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In the face of growing scholarly concern about whiteness, and following Denzin’s (1996) argument that “those who control the media control a society’s discourses about itself” (p. 319), it becomes vital to interrogate and map what is at stake in specific representations of whiteness that gain purchase and mobilize the nation in shared ways. In death, America’s Cup sailor and adventurer Sir Peter Blake was held up as a New Zealand hero representative of a “true” national character. We argue that in the context of marked changes in the racial, political, and economic landscape of New Zealand, Blake’s unexpected death represented an important moment in the symbolic (re)production of historically dominant but increasingly contested notions of national character that are synonymous with white masculinity. We conclude that, as long as the centrality of whiteness is under threat, we are likely to see the ongoing rearticulation of nostalgic visions of nationalism.
Cosgrove now works for the Wellington City Council, Wellington, New Zealand. Bruce is with the Department of Sport and Leisure Studies, School of Education, The University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand.