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Kia ora Katoa @ Kaupapa Māori Research

posted 9 Apr 2015, 19:08 by Fiona Cram   [ updated 17 Apr 2015, 16:25 ]

Hi there, I am an Honours student doing my Honours in Psychology. I was just wondering if you could please answer a question for me? The question I have pertains to Kaupapa Māori research and Smiths Statement: 

Kaupapa Māori research is:

  • Taking for granted the validity and legitimacy of Māori,
  • Taking for granted the importance of Māori language and culture

Please could you be so kind as to elaborate on this for me as I read through the entire article but I am not too sure how these two points relate or exactly what they mean? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


Kia ora

Great query. We so often use these statements and think they’re self-evident and I like that you’re pointing out that they’re not.

For me the ‘taking for granted’ part of each bullet point is about accepting that a distinct Māori worldview exists and, more than that, exists alongside a non-Māori worldview. Bear with me while I get a little circular in my exploration of this some more.

My understanding of Roland Barthes' concept of ex-nomination is that what’s ‘normal’ often goes unnamed within a society, and simply gets accepted as what ‘difference’ is compared to. We are now more explicit about a normal that’s ‘white, male, heterosexual, etc.’ but not so long ago this ‘normal’ went unnamed in a way that women, Māori, gay men, etc. were seen to deviate from. Feminists, gay rights activists, ethnic and racial minorities, religious minorities, etc. and Indigenous peoples - Māori included - have all fought hard (and continue to fight) for the right to be ‘different’ or ‘themselves’ and to also be ‘normal’. So in this picture there are many ‘normals’ and room in the world for many worldviews.

Taking for granted the validity and legitimacy of Māori, is an assertion of this right to be different but normal, and stems from the Hui Taumata held in the 1980s where Māori leaders recognised that the assimilation and integration agendas exerted during the colonial history of this country had marginalised Māori and created Māori-non-Māori disparities in many areas: health (Māori in worse health than non-Māori), education, income, etc. The solution asserted by these leaders was the normalisation of being Māori - that Māori needed to be able to live as Māori. Hence the double up from Graham Smith that this was about ‘being Māori’ being seen/known as a valid and legitimate ‘reality’ / ‘worldview’ / way of being.

Graham also wrote that being Māori, as Māori, needed to be sourced within the Māori language and culture - that it was only through this pathway that the survival of the Māori as a distinct cultural people could be guaranteed. Otherwise Māori might ’survive’ but we would revert to the assimilationist or integrationist agendas of the past - where survival meant becoming more like non-Māori.  I think this second bullet point links most clearly with the six Kaupapa Māori principles Graham then wrote about: Taonga Tuku Iho, Ako, Whānau, etc. I think what he was attempting to distill through these principles were the core components of a Māori cultural perspective, particularly applied within the education space.

Does this help? I find it useful to also remember that Graham was writing during a time when people who spoke the Māori language out loud on the street or at the side line of a netball game were abused. It was a time when little of other languages were heard on the street. On Queen Street now there are multiple languages heard and perhaps te reo (the Māori language) is now more acceptable, so perhaps some of what Graham wrote is now embedded within ‘normal’. I know we worked hard through the 1990s and to the present for the acceptability of Kaupapa Māori - in service delivery, and in research and evaluation - and we have a good foundation for it now. That’s not to say we should be complacent.

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