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Maori women and dual ethnicity: Non-congruence, “passing” and “real Maori”

In this study, I wanted to explore the often uncomfortable experience of having dual ethnicity. I did this through open-ended interviews with nine women, who, like me, were aged between 20 and 30 and who identified as being of both Maori and Pakeha (or other) descent. While the women all identified as having dual ethnicity, as the interviews progressed it became clear that many of them had little pride in being of Pakeha descent and identified more strongly with their Maori heritage. In most instances the way they were identified by other people was incongruent with how the participants identified themselves. By virtue of having fair skin, many were able to “pass” as Pakeha. This provided them with certain advantages, notably being exempt from racist treatment. On the other hand, their appearance often resulted in them being labelled as not being a “real Maori.” Paradoxically, when they were identified as Maori, others, both Maori and non-Maori, sometimes expected them to be an expert in all things Maori. For most participants being a “real” Maori did not rely on looking Maori or on being able to speak Te Reo fluently. Instead, having whakapapa was considered the most essential element on which to base their Maori identity.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Gibson, K. (1999). Maori women and dual ethnicity: Non-congruence, “passing” and “real Maori”. In Robertson, N. (Ed). Māori and psychology: Research and practice. Proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Māori & Psychology Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Thursday 26th August 1999 (pp.54-58). Hamilton, New Zealand: Māori and Psychology Research Unit, University of Waikato.
Maori and Psychology Research Unit, University of Waikato