Flagging Diversity: The Discursive Construction of Cultural Diversity by the Flag Consideration Panel

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Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA)

The Flag Consideration Project invited New Zealanders to change the New Zealand flag, and in doing soprovided an opportunity for public discussion about what it means to belong to anation. This articleexaminesthe contemporary conceptualisations of New Zealand offered in the 5Alternatives text that accompanied the first flag consideration referendum.Given the increasing levels of cultural diversity and the historical difficulty faced in ensuring that multiple cultures contribute to the construction of New Zealand, the analysis focuses on constructions of cultural diversity. We used Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis to consider ideologies of nationhood prevalent in the text;in particular, we were interested in insights pertaining to bicultural and multicultural constructions of New Zealand. As it happens, the attemptsmade by the Flag Participation Panelto construct cultural diversity through asserting that New Zealand is inclusive and multicultural, and by referring to Māori culture as well as Chinese. On a surface level, it appears that the constructions address the limitations attached to the current flag, and specifically its Pākehāsymbolism. However, the language used by the Panel indicatesa continued reliance on a Pākehāperspective of New Zealand and the positioning of Māori as outside the mainstream. Therefore, although the text may have attempted to emphasise commonality and unity regardless of cultural affiliations, it inevitably tokenises cultural difference and offers a seemingly shallow notion of New Zealand as inclusive.

Biculturalism; Cultural diversity; Flag Consideration Project; Multiculturalism; National flags
Refereed Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference 2017 - Communication Worlds: Access, Voice, Diversity, Engagement ISSN 1448-4331, available at: http://www.anzca.net/conferences/past-conferences/
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