The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMU-K), with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Pacific Studies Program 2015 - a collaborative initiative between A&M-Kingsville and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. The Pacific Studies Program (PSP) is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, TAMU-K and Dr. Elaine Webster, Director, Summer School and Continuing Education, University of Otago. The PSP will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in New Zealand in July of 2015, attending classes at the University of Otago, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater Otago region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both the greater Pacific region and New Zealand. You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of New Zealand and the surrounding region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Hoggies NZ Slideshow

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Class

Opening the door to the classroom for our first lecture, my first thought was that I might be in the wrong place: dim lighting, incense burning, uptempo electronic music playing. Not your typical lecture setting. I’d found the right room, however, and after that brief introduction to some of New Zealand’s local dub music, Dr. Brian Roper delivered an informative lecture on New Zealand’s political and social history. In his presentation, he emphasized four aspects of this history for us to better understand New Zealand.
First, the uniqueness of European colonization in Aotearoa (New Zealand) is central to the nation’s history and society. The arrival of Pakeha (white Europeans) created conflicts and consequences similar to those experienced in the Americas. However, Maori were better able to resist and survive colonization than the indigenous peoples in the Americas. Events such as Maori resistance, the signing of a singular treaty between Maori and British, and Maori social movements have led to a much different experience for the indigenous people of New Zealand than that of those in the Americas. 
Second, New Zealand is characterized as a generous welfare state. The lecture highlighted 1935 and 1984 as the key turning points in New Zealand’s modern political history. The 1935 election marked the rise of what Dr. Roper described as a “generous welfare state.” The 1984 election, on the other hand, marked the rise of neoliberalism as the dominant political thought. Dr. Roper highlighted this shift as one that has increased socioeconomic inequality in New Zealand, and is at odds with the country’s generous social welfare policy.
Third, social democratic parties and unions have played a significant role in the country. Much of New Zealand’s political and social history has revolved around the development of a strong union movement. Political mobilization of the working class in the country has been the primary driver of many of New Zealand’s political turning points.
Lastly, New Zealand’s electoral system is a pivotal aspect of the country’s political system. New Zealand has a mixed-member proportional election system.  Parties secure seats in parliament in proportion to the percentage of votes they win in the election. This was interesting to learn about, as it contrasts from our own American electoral system and the first-past-the-post and winner-take-all systems of many other democratic nations. It is a system that is arguably more democratic than many other democracies in the world.
In addition to giving us an overview of New Zealand’s political history, Dr. Roper also discussed some of the nation’s current challenges and also talked a bit about local music. Overall, it was an interesting introduction to our study of the Pacific region and a good start to our classes at the University of Otago.

-Aaron H.

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