Friday, September 01, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week we will look into the lives of the Maori people of New Zealand.

The people of New Zealand have a long tradition of ethnic intermarriage and as participants in this trend Maori have a unique population that has undergone enormous demographic and social change. Maori have and continue to experience high rates of intermarriage, this along with adaptation to other social phenomenon has caused the measurement of ethnic identity to grow increasingly complex. The Maori ethnic group, rather than being homogenous, consists of many individuals from varying backgrounds who have varying cultural values, norms and identities but nevertheless at some degree choose to identify as being Maori. There has been widespread public interest and growing political debate surrounding the questions "Who is Maori?" and "How do we accurately define Maori?" (Kukutai 2001, Pool 2001, Pool 1963).

It is interesting to note that much of the current debate regarding what 'a real' Maori is has occurred outside Maori circles. In part, this has arisen because of the relationship between the concepts of ethnicity and ancestry, along with the demise of the discredited concept of race which carried with it an assumption that somehow "Maoriness" was either genetically or socially imprinted at birth and was immutable. Maori themselves have traditionally defined 'Maoriness' using a different paradigm to the majority of the western world. For Maori, in formal settings, Maori is defined in terms of whakapapa or genealogy. When children are born with whakapapa or links to other Maori they are termed 'mokopuna of the iwi.' They are Maori. However, there is a dislocation between how Maori as a group articulate this and how individuals of Maori ethnicity and/or Maori ancestry articulate it or see themselves and reflect this in statistical collections.

Moreover, traditionally Maori have not defined themselves by the extent or amount of Maori they are. Historical constructs and measurements such as half castes, quarter castes and similar race-based 'blood' measurements have been imposed as attempts to quantify and count the Maori population for various purposes by the governing institutions of the day and these constructs were reflected in contemporary official commentary. Maori have traditionally defined their population in a more holistic and non-exclusive manner, individuals with mixed Maori background regardless of their ethnic heritage are considered Maori. The parts of their heritage which could be English, Chinese or Samoan are never denied or ignored but in Maori terms they are simply considered 'mokopuna' because it is impossible to have only a 'part grandchild'. In the Maori world whakapapa is not divisible because mokopuna cannot be divided up into discrete parts. (Jackson 2003). Similarly, the parts of the heritage which are English, Chinese or Samoan, equally allow them to be considered English, Chinese, or Samoan. This view is completely consistent with the current definition of ethnic groups whereby people are counted in each ethnic group with which they identify.

Source: Ethnic intermarriage and ethnic transference amongst the Maori population: implications for the measurement and definition of ethnicity


TEN33GIRL said...

Found you via Blogmad. Though it seems we may have very different views on things, I have to say that I really enjoyed your page. Good writing :)

Zen said...

What a refreshing viewpoint from the Maori. One that unites not divides.