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Rangatahi and complex entanglements of sexuality, sexuality education and secondary school: A material-discursive exploration

This research is an exploration with rangatahi (young Māori), of complex materially-discursive webs of sexuality education, sexuality, and secondary school education in Aotearoa. These research areas have commonly produced unfavourable outcomes, which include disparity statistics and other findings that position Māori as ‘cultural’ or ‘in need’ (Cooper, 2012; Green, 2011; Le Grice, 2014). To produce something different, in this work I engaged with concepts from the theoretical fields of Māori Indigenous Theories, Feminist Poststructuralisms, and New Feminist Materialisms to develop a framework for exploration. Nine rangatahi participated in small hui (meetings) and individual interviews, focused on the areas of sexuality education, other sexuality topics, and experiences of secondary schooling. Transcripts from these meetings became part of the ‘data’. The approach to the analysis, termed Moving Through Entanglements, was informed by the whakaaro method (Mika & Southey, 2018) and diffractive approaches (Barad, 2007; Davies, 2014a, 2014b). The analysis explored a number of entanglements, using transcripts, theories, concepts, matter, experiences, colonisation, sensations, utterances and beyond (Davies, 2014c; Jackson & Mazzei, 2011). I did not attempt to produce ‘evidence’ or propose findings or truths about the ‘situation’ for rangatahi; instead I considered these well-worn research areas in different ways, honing in on ‘hot spots’ in entanglements (Taylor, 2013). At the heart of this research are the lives of rangatahi. This research listened to and privileged their experiences in the materially-discursive webs of sexuality education, sexuality and secondary education, with the aim of contributing to further positive transformation in these areas (Allen, 2015b). The analysis suggested that confronting ‘gaps’ in what rangatahi learn in sexuality education and what they experience beyond the classroom remained. The contrast between the mundane topics or the “same old shit” (in the words of one participant) taught in sexuality education, which rangatahi recalled, and the complexities of two important and complex hot spots (Tayor, 2013) – ‘tap and gap’ and ‘relationship goals’ – demonstrated this gap. A need remains for sexuality education to be more connected with young people’s lives (Allen, 2001, 2005a, 2005b; Young, 2002). Other issues that became important included hickeys, hair and skin, the school stage, big bodies and health, boys’ breasts, and clothing. A material-discursive exploration of these topics was central to the analysis; this research has demonstrated their under-acknowledged importance in the daily existence of rangatahi, which should continue to be explored. Colonisation remained a lingering presence (Le Grice, 2018), and instances rangatahi shared highlighted not only this, but also their critical awareness of its functioning. An innovative approach is the posthuman methodology experimented with in this research. As outlined above, this research was guided by a theoretical framework built with ideas borrowed from three philosophical fields. I applied a method of analysis that attempted to move beyond normative modes of qualitative analysis, unsettling dominant anthropocentric ways of doing research. Taking this position, among other things, meant that the entanglements I worked through were materially-discursive. Thus, this research posits that non-human or more-than-human participants are active in the daily becomings of rangatahi, and their influence in shaping daily experiences for rangatahi and should not be overlooked in future research (Bennett, 2010). The ethical crises of the present mean that an ethical imperative to do things differently in every facet of our existence is needed now more than ever (St. Pierre, Mazzei & Jackson, 2016). Perhaps a change in the way research is conducted is one key approach to a fruitful and sustainable future for humans and non-humans alike.
Type of thesis
Chalmers, J. (2019). Rangatahi and complex entanglements of sexuality, sexuality education and secondary school: A material-discursive exploration (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13112
The University of Waikato
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