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Survivor-styled indigeneity in two reality television programmes from Aotearoa/New Zealand

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Popular cultural formations are rich sites for examining how a nation shores up its boundaries in the wake of powerful global forces at the same time as intra-national differences seek to assert themselves and unsettle the terms on which a nation is articulated. This article examines two recent New Zealand reality TV programmes that dramatize shifting discourses of cultural and national belonging within postcolonial Aotearoa/New Zealand. By examining how the TV3 outdoor challenge programme The Summit and Ma¯ori Television's language competition programme Waka Reo share aspects of the American reality show Survivor, this article investigates the ways in which global television formatting can illuminate competing claims to cultural belonging and national identity. While media scholars have accused Survivor of perpetuating American neo-imperialist notions of cultural belonging, this article examines how the process of drawing upon the Survivor format for a New Zealand audience reveals the intra-national struggles of a postcolonial nation and the need for new narratives of the nation. As we argue, the Survivor format serves many different interests and can be used to perpetuate settler-centric narratives of the nation at the same time as fuel iwi initiatives to revitalize language and culture.

Keywords: Reality TV; Survivor; global television formatting; indigenous language; indigenous media; national identity; settler identity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Victoria University of Wellington

Publication date: 2011-11-11

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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