Simon Barber


Geometries of Life

Desna Whaanga-Schollum. 'Whakapapa', 2013

The central concern of my thesis is the ongoing colonial encounter between Māori and Pākehā (European settlers). It seeks to translate perspective across Māori and Pākehāworlds without subordinating either world to the terms of the other.

The condition of possibility for the work has been my encounter with an other, oroutside, of my own thinking at two wānanga (Māori places of learning). Study at thesewānanga, and living in the Māori place of Pōrangahau, has constituted a non- ethnographic fieldwork, or field geotheory, that provides the generative ground of thethesis. My learning at these places enabled me to detail a constellation of Māoriconcepts, making possible a sketch of some of the patternings of Māori life and thinking,and opening me up to an experimental inhabitation and use of those concepts.

In the two chapters following the introduction – ‘Māori Geometries’ and ‘PākehāGeometries’ – I describe something of the basal motifs of Māori and Pākehā worlds: reproduction and monetary exchange, respectively. In each account, the central motif described is both a patterning traced by a mode of life and an epistemological diagram of the structures of thought that co-constitute with(in) that pattern.

The third and fourth chapters follow the clash and entanglement of these two worlds through historic and ongoing processes of colonial encounter. My specific focus is Te Waipounamu (the South Island), where my people Kāi Tahu are from. The third chapter is concerned with the way in which the land has become commodified and subject to the inscriptions of private property. The fourth chapter tracks a set of ideas that arrive and become indigenised, finding fertile ground in the land reconfigured as commodity, resulting in an indigenous neoliberalism.

A final chapter works with with the notebooks Marx kept of his readings onindigenous societies in the last few years of his life. It also conducts a reading of Marxfrom the perspective of the Māori concepts described in the first chapter. Throughdouble-directional reading I imagine a Māori Mārx, sketching some of the contours ofthe theory she might produce.

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