The Politics of Palatability

On the Absence of Māori Restaurants

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This paper seeks to explain the absence of Māori food in the public culinascape. Drawing on the work of Heldke and Hage, I develop an analysis in terms of a politics of palatability. There are few Māori restaurants because there is not a clientele. There is a limited Māori clientele because Māori as a group lack the economic resources to support restaurants and, unlike migrant ethnic groups, have many other sites of community. There is a limited Pākehā clientele because Pākehā do not enjoy Māori food. This dislike of Māori food is, I argue, a social taste, that can be understood in a context where Māori demands for rights on the basis of their indigenous status have disturbed the ways in which Pākehā belong to the nation. Following Harbottle, I argue that Māori have a “spoiled identity” for Pākehā, and that this can be read both as a sign of Māori subordination and as a sign of Māori power. What this analysis suggests is that the public culinascape can be read as a map of the field of race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2010

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