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The New Zealand Wars Documentary Series: Discursive Struggle and Cultural Memory.

The 1998 television broadcast of The New Zealand Wars documentary series was a significant public event, which had a major impact on a broad range of communities and individuals in Aotearoa New Zealand. This popular television history engaged with issues of historical veracity, race, culture and nationhood and challenged previously dominant discourses associated with these concepts. In doing so, it provoked heated debate, and a re-imagining of 'nation', and also opened up spaces for alternative ways of engaging with historical narrative. Informed by post-colonialism, cultural studies and cultural memory, this thesis explores the discursive and affective role of The New Zealand Wars, as it has operated within the turbulent climate of 1990s New Zealand cultural relations. This catalytic function is described in this thesis as a phenomenon of a television series shaped by, whilst also intervening in, processes of cultural colonisation and decolonisation. While both of these processes involve the transmission of discourse via cultural forms, the act of cultural decolonisation requires, in addition, the convergence of a number of agents (people and communities, discursive and memory resources) and circumstances, within particular contextual conditions. Such a convergence provided the conditions for the discursive synthesis, which shaped the production, construction and reception of this series. The role of audio-visual media (and specifically television documentary) in transmitting cultural memory is significant as it enables the flow of memory through channels or forms (such as visual, oral and aural traditions) that can bring about new perspectives and critical reflections upon colonial discourse and dominant concepts of nation and culture. In addition to these social and intellectual processes of audience engagement, this thesis argues that experiential and affective dimensions of cultural memory can (in these specific circumstances) open up radical spaces, offering the potential for generating awareness and sparking political action. These issues are explored through a tripartite analysis of the production context, construction and reception of The New Zealand Wars series. The integration of these three phases of analysis has generated a number of insights into the potential of audio-visual forms, including their producers and audiences, to participate in the negotiation of, and resistance to, colonial discourse. Such insights serve to challenge taken-for-granted constructions of nation and history, and suggest the increasing relevance of alternative concepts such as community-building and cultural memory. Ultimately, this thesis argues that television documentary can serve as a prime site for the articulation of these concepts. The New Zealand Wars serves as a case study, which demonstrates both the potential of this site, and the significance of the social-historical and cultural context in framing this series.
Type of thesis
Perrott, L. (2007). The New Zealand Wars Documentary Series: Discursive Struggle and Cultural Memory. (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2579
The University of Waikato
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