Research aims to untangle the 'paradox' of Māori identity

By Stefan Dimitrof

Ririwai Fox (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou), a PhD student at Victoria University is exploring the idea and writing a thesis around 'The Paradox of being Māori’ and finding out what that means.

Fox says that in his psychology field statistics are a valuable resource and in New Zealand statistics comparisons are made using Māori and non-Māori numbers to distinguish well-being.

“I thought that if you could measure cultural connections against values, principles and practices, you can say that these findings are painting the whole picture and need to look a little deeper.”

'Cultural learning opportunities

Fox distinguishes between whakapapa, which identifies as being Māori, and embeddedness which distinguishes a person’s alignment to Māori values, beliefs, practices and culture.

In Fox's research 'Sense and sensibility: The ‘paradox’ of being Māori' he explores the sense of being Maori and says "If I asked you to evaluate who is ‘more Māori’ between Simon Bridges and Rawiri Waititi (Māori Party co-leader), common sense would suggest that Rawiri Waititi wins that one."

“It disentangles the confusion so that we are not using the same word so we can be clearer about what we are talking about, we can say yes because they are whakapapa Māori but they may not be very embedded in Māori culture.”

“I think that is a perfectly reasonable statement to make but it doesn’t attack their whakapapa and their identity."

"It's more sensitive to the fact that not everyone has those cultural learning opportunities to be developed in te ao Māori because of the impacts of colonisation."

For more clarification on the research watch the interview above.

Follow the link to read Fox's research.