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By Clare Barker (auth.)

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Extra info for Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality

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170). In the Aotearoa New Zealand context, the hegemony of normalcy is intricately tied up with the process of settler indigenization, the system of normalization by which European settlers became the hegemonic inhabitants of the nation-space: ‘eventually’, Jane Stafford and Mark Williams write, ‘New Zealand came to be seen not as a Maori society in which a place had to be found for Pakeha settlement, but as a settler New Zealand in which a place had to be found for Maori’ (2006, p. 20). 12 Like any hegemonic concept, normalcy is meaningful only in relation to its opposites, as Donna Awatere demonstrates in her manifesto for Maori Sovereignty (1984), one of the most influential texts of M¯aori activism in the 1980s: White people do not see themselves as part of a culture.

In this community, disabled difference does not fall under what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson terms a ‘compensation model’ or even an ‘accommodation model’ (1997, p. 15 The disabilities of Toko and his ‘first mother’, Mary, are established as material differences within their community but are by no means definitive. Mary, for instance, ‘has her own way of walking, moving her short wide body from side to side’ (Grace, 1987, p. 32). Here, her individuality becomes a sign of recognition and a marker of familiarity – of belonging – rather than estrangement.

Any familial norms exemplified in western models of the nuclear, filiative family are therefore conspicuously absent in Potiki, as are established understandings of childhood and disability as fixed, symbolic and potentially sentimentalized categories of difference. Grace’s consideration of the exceptional child is presented firmly within her depiction of a M¯aori community in which normalcy, as a hegemonic concept, features less prominently than flexible responses to difference. The concept of ‘normalcy’ is a powerful tool in organizing and administrating conditions of difference – whether embodied or cultural – and can be marshalled to undergird hegemonic formations and practices, including those of the ongoing internal colonialism experienced by M¯aori in an officially bicultural nation.

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