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Insecure, unpredictable, hoping to survive: Four cases of Māori people living precariously in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand

A conceptualisation of precarity is introduced and adopted. A critique of contemporary conceptualisations of precarity is presented, drawing especially on Stuart Hall’s interpretation of articulation and Marx’s concept of relative surplus population. Much of the literature on precarity focusses on the neoliberal mode of contemporary capitalism originating in the late 1970s. However, there is limited literature which explores precarity as a way of life. A precarious way of life is characterised by interacting forms of precarity which embed insecurity, instability, and unpredictability in the everyday lives of real people. An account of the Māori experience of precarity since the pre-colonial era to the present-day is presented. Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand who were colonised by the British Empire in the 1800s. The main research questions addressed in my thesis are: What forms of precarity are present in the everyday context? How do forms of precarity relate to each other? How do forms of precarity relate to being Māori? What kinds of support do those living with precarity gain from social structures, institutions, and social actors? What is the role of culture in the way Māori experience and mediate precarity? An analysis of semi-structured in-depth engagements with Māori people living precariously in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand in 2016, based on four case studies, shows the character and significance of forms, sources, and effects of precarity in everyday life. As historical processes continue to overdetermine experiences of social structures and institutions in the present, in a contemporary capitalist context precarity arises from a wide range of interacting sources, forms, and effects of precarity. Among the different kinds of actors and organisations which comprise the support systems constructed to mediate precarity in the everyday context, cultural practices and resources can play a significant role for people who are culturally connected. When people are integrated into their local and cultural communities, they can cope better with a precarious way of life.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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