“KIA KAHA CHRISTCHURCH!”: STRENGTHENING IDENTITY IN NEW ZEALAND
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Earthquake (magnitude 6.3) struck the city of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island on 22nd February 2011, killing 185 people and severely damaging the city’s infrastructure, its city centre and eastern suburbs. Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand’s South Island, was once renowned for its gentile ‘Englishness’ and is a bastion of pakeha (New Zealanders of British settler origin) identity. It was a stranger to natural disaster before the series of earthquakes which began in September 2010. Following a discussion of local and national identity in New Zealand, this essay discusses responses to the 22 February 2011 earthquake and collective interpretations of the event as recorded in the New Zealand mass media, primarily focusing on the country’s most popular news websites nzherald.co.nz and Stuff.co.nz. The particular interest herein is in discussing how discourses concerning this disaster resonate with established constructions of local and national identity in the New Zealand context. The essay asserts that the 22 February 2011 event can be interpreted as a national myth which affirms the existing set of values in the imagined regional and national communities in New Zealand and that this extraordinary collective experience and interpretations of it bear close associations to New Zealand’s existing reinforces of national identity, particularly its sporting and military traditions.
240 – 255
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