52 University of Toronto Law Journal (2002)

Competing Conceptual Approaches to Indigenous Group Issues in New Zealand Law

Benedict Kingsbury

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Argument about issues concerning indigenous peoples is characterized by lack of agreement even on core concepts and political languages with which to join debate. To some extent this is inevitable where smaller groups are seeking a radical change in the majority’s thinking and fundamental interests clash. Indigenous advocates often make use of concepts established among the majority, and sections of the majority may try to use what they understand to be indigenous concepts. In a relatively integrated society like New Zealand with complex personal identities, many hybrid conceptual forms develop, while at the same time language is fashioned to achieve authenticity (sometimes by questionably claiming purity and tradition for a newly restructured concept) and legitimacy (sometimes by attaching an appealing new label to a refurbished ancient idea). Deep conceptual uncertain ties are also evident in the legal practice of official institutions, and these may have substantial consequences.