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Brown bodies, white coats: Postcolonialism, Māori women, and science

This project investigates the historical construction of 'Māori woman' and the constitution of the subjectivities of Maori women scientists today. The central question that is raised by the thesis is 'Do discourses of 'race' and gender found in Enlightenment science at the time of Aotearoa New Zealand's colonization continue to affect the contemporary subjectivity of Māori women scientists, and if so, how?' I have used literary historical techniques and feminist narrative interviews to collect the research data. Deconstruction, and its technique of 'double reading', has been applied through out the thesis to both the literary historical texts (imperial archives) and the transcripts of the interviews. I have argued that a poststructuralist view of the 'splitting the subject' to enable multiple positions must be read alongside the postcolonial view of a contemporary 'colonized subject' of an already 'split' subjectivity. This thesis is divided into two sections. Section A investigates Māori women as the objects of science. I argue that in Aotearoa New Zealand journeys of discovery and colonization were also scientific journeys that brought 'Māori woman' under the intellectual control of the emerging 'scientific' academy. At the same time, drawing on the 'imperial archives', I show that stereotypical signifiers are incorporated within scientific discourses and shape the fictions that these texts represent. In Section B I draw on open-ended interviews with 16 Māori women scientists who were asked to discuss their identity in relation to their schooling and workplaces. I explore the conditions by which the subject 'Māori women scientist' emerges and how the Maori women experience these conditions in relation to how they see themselves. I conclude by arguing that the identity of 'Māori woman scientist' appears to be 'impossible fiction' due to the fragmented nature of the sign - 'Māori, 'woman' and 'scientist' - that can be 'traced' to the historical construction of the signs.
Type of thesis
McKinley, E. (2003). Brown bodies, white coats: Postcolonialism, Māori women, and science (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13238
The University of Waikato
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