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Pākehā Roots: Is claiming a Pākehā identity based on ethnic heritage or ethical choice?

Development of a Pākehā identity has been an ongoing process since the first influx of people from the Northern Hemisphere set foot on the shores of Aotearoa. Originally the term Pākehā served as a generic term to distinguish early European colonisers from the Indigenous population who came to be known under the generic term of Māori. Both of these terms separated two groups of residents that have come to be known under the broader title of New Zealander. Chapter 2 begins with providing definitions from a range of sources describing some origins and definitions of the term Pākehā, discussion around the appropriateness of the term and how it can be used in our current timeframe to show empathy with Māori and their struggle for self-determination. A brief overview of human migration to the British Isles then the resulting migration to Aotearoa provides historical context to our pre-Pākehā heritage. Following this is a snapshot of some of our earliest Pākehā settlers which leads into the extent our governing bodies enlisted assisted immigrants to populate and provide infrastructure for this new colony of the British Empire. Chapter 3 delves into the angst-ridden territory of authentic existence championed through the existential philosophical movement. Tempered with a more compassionate approach from communitarian philosophy we are provided with a means to explore the many layers that build not only individual identity, but a collective identity also. Evidence is offered for the accommodation of the similarities, and more importantly differences we all experience in our wider relationships. Finally, focus is narrowed to specific issues attached to identifying as Pākehā in Aotearoa. Underpinning this research are the nine semi-structured interviews which have provided tangible evidence of the complex elements accompanying the decision to self-identify as Pākehā (Chapter 4). The very nature of identifying as Pākehā, as illustrated through the interview is not straightforward eliciting responses ranging from abundantly clear, to confusing and to contentious. The sheer diversity of responses generated an initial observance that, if this level of diversity in defining the term Pākehā is shown by nine people, how much more diversity would be operating throughout the general population. Here we can see how the basic premise of existential philosophy, that is, there is no essential nature to our existence, can be applied to attempting to seek a definition of being Pākehā that encapsulates all of the possible elements. What became abundantly apparent was the heartening feeling of most people striving for a sense of connectedness, on various levels, and a sense of belonging to this country we all call home.
Type of thesis
Green, L. (2014). Pākehā Roots: Is claiming a Pākehā identity based on ethnic heritage or ethical choice? (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9288
University of Waikato
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