Ryan Hartigan – Breaking Bureaucracy: Ngāi Tūhoe, Performing Time and Home, and the Waitangi Tribunal


Ryan Hartigan

University of Otago

Breaking Bureaucracy: Ngāi Tūhoe, Performing Time and Home, and the Waitangi Tribunal

In the multiple temporalities of the postcolony, the wasteful time of the Indigenous, which is deemed to be past-ness, is the exemplar of ‘chronopolitics’: the systems of power that privilege particular narratives of history and are enfolded in performance. Time’s construction and circulation lie in the quotidian, sedimenting in bodies and encounter. This played out vividly in 2007 when heavily armed paramilitary Special Tactics Group operatives conducted raids across Aotearoa-New Zealand, with the brunt falling hardest upon the Urewera homelands of Ngāi Tūhoe people. The operation was authorized by the mechanics of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, modeled upon the Patriot Act and passed under urgency by Parliament in response to United States pressure. One of the most haunting markers of the 2007 Urewera state terror raids is not the scale of intervention, nor even the disproportionate use of force against civilians: it is a battered shack standing sentinel over the staging point of the paramilitary forces, across the historic confiscation line on Ngāi Tūhoe homesoil, where jagged lettering scrawls one child’s fear:

I cried because we were hungry & scared 
5 years old Oct 15, 2007 (Morse 2010) 

As I once bitterly quipped, in this moment, a country invaded itself. Brought into its wake was the legal instrument known as the Waitangi Tribunal, a meeting point of history from above and history from below. It is not a court. It is not a judicial body. It is not a legislative body. It is not a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is a bureaucracy. The word “bureaucracy” strikes fear into the hearts of the academic: but could it be, that this hybrid creature, breaking the normal flow of bureaucracy itself, short-circuits pastness and futurity?

Ryan Hartigan is an artist and scholar from Aotearoa-New Zealand and Teaching Fellow in Theatre at the University of Otago, having relocated home after a number of years as faculty in the USA. His book project considers Indigenous performance, temporality, history, and the law in Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa-New Zealand, a chapter of which appears in the recent volume Law and Performance. He is also working on a long-term project on the scapegoating of mental illness vis-a-vis active shooting incidents in the USA. His research has won awards from ATHE, UCLA, UCSB, TaPRA (UK) and ADSA; he is an internationally award-winning director, and is a veteran of a plethora of improv festivals globally, including an evening of dystopia in Juneau, Alaska.