Reconstructing Maori Identity in New Zealand.

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Over the years Maori have faced repeated calls by Pakeha to overhaul our cultural practices, questioning the validity of our indigeneity. While these are not new experiences for Maori, what is interesting about them is that they are being couched in discourses of equality and the advancement of our nation as ‘one people’. This paper examines the latest attempts to reconstruct Maori identity asking the question, who determines who is Maori and what does being Maori mean in the New Zealand context? This paper will argue that such reconstructions are the affectations of a privileged few who legitimate their views from their positions of power not because they themselves are engaged or interested in the struggle for Maori advancement. What eventuates is that the myriad of Maori people’s experiences becomes eclipsed by a wider discourse framed to advance the interests of the master rather than the interests of those they purport to be supporting. The emergence of these types of liberal affectations suggest that the master discourse is becoming increasingly concerned with the rise of an “indigenous intelligentsia” (after Rata, 2004) who have arisen from the resistance movements of the 1960s, 70s and 80s to provide focus for Maori self-determination. This paper suggests that the effect of these most recent challenges to Maori women, to Maori self-determination and to the Maori “intelligentsia” will not create panic and dissension but rather will intensify Maori efforts to ensure the continued advancement of Maori knowledge and Maori cultural practices, and of Maori identity in an ever changing world.


Keywords: Indigenous, Identity, Reconstruction
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai

Associate Professor and Academic Director, Academic Office, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi
Whakatane, New Zealand

Sarah-Jane is Associate Professor and Academic Director at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, one of three officially recognised indigenous tertiary institutions (whare wananga) in New Zealand. Her PhD examined Maori student success in higher education developing a tribal approach to theorising academic success. Sarah-Jane also teaches on the Masters programme in indigenous research method and theory, and treaty issues.

Ref: I08P0570