Māori Saltwater Commons
Property, wealth, and inequality
This article draws on Māori claims to fisheries in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as their opposition to the establishment of a large scale marine protected area, to question whether commoning, as a conceptual frame, can account for indigenous resistances in ocean environments. It argues that the theorisation of horizontal collective activism, an emphasis on a politics of relationality encompassing humans and non-humans and the potential for transformative practice in commonings, is congruent with the indigenous sociality mobilised by Māori in relation to their seascapes. As an analytical tool, however, commoning pays inadequate attention to inegalitarianism. Inequality may amplify, for instance, in the process of claiming indigenous rights, or it may otherwise be reconfigured as it articulates with the imperative of neoliberal environmental capitalism. Property – alienated, usurped or reappropriated – while considered a reductive representation of the commons is, at least for indigenous peoples, a crucial feature of struggles, a phenomenon clearly articulated in Māori claims to fisheries and marine spaces.