After two-day Workshop on ‘Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change in New Zealand’

December 10, 2014

In the end of August 2014, more than 40 people including academics, activists, practitioners and students came together at Massey University Palmerston North campus in order to discuss the current situation of social movements in Aotearoa New Zealand from various perspectives. It was organised by Ozan Nadir Alakavuklar and funded by Massey University Research Fund (MURF) and Te Kāhui Kahurangi/The School of Management. There were 2 keynote speeches and 22 presentations for two days.

The first day began with a welcome speech by Jason Mika and Ozan Nadir Alakavuklar in order to explain the motivation behind this workshop and gathering. Following lunch, first keynote Campbell Jones invited academics to get dirty in the challenging path of activism with an alternative reading of Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’. This speech somehow drew the frame for the rest of the workshop in line with the following session on ‘Theory and practice gap’. Murdoch Stephens provided a good example of the impact potential of an academic through a social media experiment for raising the refugee quota in New Zealand. Nadia Abu Shanab told about ‘Auckland Action Against Poverty’ and possibilities of creating impact in the society through activism. The last presentation was from Sue Bradford. She shared the outputs of her PhD thesis and told about the lack of a place – home – where policy makers, academics and activists can meet in order to produce transformative politics. The first day went on with drinks and a dinner together. The general feeling was that the workshop was timely and there was such a need to come together and talk about overcoming barriers between theory/practice and disciplinary divisions.

The second day continued with the keynote speech of Shiv Ganesh focusing on how the recent social movements and activism have a new and different structure what he called dialogic, and, how we should approach this new phenomenon. Two concurrent sessions followed keynote speech: in Māori movement session first Vicki Simon told about the nursing education practices for Māori people and the hardships regarding the official registration processes for Māori practices. Following Vicki, Moana Sinclair talked how the legal framework prioritises Western principles and how this is observed in settlement issues observed as a result of Treaty of Waitangi. In relation to settlement and land issues, Joy Panoho made a presentation about the dilemma regarding usage rights of land belonging to her whanau land and the intervention of environmentalists on the land. Final presentation was from Alex McConville on how the affect about celebration and memorial days is managed through media, mostly with a Pakeha discourse. Overall the session helped sharing the experiences of Māori movement in various fields. Meanwhile, in the parallel session which was thematised around resistance, Emma Sharp told about the food struggles of a community in Auckland in order to protect the community rights on community gardens. While Andrea Brower talked about malpractice of chemical company and resistance of resident people against the company in Hawaii, Marcelle Holdaway drew our attention to mining operations in Australia and how the local community works on organising to protect their environmental rights. Final presentation of the session was from Nathalie Jaques about how living wage campaign is actually re-production of the existing structural inequalities rather than challenging and changing them. This session provided some practical insights and perspectives about the relationship between social movements and resistance relationship in and around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Following lunch, again there were two concurrent sessions. In academy and activism session, we heard the discussion of Jai-Bentley Payne on who actually the university is and whom it belongs to in opposition to the claims of capital on the idea of university. Vanessa Cole told us the uncomfortable position of the academic in one of the struggles regarding community housing and she invited academics to take on more responsibility. Deborah Jones’s presentation complemented this call and she talked about her own experiences regarding the ethically and politically fragmented nature of writing about social movements, activism and their actors as an academic. In the final session, Jonathan King invited us to re-think on the relationship between the organization of politics and the role of the academic in the process of transforming society. The session helped us reflecting on the position, gaps and dilemmas of the academic in relation to social movements and activism. In the parallel session, we had chance to listen about different examples of resistance, activism and social movements in Aotearoa New Zealand.  First, Kristy McGregor talked about the issues revolving around feminine identity in traditionally masculine industry of farming and the difficulties of being woman in farming NGOs. Then, Janet Sayers made a discussion on pay equity activism and how social media can be utilized for such a struggle. Following pay equity discussion, we heard from Leon Salter on how structural changes in education sector have impact on teachers and how the teachers resist to this. Final presentation was from Sandra Grey on a historical analysis of the struggle between political elites and activists regarding the legitimacy of political activism and social movements in New Zealand. This session particularly focused on examples of social movements from New Zealand and provided us a frame on how movements and activism are still alive in different ways.

After the final tea break we had our final session and we listened to Shanti Deallenbach on how finance education can be an important tool for social movements to fight against the capital in these neoliberal times of financialization. Then, Maxwell Tarrant made a theoretical discussion on the ‘affective’ analysis of Occupy movement in the USA. Unfortunately, due to health problem, we did not have chance to listen Warwick Tie, but he made his study available for all of us in the following week.

After a long and dense day, we all talk about how this group should proceed. There were three main points,

  • to build up a research network,
  • to have a special issue in a New Zealand Journal to make the studies available for all,
  • to maintain communication and organise meetings for building up new formations.

Since then it seems we managed to realize two of the suggestions. As an outcome of the workshop, now we have a research network ‘Social movements, activism and social change in Aotearoa New Zealand’ that will be more active in 2015 on the online platform of Engaged Social Science. Currently we work on expanding our membership base and we invite scholars, practitioners and activists to be a member of our network. Our network welcomes anyone who is interested in the topic.

At the same time we submitted our proposal to Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online for a special issue on Social Movements and activism in Aotearoa New Zealand. We hope to have some positive news soon to circulate our Call for Papers.

Finally, as a network we also aim to meet once a year to maintain the dialog. Apart from the outcomes of the workshop, Sue Bradford organizes some meetings across New Zealand to talk about founding a ‘think tank’ which might be interested of to some scholars and activists.

The workshop took two days, yet, we believe its impact will be much longer and have already created a fertile ground for further collaborations and studies.

Here are the links to recordings of keynotes and some presentations

Campbell Jones – What is possible

Shiv Ganesh – Activism and the new Dialogic


Nadia Abu-Shanab – ‘What can an Impact look like?: Auckland Action Against Poverty and Political Praxis in Aotearoa/New Zealand Today’

Murdoch Stephens – ‘Doing our megabyte: a reflection on the efficacy of a social media campaign’

Sue Bradford – ‘Across the great divide: Left activists & social movement research in Aotearoa’


Emma Sharp – ‘Food fights: Engaging with alternative food initiatives’ stories of resistance and (benign) transgression for social change’

Andrea Brower – ‘Hawaii’s struggle against the chemical+seed industry and the possibility of wider possibilities’

Marcelle Holdaway – ‘Social movements and social change: The lock the Gate Alliance: Their capacity as change agents’

Nathalie Jaques – ‘The reduction of politics to ethics: the living wage and the struggle to determine social necessity’


Jai Bentley-Payne – ‘Who is the University?’

Vanessa Cole – ‘Navigating the space (in)between academia and community activism’

Deborah Jones – ‘Traitorous writing: the ethics and politics of research on film’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Other Side of Business

Welcome to The Other Side of Business. This is a blog that collects and distributes the opinion and analysis of staff and students from the School of Management, College of Business, Massey University. The aim is to post once or twice a month on current issues in business... Read more