sciences has been thoroughly critiqued as both gender and culture specific. In response, arguments for recognition of the situated aspects of knowledge, such as Haraway's, have proliferated. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, both the critiques of traditional Eurocentric epistemologies and the calls for situating knowledge have been most clearly mediated and reconstructed in the practical and theoretical relations between Maori and Pakeha women. An analysis of those relations is therefore useful to both situating knowledge in Aotearoa/New Zealand and to analysing the relevance of Haraway's analysis for this context.


The Anglo-American "second wave" of feminism(s), and the movement(s) for Maori sovereignty65 contributed to the construction of relations between Maori and Pakeha women in Aotearoa/New Zealand that were mediated through complex local and global discourses. These discourses included feminist theories and practices produced in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia, all of which were sometimes enthusiastically and uncritically appropriated and sometimes critically reproduced and recreated in light of local conditions. Also influential were both international and local constructions of discourses of self-determination, and especially the claim, made most powerfully by Maori women, to absolute Maori sovereignty in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Crucial to the analysis of relations between Maori and Pakeha women in Aotearoa/New Zealand is the historical context of colonisation. While the dearth of information on women's histories generally is even more pronounced in the area of relations between Maori and Pakeha women, it is clear that Pakeha women, even during the "first wave" of feminism, were heavily implicated in colonisation.66 The role of Pakeha women in colonisation often included "civilising" Maori women and girls by teaching them domestic roles consistent with the colonisers' culture.67 This cultural colonisation resulted

65 Paul Spoonley and Wendy Lamer, "Post Colonial Politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand" in Daiva Stasiulis and Nira Yuval-Davis (eds) Unsettling Settler Societies (1995) 54.

  1. See Barbara Brookes and Margaret Tennant, "Maori and Pakeha Women: Many Histories, Divergent Pasts?" in Barbara Bookes, Charlotte Macdonald and Margaret Tennant (eds) Women in History 2 (1992) 25, 37 when a ban on the employment of Maori women by Asians was urged in 1929 representatives of the National Council of Women and Miriam Slojak defended Maori women's right to choose for whom they worked, but this may be explained partly by the fact that the work was seen to be appropriate for Maori and not Pakeha women.

67 Ibid at 35.

in Maori women reporting that denial of their Maori identity was necessary in order to secure and ensure continued employment, avoid racial slurs and protect their children.68 Maori women also reported discrimination on the part of Pakeha landladies and condescending attitudes on the part of Pakeha women.69 In the rare instances of recorded support of Pakeha women for Maori women, even that support was likely to be made within the Eurocentric construction of Maori culture as inferior and uncivilised, "Maori girls have as much pride, and every right to have it, as their more civilised sisters".70 Further, there is much evidence to support the argument that colonisation impacted severely on the traditional roles of Maori women in many areas, often resulting in rewriting those roles to be more consistent with the colonisers' gender hierarchy 7'

Traditional Eurocentric epistemology's persistent use of binary logic structures oppression along a series of axes according to discreet categories such as gender, race, culture, class, sexual orientation, and others. While there are multiple manifestations of both "first wave" and "second wave" feminism in its Anglo-American and Aotearoa/New Zealand formulations, many of these manifestations, especially those dominated by white and Pakeha feminists, although profoundly challenging gender roles, failed to challenge this underpinning binary structuring as a whole. This approach resulted in movements addressing almost exclusively only one category of oppression, oppression on the basis of sex. The exclusive focus of these various movements has been challenged by women of colour, working-class white women, and lesbians with various local manifestations all over the world.72

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, as the "second wave" of Pakeha feminism was gaining force in the 1970s and 1980s, political activism on the part of Maori women was also increasing and diversifying. The Pakeha-dominated liberal feminists focused on gender oppression, resulting in struggles for legal rights such as those concerned with control of their own bodies and economic

68 Ibid at 38.

69 Ibid.

70 Ibid at 36 (emphasis added).

  1. Annie Mikaere, The Balance Destroyed: The Consequences for Maori Women of the Colonisation of Tikanga Maori (LLM Thesis, University of Waikato, 1995); Judith Binney, "Some Observations on the Status of Maori Women" in Brookes, supra n 66 at 14-15, 19, 24.

72 Donna Awatere, Maori Sovereignty (1984); Larissa Behrendt, "Aboriginal Women and the White Lies of the Feminist Movement: Implications for Aboriginal Women in Rights Discourse" (1993) 1 Australian Feminist LJ 27; Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (eds) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Color (1983); Angela Harris "Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory" (1990) 42 Stanford LR 581, 586-590; Spelman, supra n 36; Chandra Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses" [Autumn 1988] Feminist Review 60.

independence.73 During the same period, claims to absolute Maori sovereignty were made by a number of vocal, articulate and powerful Maori women.74 Maori women were then, as now, central to the movement for Maori sovereignty in Aotearoa/New Zealand,75 and to demands for the return of Maori land. For example, the Maori Land March of 1975 was lead by Dame Whina Cooper,76 and Maori women played active leadership roles in the Bastion Point occupation.77

In 1981 the National Government of New Zealand allowed the all-white South African Springbok rugby team to tour the country despite international agreements and boycotts of high-profile racism in sports. This tour mobilised protest against racism in New Zealand for non-Maori,78 and especially for Pakeha women. Maori and Pakeha women often marched in the front lines in the protests against the tour in 1981.79 As Maori activists challenged Pakeha willing to protest racism in foreign countries to deal with the racism in their own backyards, the tour became a catalyst for recognition among Pakeha of past and present injustices to Maori.80 This recognition spurred the anti-racism movement among Pakeha in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Many of the Pakeha women who were involved in the anti-racism movement were also feminists81 and some of these women were also involved in developing critiques of the traditional Eurocentric epistemology's approach to production

73 Supra n 25 at 270.

  1. Betty Williams, The passage of Maori land into Pakeha ownership (1983); Awatere, supra n 72; Ripeka Evans, "Maori Economic Development" (1986) 4 Race, Gender, Class 18; Atareta Poananga, "Death of an Honorary White" [April 1986] Broadsheet 13.

75 Awatere, supra n 72; Annette Sykes, "Constitutional Reform and Mana Wahine" in The Fiscal Envelop: Economics, Politics and Colonisation; A Series of Readers Examining Critical Issues in Contemporary Maori Society (1995) 40; Tania Rangiheuea, "The Role of Maori Women in Treaty Negotiations and Settlements" in Geoff McLay (ed) Treaty Settlements: The Unfinished Business (1995) 105; Annie Mikaere and Stephanie Milroy, "Maori Women and the Health System" 1993 New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Women's Law Conference Papers (Conference Publishing, Wellington, 1993) 263.

76 Michele Dominy, "Maori Sovereignty: A Feminist Intervention in Tradition" in Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Poyer (eds) Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific (1990) 237, 246-247.

77 Jan Farr, "Bastion Point" (1981) 94 Broadsheet 20-24.

78 Supra n 65 at 49.

79 Supra n 76 at 250.

80 Supra n 65 at 49.

  1. Deborah Jones, "Looking in My Own Backyard: The Search for White Feminist Theories of Racism in Aotearoa/New Zealand" in Du Plessis, supra n 25 at 290, 290-291.

of knowledge.82 Some Maori women also recognised a connection between colonisation and sexism:

men are the owners and perpetrators of oppressive institutions, governments, and is necessary to be where the struggle is—for when it is women, the male-white-supremacist-power-oppression cycle will continue unopposed once again—because we are not there.83

It has been controversially argued that a convergence of interests, or recognition of a parallel set of interests, occurred between Maori women separatists and Pakeha lesbian separatists in the 1970s and early 1980s.84 Donna Awatere argued in 1981 that during their work together on the tour white lesbians and black women had a parallel analysis.85 When Ripeka Evans challenged the racism of the fourth national United Women's Convention in 1979, Pakeha lesbian separatists vociferously supported her.86

However, analysis presented by Maori women suggests that they do not necessarily see themselves as similarly situated in relation to feminism or to the Maori movement for self-determination. In 1979 Awatere challenged all Pakeha feminists to expand their analysis from one that focused exclusively on gender to one that included an analysis of race and class.87 Another Maori academic woman felt alliances to both the feminist and the Maori sovereignty movements.88 Other Maori women, while acknowledging some relevance of the feminist movement to Maori women,89 cautioned against subsuming Maori women's struggle within feminism:

One of the difficulties in subsuming our struggle as Maori women under existing feminist analyses is that we deny the centrality of our identity and the specific historical and cultural realities we endure.9°

  1. Ibid; Julie Glamuzina, "A Lesbian-Feminist Approach to the Histories of Aotearoa: A Pakeha Perspective" in Du Plessis, supra n 25 at 39; Jane Kelsey, Rolling Back the State: Privatisation of Power in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1993) 311-314; Jane Kelsey, "Engendering Poverty: Rolling Back the State on New Zealand Women" (1993) 23(2) VUWLR 59; National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges, Revised Refuge Growth and Projection (Wellington, 1988).

83 Supra n 76 at 248 (quoting Jan Farr (1978)).

  1. Ibid at 243-245; see Larner, supra n 7 at 184 "Dominy's analysis of the identity formation of Maori activist women was greeted with considerable scepticism, and some hostility, by both Pakeha and Maori feminists."

85 Supra n 76 at 249 (quoting Awatere).

86 Ibid at 244.

87 Alison Jones and Camille Guy, "Radical Feminism in New Zealand: From Piha to Newtown" in Du Plessis, supra n 25 at 300, 306.

88 See Ngahuia to Awekotuku, Mana Wahine Maori (1991) 20-21.

  1. Smith, supra n 57 at 47 "[i]t would be useless to deny the relevance of the feminist struggle for all New Zealand women."

9° Ibid at 35.

This comment is a local response to the Aotearoa/New Zealand manifestation of second wave feminism that is linked globally to the challenges of indigenous women and other women of colour to these forms of feminism. Maori women have been positioned as subordinate by Eurocentric epistemology's binary axes in the categories of gender and culture,' and often class as wel1.92 Feminist theorising addressing only the gender axis, without explicitly recognising the limitations of the use of binary logic, implicitly constructs all women as similarly situated. As a result, women who fit into the most privileged categories, usually white, heterosexual, educated middle-class women, are empowered to speak for all women. The specificities and diversity of Maori women's identities and experiences are silenced and subordinated. The unquestioned use of theories developed from the same or similar sources as traditional epistemological theories, which do not challenge this structure, are therefore seen by some Maori women to have the same colonising potential as traditional Eurocentric epistemology, and have been resisted, at least in part, as a form of "neo-colonialism".93 For these reasons and others, some Maori women therefore make the powerful argument that Eurocentric and American feminist theories cannot be assumed to be free of the colonising potential of Eurocentric epistemologies generally.94 Chandra Mohanty makes a similar point about western feminist writing on women in the third world:

western feminist writing on women in the third world must be considered in the context of the global hegemony of western scholarship—i.e., the production, publication, distribution and consumption of information and ideas. Marginal or not, this writing has political effects and implications beyond the immediate feminist or disciplinary audience. One such significant effect of the dominant "representations" of western feminism is its conflation with imperialism in the eyes of particular third world women.95

Some Maori women have explicitly argued for the rejection of Eurocentric/ colonising knowledges and for the centring of Maori knowledge:

for many Maori women there is an ongoing struggle to centre ourselves, to deconstruct colonial representations, and to reconstruct and reclaim knowledge about ourselves. Maori women have been struggling with

  1. For analyses of the positions of Maori women that seem to assume that they must choose whether theirs is a "race" or a gender struggle see supra n 76; Radhika Mohanran, "The Construction of Place: Maori Feminism and Nationalism in Aotearoa/New Zealand" (1995) National Women's Studies Journal 50-69.

92 Binney, supra n 71 at 23; Elizabeth Murchie, Rapuora: Health and Maori Women (Wellington, 1984) 82; Rangiheuea, supra n 75 at 106-107.

93 Supra n 65 at 54-55.

94 Awatere, supra n 72.

95 Mohanty, supra n 72 at 61 (note omitted).

such a process from the margins and many have articulated that in order to fully realise such a process we must locate ourselves in the centre.96

In the mid-1980s these types of local arguments, made in the global context of challenges of women of colour, resulted in Maori women making claims of and demands for space in which to enable this centring. The practical implementation of this idea included the development of both Maori women's organisations" and parallel Maori/non-Maori women's organisations that incorporated self-determination with full resourcing for Maori women.

For °example, in the years from 1984-1988 the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges98 implemented a parallel Maori/non-Maori structure for the organisation in response to demands from Maori women.99 The organisation is run by a core group of eight women elected from the individual refuges that make up the national collective. Four of these positions are for Maori women and four are for non-Maori women. During the 1980s and early 1990s the national office also employed Maori and non-Maori national co-ordinators and trainers. At the individual refuge level, in towns where there is sufficient population to support two refuge houses, Maori and non-Maori women run two separate refuges. This means that Maori women respond to crisis calls from Maori women and non-Maori women respond to other crisis calls. In towns too small to support two houses, each refuge collective has a Maori and non-Maori caucus. At meetings, the Maori and non-Maori women caucus separately on specific issues, then meet to make decisions. A type of parallel structure was also implemented in the Ministry of Women's Affairs.w° Recently, the National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups has commenced implementation of a bicultural structure.101

96 Johnston, supra n 36 at 84.

  1. See eg Tania Rae, Geraldine McDonald, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, "Nga Ropu Wahine Maori: Maori Women's Organisations" in Else, supra n 99 at 3-17.
  2. Women's refuges provide a 24-hour crisis line, safe housing, and counselling, referral and advocacy services for women survivors of domestic violence. Toni McCallum, "National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges 1981—" in Anne Else (ed) Women Together: A History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand Nga Ropu Wahine of te Motu (1993) 142.

99 Ibid.

IM See Brenda Tahi, "Biculturalism: The Model of Te Ohu Whakatupu" in Wilson, supra n 8 at 61-77.

lot Telephone interview with Julie McGowan, National Co-ordinator of the National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups, 11 September 1997. See generally, Alexis Harvey and Mary Moon, "National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups of Aotearoa 1986-" in Else, supra n 99 at 147-148; Tania Rae, "Te Kakano o te Whanau, 1986-" in Else, supra n 99 at 50-51.

The implementation of parallel structures, the use of the term "non-Maori", and the ordering of "Maori/non-Maori" in these organisations reflect recognition of the theoretical critiques of Eurocentric knowledge production and a conscious political attempt to implement these critiques into practice by centring Maori women and shifting power from the dominant to the colonised group. Aida Hurtado has recently discussed this strategy in the United States context with respect to power reversals shifting authority to previously silenced groups in specific social interactions such as feminist conferences.102 She argues that these strategies accomplish more than just substituting one oppression for another:

reversal is a necessary prerequisite to healthy and authentic coalitions, however uncomfortable it may be for all parties involved....What is being accomplished through temporary, context restrained reversals is the knowledge of what it is to be treated according to group membership either for privilege or for oppression....many white feminists find it difficult even to see their white privilege and how the history of such privilege creates a divide between themselves and feminists of Color.103

These attempts to implement feminist theory into practice also facilitated awareness and scepticism among Pakeha women of unquestioned importation of Anglo-American feminist theories to Aotearoa/New Zealand, and resulted in attempts to develop feminist theories unique to Aotearoa/New Zealand.1°4 Both Maori and Pakeha feminists are therefore often engaged in critically recreating and reproducing Anglo-American feminist theory in a process that challenges the hegemony of these theories and their interpretations." In addition, Pakeha feminists are sometimes aware of the limitations of the knowledge that they produce in relation to Maori women, and explicitly acknowledge these limitations.' It could be argued then, that both Maori and Pakeha feminists in Aotearoa/New Zealand commenced the project of situating feminist knowledges here in the 1980s.

102 Hurtado, supra n 36 at 31.

103 Ibid at 32-33.

104 See eg supra n 25 at 266; Lamer, supra n 7 at 183-184; Mohanran, supra n 91 at 53.

105 Kirby, supra n 7 at 20, 21 describing what may be a similar process for Australian feminists: "Taking a critical distance from the hegemony of both Anglo-American feminism and Anglo-American interpretations of postmodern criticism, many feminists in Australia have been engaged in grafting, re-reading and recycling these exotic imports into products with different and local use values."

106 Supra n 25 at 266 "[t]his chapter will be written from the perspective of Pakeha women... [t]he monocultural perspective adopted in this chapter means that it cannot be comprehensive in its assessment of the questions it poses and attempts to answer."; Lamer, supra n 7; Nan Seuffert, "Lawyering and Domestic Violence: A Feminist Integration of Experiences, Theories and Practices" in Julie Stubbs (ed)Women, Male Violence and the Law (1994) 79; supra n 49 at 312-313 .

It is sometimes also argued however, that these types of strategies, including the parallel structures of organisations, are based on a binary politics of Maori/ non-Maori that is open to all of the critiques of binary logic that have been discussed above. For example, some recent analysis argues that feminisms in Aotearoa/New Zealand have been constructed and interpreted along bipolar lines as Maori and Pakeha feminism, with little interaction between the two.107 Others have argued, also using a bipolar analysis, that the feminism of Maori activist women has privileged gender as the primary basis of oppression.108 In response, the argument has been made that Maori feminism is a construction of Maori nationalism rather than subsumed under the feminist movement.109 While this latter argument counters the analysis of Maori feminism as privileging gender, it also uses the underlying assumption of bipolar logic that Maori women must choose either other women or Maori men as allies.

While these theoretical arguments may identify or use a bipolar analysis, it is important to note that the practices of feminism in these parallel organisations do not reflect any type of pure separatism. The day to day work engaged in by women's organisations requires a constant interaction, negotiation of boundaries, and recognition of difference within each group,11° all of which challenge the characterisation of these as structures as implementing a simple binary. Thus theorising that assumes that separatism is the practice or the goal of these organisations fails to reflect the complexities of that practice, and the fact that in these instances Maori women have demanded these structural configurations rather than having them imposed upon them. Similarly, theorising that imposes the binary structuring of Eurocentric epistemology on Maori women by assuming that their politics must be either manifestations of the feminist movement or manifestations of Maori nationalism also distort the complexities of the positions taken by Maori women, and ignore Maori women's arguments about the necessity of centring themselves. What is needed is theorising that reflects the complexities of these local political practices and facilitates the development of further local and global political struggles that avoid reproducing subordinating aspects of binary logic and replicating and imposing the colonising aspects of Eurocentric theories on Maori women. Analysing the implications of situating knowledge in the Aotearoa/New Zealand context, to which I turn in the next section, is helpful to this project.

107 Lamer, supra n 7 at 177. I do not understand Lamer to be arguing necessarily that the two feminisms have in fact been discrete entities, but rather that feminists have tended to analyse them in a bipolar fashion.

108 Supra n 76 at 254.

109 Mohanran, supra n 91.

110 For example, recognition of diversity among non-Maori women, perhaps spurred in part by the arguments of Maori women, has resulted in an Auckland refuge for Pacific Island women.

This section has presented a situated, particular and partial history of relations between Maori and non-Maori women. It is a history influenced by my own perspective as a Pakeha participant in the movement to end violence against women in both the United States and in Aotearoa/New Zealand)" In an iterative process, this history has been shaped by feminist theories of situated knowledges as much as it shapes those theories by providing the location for their analysis.II2 It provides a context and location for considering more explicitly the relevance of Haraway's Anglo-American theory for Aotearoa/ New Zealand.


I have argued that Anglo-American feminists and others have thoroughly critiqued Eurocentric epistemologies' pervasive reliance on binary logic; gender and cultural hierarchies integral to dichotomous ordering have been termed `epistemic violence'. Simultaneously however, some feminist theorising has continued to employ this (ubiquitous) logic without addressing the stratification of society into other hierarchical categories. Attempts to empower women that do not address the ways in which binary logic structures hierarchies among women often result in empowering only women in the most privileged groups in society. Some of this theorising also oversimplistically constructs and reproduces complex feminist practices into these simplistic categories. In Aotearoa/New Zealand many Maori women and some Pakeha feminists have thus argued that the unquestioned importation of feminist theories based upon or influenced by these Eurocentric theoretical tendencies is problematic.

I contend that Donna Haraway's argument that knowledge is situated is useful to analysing these problems in feminist theorising. However, logically, the argument for situating knowledge is itself situated in the context in which it was produced, as part of a critique of traditional Eurocentric epistemology and scientific knowledge production. Universalising this argument in response to claims about knowledge production from women who have already been constructed as subordinate by Eurocentric epistemology has the potential to reproduce the epistemic violence of those epistemologies.

In Theorising 'Difference' in Aotearoa/New Zealand Wendy Lamer notes that she and other feminists, using postmodern constructions of identity, have explored the "notion that women are multiply organised subjects whose

ln See Judith Binney, Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (1995) 5 (the act of writing history is an encounter between a multifaceted human past and the individual who is constructing the present narrative).

112 See Mohanran, supra n 91 at 53-55.

identities are actively created and recreated in response to contested political, economic and social power relations". "3 This approach to theorising identity situates identity in political, historical and social contexts. It suggests that identity, like knowledge, is mediated through multiple layers of contested contexts. Situating knowledge and theorising identity as socially constructed thus share a focus on the contexts in which knowledge and identity are produced. This type of focus is sometimes labelled "postmodern".114

Two Maori women, Patricia Johnston and Leonie Pihama, have challenged feminist postmodern theoretical constructions of identity, including the notion that identity is socially constructed, as culturally specific:

the works of feminist postmodern authors...remain located fundamentally within a framework of the dominant culture and therefore fail to provide space for Maori women.115

This argument is consistent with Maori women's earlier claims for space to centre their experiences. It may be interpreted as claiming that aspects of Maori women's identities are essential in some way rather than constructed. In making this assertion I use "may" to indicate an awareness of the complex and political process of translation. The argument is made in English; the authors have thus engaged in the translation themselves. However, the English language is part of the framework of the dominant culture in which the postmodern feminist theory that they reject as culturally specific is located. The assumption that transparent translation from one cultural context to another is possible has aided the process of colonisation by European countries.' Further, the process of translation from a culture with an oral tradition involves both transcription and translation. Transcription presents the danger of creating static knowledge from knowledge that was intended to be living.117 The dangers of the process of translation when communication is between colonisers and a colonised culture are therefore great:

At each of these points—transcription and translation—there may be errors, misunderstandings, slippages; and these problems, universal to all acts of translation, become much more serious when the encounter between two different languages and two different modes of cultural reproduction is also an encounter between colonizer and colonized.118

113 Lamer, supra n 7 at 178.

114 Drucilla Cornell, The Philosophy of the Limit (1992) 1-12; Somer Brodribb, Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism (1992).

115 Johnston, supra n 36 at 84.

116 Angela Harris, "Comment: Seductions of Modern Culture" (1996) 8 Yale IL & Humanities 213, 227-230.

117 See supra n 111 at 24.

118 Supra n 116 at 222 (citation omitted).

For these reasons I would not assume that Johnston and Pihama are arguing that Maori women have an essence as that concept has been endlessly debated in the Anglo-American feminist literature.119 However, they are clearly asserting that their conception of identity is based on a knowledge base, or theories of knowing, that are not encompassed by postmodernist strategies and epistemologies.

Some feminist theorists have argued in response to these types of assertions:

The suggestion that minority writers are inappropriately read in terms of postmodernist strategies is one of the more patronizing gestures of "well meaning" theorists. They simply have, so it is argued, primitive stories which renders them fair game for salvage operations.12°

This passage, occurring in the context of a discussion of the interaction with "minority" texts of "sophisticated" readers, suggests that postmodern strategies are usefully applied to all writers. The authors assert that identities of excluded people come into being "only within the political relationship of a contested universalism" and argue that the identity then constructed is projected backwards as pre-given.121 Indeed, Johnston and Pihama argue that Maori women need to "reclaim...cultural constructions of identity".122 The argument above seems to be that these types of identity claims by Maori women must be seen only as constructed within the context of the colonisers' claim to the production of universal knowledge and the universal subject. This approach is consistent with the authors' assertion that all knowledge is situated.123 Further, its silence about the sources of its location and its implication that postmodern strategies must be applied to all texts can be interpreted as claims to universality, thereby slipping into the same universalising tendencies of traditional Eurocentric epistemology that have been thoroughly critiqued.124 Postmodern theory supposedly repudiates these universalising tendencies.

Assuming for the moment that Johnston and Pihama's argument is a reclaiming of some aspects of Maori women's identities from a pre-colonisation culture, what are the implications of arguing that these claims can be seen only through the lens of postmodern strategies as current constructions of the past? When

119 The authors note that they are discussing "identification of particular underlying essences which, in the present academic climate, we are so often steered away from." However, they also reject the label "essentialist". Johnston, supra n 36 at 84-85. See generally Diana Fuss, Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature & Difference (1989).

1" Gunew, supra n 6 at xxiv.

121 Ibid at xxii.

122 Johnston, supra n 36 at 84.

123 Supra n 6.

124 Dorothy Smith, "Telling the Truth After Postmodemism" (1996) 19(3) Symbolic Interaction 171, 173.

made by prominent non-Maori academics in the context of a still dominant Eurocentric epistemology that validates knowledge claims consistent with its criteria, does the argument invalidate the Maori women's claims? Ella Shohat has argued that these types of feminist arguments:

risk an anti-essentialist condescension towards those communities obliged by circumstances to assert, for their very survival, a lost and even irretrievable past....the question is: who is mobilizing what in the articulation of the past, deploying what identities, identifications and representations, and in the name of what political visions and goals?125

Even Shohat's articulation of the issues, however, situates indigenous women within a postmodern framework.126

Situating knowledge suggests recognition of the limitations of postmodern theory. As Lamer points out, arguments that seem to claim universality, especially if made by privileged Pakeha academics to invalidate Maori women's claims, must be analysed in the historical and political context of colonisation in which the arguments occur.127 Situating knowledge requires recognising the cultural specificity of theories of knowledge, as well as leaving space for other theories even when those theories may be inconsistent, or even contradictory. Feminist knowledges may be competing and incommensurable, separated by gaps that cannot be bridged by more communication or dialogue128, or filled by universalising transcendence.129

Situating knowledge production leads to recognition of multiple theories of knowledge underpinned by complex and contradictory epistemologies. It focuses critical attention on the stakes of the locations from which knowledge is produced, the processes of producing knowledge and the politics of its production."° Situating knowledge moves this focus from a simple identity politics to a complex analysis of, for example, the political stakes for Pakeha women in academia in arguing for the universalism of a "feminist" postmodern strategy in the context of ongoing colonisation of knowledge.

Situating knowledge also focuses activist attention on the political utility of theories. What do theories of knowledge tell us about what types of political struggles are possible?"' These crucial questions are equally applicable to the production of knowledge in law and in the social sciences. It foregrounds

125 Ella Shohat, "Notes on the 'Post-colonial" (1993) 31/32 Social Text 99, 110.

126 Mohanran, supra n 91 at 54.

127 Lamer, supra n 7 at 184-188.

128 Ien Ang, "I'm a feminist but ... 'Other' women and postnational feminism" in Barbara Caine and Rosemary Pringle (eds) Transitions: New Australian Feminisms (1995) 57, 64.

129 Supra n 49 at 307-311.

130 Gunew, supra n 6 at xix.

131 Larner, supra n 7 at 187.

consideration of the interpellation132 of knowledge, context and subject. Critiquing the traditional Eurocentric epistemologies in order to replace them with other universal, absolutist theories leaves those new theories open to the same critiques. The claim that knowledge is situated is itself situated.


The Laws and Institutions for a Bicultural New Zealand project involves the production of knowledge in both law and the social sciences. This discussion of epistemology has raised a series of questions regarding the production of knowledge that are central to this project. Critiques of traditional Eurocentric epistemologies' false claims that "objectivity" results in universality suggest a focus on situating knowledge. Focusing on the situated aspects of knowledge highlights the process used to produce knowledge and issues of accountability for knowledge production. The production of knowledge in Aotearoa/New Zealand in the context of colonising forces of traditional Eurocentric epistemology suggests recognition of the co-construction of that knowledge and colonisation. This is not an argument for relativism; it focuses on the stakes of the locations from which knowledge is produced. Both objectivity and relativism ignore the stakes of location. Arguments that challenges to the traditional criteria of objectivity and universality arc calls for relativism redeploy a binary system that has created and perpetuated oppression. Situating knowledge involves continued visibility of the political contexts in which knowledge is produced, and arguments about the value of knowledge within those contexts. Crucial questions about who has access to resources to make those arguments and how credibility is conferred by the dominant approaches to knowledge production are therefore raised. Situating knowledge does not, however, involve a universal claim that only knowledges consistent with this theory can be legitimate; logically this theory must limit itself to its situation. Thus situating knowledge suggests a critique of arguments that postmodern strategies of knowledge production should be applied universally to all knowledge claims, without consideration of the context in which those strategies are employed.

Critiques of the implications of traditional Eurocentric epistemology in both gender oppression and colonisation suggest recognition of the situated aspects of knowledge production, including recognition of knowledge produced

132 See Judith Butler, "Conscience Doth Make Subjects of Us All" (1995) 88 Yale French Studies 6 "Althusser's doctrine of interpellation continues to structure contemporary debate on subject formation, offering a way to account for how a subject comes into being after language, but always within its terms."

consistent with competing and incommensurable epistemological underpinnings. Little attention has been paid to the implications of the recognition of the situated aspects of knowledge for research practices in a research project involving more than one culture,133 which will be the focus of further development in the Laws and Institutions for a Bicultural New Zealand project. Situating knowledge suggests recognition of the interpellation of knowledge, context and subject in this process of development. For example, a recent focus on the consideration of "epistemological communities" highlights the community process of the production of knowledge, including the historical and political context and the prevalent belief systems that legitimate the knowledge.134 This approach suggests analysis, for example, of the construction of historical gender power differentials which contributed to the creation of the community of knowledge producers, to the production of knowledge that perpetuated that community, and to the ways in which that community and that knowledge construct gender difference. It also suggests analysis of the co-construction of the colonisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the knowledge that validates the existence of the dominant knowledge producers, and the knowledge that those constructed as powerful in the production of knowledge are producing. Situating knowledge also suggests that knowledge producers should be accountable for the knowledge that they produce. Analysis of the growing trend of funding the production of knowledge by, and accountability for the production of the knowledge to large corporations is therefore also suggested. To what extent does this process of knowledge production redress disadvantages suffered by groups in society as a result of the traditional Eurocentric criteria for legitimating knowledge?

The potential of the Laws and Institutions for a Bicultural New Zealand project to create and influence social change that will redress the monocultural bias of the current legal system will be enhanced by an analysis of the co-construction of epistemological communities and knowledge. For example, Maori women in lower socio- economic classes have been marked by Eurocentric epistemology as "other" on the bases of culture/race, gender, and class and therefore have been acknowledged rarely by the dominant legal system as producers of legitimate knowledge. Redressing that exclusion will require centring rather than ignoring perspectives such as theirs. Analysis of the co-construction of colonisation and the legitimation of knowledge requires a consideration of the potential of the knowledge produced in this project for ongoing colonisation. Situating the knowledge produced here in the context of relations between non-Maori and Maori women suggests the expectation that incommensurable knowledges will be produced by this project; conflicting and contradictory knowledges should be expected and those knowledges

133 Lamer, supra n 7 at 180.

134 See supra n 41.

should not be harmonised or assimilated. In particular, this includes avoiding the universalising tendencies of some postmodern feminist knowledge. Finally, accountability in this project is clearly focused on "end-users"; the project's recognition of a monocultural bias in the legal system suggests that biculturalism will require greater recognition of Maori cultures and Maori people. Achieving this will require a focus on accountability to Maori end-users.

Deconstructing the hegemony of traditional Eurocentric epistemology is a fluid and ongoing process which results in context-specific responses that may be conflicting and contradictory. The challenge for this project in the context of a society that is already producing irreconcilably contradictory knowledges is the reflection of those conflicts and contradictions without attempting to resolve, harmonise or universalise those tensions. This is not a recipe that reassures those in dominant positions of continued security and safety in their dominance, but rather one that seeks to create safe and secure spaces for all.

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