Guest lecture on June 12: Celebrating the Nation: A Ritual Analysis of Aotearoa New Zealand National Days

You are all welcome to listen to a guest lecture from New Zealand by B. Bönisch-Brednich.
Guest Lecture by Prof. Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich (Wellington, New Zealand)
Celebrating the Nation: A Ritual Analysis of Aotearoa New Zealand National Days
14:15, 12th June, room 212, Ülikooli 16.
A country’s National day is a fixture in the annual calendar of public holidays and a day when government gets involved in shaping the narrative of the past and current state of a country. Such identity work has some common themes across the Pacific states, as all of them need to address colonialism in one form or other as part of their historic consciousness. The official National Day of Aotearoa New Zealand is Waitangi Day on 6 February. But during the last two decades ANZAC Day, on 25 April, has been promoted as a somehow alternative second national day and is now often referred to as ‘our’ National Day as well. The celebration of national days are key rituals of a state; they also are public political rituals. The analysis of such rituals allows us to consider the stories we -as a nation – are telling about ourselves and to the world.
Aotearoa New Zealand is a highly diverse state with a very high rate of first-generation immigrants, and a growing and increasingly powerful Māori minority; the storytelling is tense, colourful, and constantly changing. Waitangi Day celebrations connect the country to its difficult colonial past of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the troubled Māori – Crown relationship that followed the signing and continues to this day. ANZAC Day reminds the country of the disastrous battle at Gallipoli and more generally of New Zealand’s involvement in past wars.  In order, for state rituals to stay relevant, they need to read the present, change with the times and keep creating evocative experiences that are filled with meaning and invite mass participation. This paper will discuss how both national days evolved and how both days are used to shape certain political narratives for specific audiences and strategic purposes.
Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and director of the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka ( Her research interests are in New Zealand Studies, in the ethnographic analysis of storytelling, especially migrant narratives, ethnographic methodology and ritual analysis ( She is co-editor of Fabula: Journal of Folk  Tale Studies (de Gruyter); she is also on the editorial board of two New Zealand based journals: Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies ( and The Journal of New Zealand Studies ( Her most recent publicaton is on Migrant Narratives: Storytelling as Agency, Belonging and Community. (eds. B. Bönisch-Brednich et al.) Routledge 2024.
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