Uprooting the settler gorse: Emily Beausoleil, ‘Calling in to Cut back: Settlers learning to listen for a decolonial future’, Ethnicities, 2021


Abstract: Clearing the gorse, a particularly aggressive invasive plant, so that native plants can flourish has been used as a potent metaphor for decolonization, and described as labour appropriate for settlers to perform in the interest of just relations with Indigenous peoples. Yet, this labour is not simply one of negation, for it involves learning to bring one’s group difference alongside that of others rather than continuing to mistake that difference for the unmarked context of Indigenous-settler relations. Clearing the gorse is thus also connected to the labour of “gathering at the gate”: the requirement according to Māori protocols of encounter that visitors develop a sense of collective identity and purpose before any meeting can take place. Settler societies, as a rule, operate without a collective sense of the specific identity and history of being a settler people. How would these two forms of labour appropriate for tauiwi Pākehā to perform be connected, and how would performing them together serve broader projects of decolonization and honouring settler commitments in Te Tiriti o Waitangi? I reflect upon this question in light of insights from Tauiwi Tautoko, a recent nationwide anti-racism programme wherein tauiwi (non-Māori settlers) addressed anti-Māori racism online. Core to the programme’s novel anti-racism approach were listening strategies that both invited and modelled acknowledgment of the particular ground from which tauiwi Pākehā see and speak. These strategies have proven effective in creating openings and shifts regarding racist views in otherwise adversarial and toxic spaces. They offer innovative practical resources for the work settlers can and must do with our own people, if we are to contribute to a decolonial future.

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