SEM 2015 Charles Seeger Student Paper Prize

"Performing the Prison-Clinic: Kapa Haka and the Redefinition of Māori Forensic Psychiatry"

Since the 1980s, health, education, and penal sectors in Aotearoa New Zealand have undergone a series of neoliberal and bicultural reforms leading to the growth of Kaupapa Māori, ‘by Māori for Māori’ programming in mainstream institutional contexts. In forensic mental health, this has resulted in the creation of the Mason Clinic’s Te Papakāinga O Tāne Whakapiripiri, a secure unit for criminal offenders with psychiatric issues, whose innovative model of care utilizes traditional Māori arts, spirituality, and language as strategic tools for rehabilitation. In this paper, I examine how a key component of Tāne Whakapiripiri, the performance of kapa haka, serves as a multifaceted site of negotiation between incarcerated patients, traditional culture, the neoliberal institution, and the broader social world. An icon of
Māori cultural revival, the music and dance of kapa haka have risen to international fame over the last fifty years, and continue to be the primary form of Māori culture with which individuals engage. Within Tāne Whakapiripiri, kapa haka takes on new roles, serving not only as a medical intervention but also as a means to restructure the expected boundaries of theprison-clinic that typically divide clinician from patient, guard from prisoner, ‘outside’ from ‘inside.’ Through the ethnographic analysis of Tāne Whakapiripiri’s formal and informal performance contexts, I illustrate how the practice of kapa haka within the prison-clinic facilitates the formation of a new social landscape, redefining what it means to be ‘incarcerated’ and ‘mentally ill’ within Western institutional power structures.