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Mana Wahine Geographies: Spiritual, Spatial and Embodied Understandings of Papatūānuku

This thesis is a theoretical and empirical exploration of Māori women's knowledges and understandings of Papatūānuku in contemporary Aotearoa. The primary focus of this research is on the complexities, connections, and contradictions of Māori women's embodied relationships with the spaces of Papatūānuku - spaces that are simultaneously material, discursive, symbolic, and spiritual. In doing so, I displace the boundaries between coloniser/colonised, self/other, rational/irrational and scientific/spiritual. I demonstrate that Māori women's colonised realities produce multiple, complex and hybrid understandings of Papatūānuku. This thesis has three main strands. The first is theoretical. I offer mana wahine (Māori feminist discourses) as another perspective for geography that engages with the complex intersections of colonisation, race and gender. A mana wahine geography framework is a useful lens through which to explore the complexities of Māori women's relationships to space and place. This framework contributes to, and draws together, feminist geographies and Māori and indigenous academic scholarship. Autobiographical material is woven with joint and individual semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted with nine Māori women in the Waikato region. The second strand, woven into this thesis, is a critical examination of the colonisation of Māori women's spiritual and embodied relationships to Papatūānuku. The invisibility of Māori women's knowledges in dominant conceptualisations of mythology, tikanga and wairua discourses is not a harmless omission rather it contains a political imperative that maintains the hegemony of colonialism and patriarchy. I argue that to understand further Māori women's relationships to space and place an examination of wairua discourses is necessary. The third strand reconfigures embodied and spatial conceptualisations of Papatūānuku. Māori women's maternal bodies are intimately tied to Papatūānuku in a way that challenges the oppositional distinctions between mind/body and biology/social inscription. Māori women's maternal bodies (and the representation of them in te reo Māori) are constructed by, and in turn, construct Papatūānuku. Furthermore, women's spatial relationship to tūrangawaewae, home space and wider environmental concerns demonstrates the co-constitution of subjectivities, bodies and space/place. My hope is that this thesis will add to geographical literature by addressing previously ignored knowledges and that it will contribute to indigenous scholarship by providing a spatial perspective.
Type of thesis
Simmonds, N. B. (2009). Mana Wahine Geographies: Spiritual, Spatial and Embodied Understandings of Papatūānuku (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2798
The University of Waikato
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