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Research digital skills training 2021

Haka on the move: sport circuits and cultural performance

Dr Lisa Fa’anofo Uperesa, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, Māori and Pacific Studies Pacific Studie; Nick Young, Centre for eResearch

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Background

In Dr Uperesa’s new book chapter “Entangled Histories and Transformative Futures: Indigenous Sport in the 21st Century”, she provides a survey of several different Indigenous contexts to highlight longstanding historical and emergent engagements with sport forms to reveal complex genealogies and shifting meanings across time and space. Delving into colonial legacies and indigenous practices, she first explores surfing in the Pacific and lacrosse in Native North America as two customary sports with longstanding Indigenous traditions that have been transformed over time and are thriving today. These coexist with other Indigenous sport activities that have also been revived as part of resurgent efforts toward recognition and symbolic expressions of sovereignty. She then examines how Native communities engage some of the sport forms with colonial legacies, claiming them as their own, imbuing them with meaning, and in some cases transforming them. Finally, with attention to the shifting gender balance in sport participation broadly, she considers the relationship between (gendered) culture and (gendered) sport. This follows on her forthcoming book project that traces genealogies of football in Samoa and Samoans in American football, and offers critical assessments of media representation, labor, service, community belonging, risk and injury, and changing visions of the future.

​Haka on the move

Indigenous people use sports as avenues toward recognition, opportunity, and as a way of narrating community identities and achievements to themselves and others, even as they navigate colonial, racist, and marginalizing social dynamics and institutional structures toward new futures. Dr Uperesa is working on a project that focuses on the movement of haka through global sporting circuits outside of Aotearoa New Zealand, with an emphasis on how it appears in American football contexts. It includes local case studies of the use of haka in sporting and broader contexts in Aotearoa and the United States. The key focus is the movement and transformation of cultural forms in new contexts and the how the debates that emerge around protocol, ownership, and haka as cultural intellectual property intertwine with its importance as taonga in Aotearoa and valued performance of Polynesian identity in the U.S.

One of the approaches is to social media as a kind of digital malae/marae of public discussion and accountability, and involves collecting data to analyse how the discussion unfolds over time and space. For example, Dr Uperesa has been working with Nick Young from the Centre for eResearch to collect retweets and replies to a 2018 ESPN tweet about haka, to analyse any connections and reactions in Aotearoa New Zealand or the US. Nick used various tools to collect tweets, relationships between tweets, and geospatial tags to visualise them in a spatial context.

The original tweet posted by ESPN used the term “LSU Haka”. It created numerous responses around the US, see figure 1 below. It was then re-tweeted by Beulah Koale* and went viral. (Figure 2)

Figure 1. Geospatially tagged tweets in the US in response to the 2018 ESPN tweet
Figure 2. Beulah’s reply
* Beulah Koale is a New Zealand–born actor of Samoan descent who portrayed Officer Junior Reigns in CBS reboot series Hawaii Five-0, and was formerly of Shortland Street and other NZ-based productions.
To analyse tweets, Nick used a tool called twint to collect thousands of tweet ids, and a tool called twarc to fetch the geospatial information. Twarc was also used to see the connection between particular tweets, quote tweets, replies and re-tweets. Twarc was used to visualise data and create a network graph, see Figure 3.

Next steps include a deeper dive into the kinds of issues raised in the discussion, with attention to how people in different places enter the conversation and the kinds of positions they take. This is one of several social media events to be analyzed as a component of the larger project that builds on and amplifies existing work by Maori scholars and practitioners on haka. It will include case studies and talk-story interviews or kōrero with people involved with haka in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad, alongside performances in sport or other events like Te Matatini.

Figure 3. A network graph to show the relationship between the original ESPN reply tweet cluster (bottom) and the “beulahkoale” reply tweet cluster (top)

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