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Decolonising Pākehā ways of being: Revealing third space Pākehā experiences

This thesis asks two central questions. First, what kinds of experiences occur when Pākehā become interested and involved in te ao Māori (the Māori world)? Second, how might sharing of these experiences help other Pākehā better understand their relationship with Māori? The account is grounded in concepts of colonisation and the coloniser/colonised relation, Othering, Whiteness, hybridity and the third space, biculturalism, theories of movement between groups, and decolonisation. It particularly drew on Homi Bhabha’s notions of the third space to theorise and explain the process of change that occurred for 13 Pākehā involved in te ao Māori. Utilising a qualitative design based on grounded theory and in-depth interviewing the research investigated their “lived” experiences and their choice to encounter then engage with te ao Māori. It is their experiences that I interpret in this thesis as “third space Pākehā experiences”. Through my employment of grounded theory methodology to analyse the korero (stories) I collected, I argue that a transformative process of change occurred for the 13 participants because they became interested and engaged more in ongoing experiences of te ao Māori. I interpreted this process as “Pākehā decolonisation”. In my analysis I found that at the individual level decolonisation helped these Pākehā bridge gaps that emerged as “differences” between te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā which led them to develop a new and enriched understanding of themselves. Their engagement with te ao Māori produced exciting and rewarding experiences, the richness of these is revealed in the storylines. Also, their ongoing experiences moved towards effective strategies to engage in discussions with other Pākehā about te ao Māori, which were respectful to both Māori and Pākehā cultures. I interpreted this development as the “Pākehā educating Pākehā” strategy. My analysis also suggested that five key thematic elements - or what I call five “occurrences” of Pākehā decolonisation, existed within each participant’s third space experiences. They were: 1) all participants chose to engage in many diverse encounters with te ao Māori, 2) this led the individual to their discovery of ngā wairua o te ao Māori (values of the Māori world), 3) as well as to experiencing Othering experiences from Pākehā, 4) the ongoing choice to engage with te ao Māori developed into awareness and experience of sites/locations where equality between Māori and Pākehā existed and, 5) and it was through confrontational experiences that these Pākehā began to learn successful Pākehā educating Pākehā strategies which they employed when engaging with other Pākehā about te ao Māori. These five occurrences happened frequently and infrequently across participants and they occurred in multiple settings as well as during different decades of their lives. Nonetheless, the choice to enter into these experience(s), whether at the time of occurrence - or on reflection at a later stage - emerged as a defining of their “journey” into te ao Māori; a journey of enriched, insightful and meaningful experiences that helped these Pākehā develop a more sophisticated understanding of te ao Māori and their relationship to Māori within that world. Thus, these Pākehā discovered that exploration into te ao Māori was a benefit to themselves as individual Pākehā. This thesis is an applied research study that draws from Homi Bhabha’s (1994) theory/concept of hybridity and movement between groups. I employed this approach because I was concerned with movement by a group member (Pākehā) toward another group (Māori). The research conceptualises Bhabha’s (1994) “third space” as an “experience” rather than a permanent positioning and explores ways in which change occurs for non hybrid group members who engage in the third space experience and, that a third space vocabulary exists for talking about shared experiences that does not put one’s own identity at risk. The main contributions of this research are threefold. Firstly, when Pākehā enter into te ao Māori they encounter third space experiences that reveal new and enriched ways to experience te ao Māori, and they develop a more sophisticated view of the Māori and Pākehā coloniser/colonial relation, its history, as well as present relations and pathways for future equal engagement. Secondly, third space experiences offer a “way forward” for Māori and Pākehā relationships that suggests an alternative to contestation and confrontation. Third, third space experiences provide a pathway toward a Pākehā educating Pākehā strategy; an accessible and practical outcome of a positive and rewarding alternative decolonisation process which helps other Pākehā discover a deeper understanding of their place in New Zealand. I argue that decolonisation and the Pākehā educating Pākehā strategy helps Pākehā learn from their lived experiences of “being Pākehā” - a phrase coined by historian Michael King (1985, 1999b).
Type of thesis
Brown, M. W. (2011). Decolonising Pākehā ways of being: Revealing third space Pākehā experiences (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5341
University of Waikato
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