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Māori men's positive and interconnected sense of self, being and place

Māori men are on the wrong side of the ledger when it comes to illness and crime rates. Correspondingly, there is a significant amount of research into issues such as abuse and premature death involving Māori men, who are also often characterised in public discourse as inarticulate, deviant and incapable of maintaining positive relationships. There is very little research on positive practices among Māori men who are caring and expressive, and who do not harm their partners, families, and communities. This thesis explores how Māori men negotiate a positive sense of self, relationships and a place in our society, which is awash with negative characterisations of Māori men. I document how Māori men's identities are pluralistic and on-going projects. These identities are negotiated within the settler society through interactions with other people and media characterisations. These identities are also negotiated within the Māori world through interactions with whānau (immediate and extended family) and participation in cultural rituals, including tangihanga (traditional Māori death ritual/funeral process). This research involves two separate, yet interrelated studies, and is guided by kaupapa Māori research, Māori cultural concepts, Māori relational understandings of being and health, and relevant social science theory and research. Study one explores Māori men’s relationships with other men, their families and media depictions of men in the settler society. The participants from study one are working class men who were also part-time members of a Territorial Army unit within which Māori and Pākehā men come together through mutual interests and negotiate meaningful relationships, and various cultural similarities and differences. Study one drew upon an ethnographic orientation that included direct observations, narrative interviews, media diaries and photo elicitation projects to understand the everyday lived realities of participants’ in settler society. Study two explores the constructive engagement of working class ex-Army Māori men back in their communities of origin in order to investigate key aspects of their identities and relationships as men within the Māori world. An ethnographic approach was also used in study two and involved direct observations, participation in shared practices and narrative interviews. Overall, findings from these studies demonstrate how Māori men construct a positive sense of self that extends beyond the deficit-orientated characterisations offered by academic research and mainstream media depictions. In constructing understandings of themselves and their place in the world, my participants emphasise their meaningful relationships with partners, children, colleagues, friends and communities. These men invoke a positive sense of self through accounts of belonging, reciprocity, dialogue, intimacy, and care for themselves, their whānau, and traditions. Participants’ positive Māori self-constructions are fundamentally interconnected with other people, cultural traditions, physical and symbolic places, and shared practices. My research sheds light on Māori men’s ways of belonging and being that span, but manifest in unique ways within, the settler society and the Māori world. This research also contributes to scholarship on men that takes a strengths-based approach by considering the valuable everyday functions men serve within their families and communities.
Type of thesis
Rua, M. (2015). Māori men’s positive and interconnected sense of self, being and place (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9440
University of Waikato
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