“Under Erasure”: Suppressed and Trans-Ethnic Māori Identities

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Georgina Tuari Stewart
Makere Stewart-Harawira


The questions raised by Māori identity are not static, but complex and changing over time. The ethnicity known as “Māori” came into existence in colonial New Zealand as a new, pan-tribal identity concept, in response to the trauma of invasion and dispossession by large numbers of mainly British settlers. Ideas of Māori identity have changed over the course of succeeding generations in response to wider social and economic changes. While inter-ethnic marriages and other sexual liaisons have been common throughout the Māori-Pākehā relationship, the nature of such unions, and the identity choices available to their descendants, have varied according to era and social locus. In colonial families, the memory of a Māori ancestor was often deliberately suppressed, and children were encouraged to deny that part of their history and “become” European New Zealanders: a classic form of what we call “trans-ethnicity.” From a Māori perspective, the relationship with Pākehā has been marked by a series of losses: loss of land, language, social cohesion, even loss of knowledge of whakapapa (genealogy). This article explores this last form of loss, which leads to “suppressed” Māori identities, and possible effects of attempting to recover such lost Māori identity rights.

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How to Cite
Stewart, G. T., & Stewart-Harawira, M. (2020). “Under Erasure”: Suppressed and Trans-Ethnic Māori Identities. Journal of World Philosophies, 5(2), 1–12. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/jwp/article/view/4042
Author Biographies

Georgina Tuari Stewart, Auckland University of Technology

Georgina Tuari Stewart (ko Whakarārā te maunga, ko Matauri te moana, ko Te Tāpui te marae, ko Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu te iwi) is an Associate Professor in Te Kura Mātauranga-School of Education, Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Auckland, Aotearoa-New Zealand. Completed doctoral studies in Māori science curriculum in 2007, and in 2019 completed a Marsden-funded research project on doctoral theses written entirely in Māori. She has published on many topics in Māori science education, Māori philosophy, and Māori-Pākehā relations.

Makere Stewart-Harawira, University of Alberta

Makere Stewart-Harawira (ko Aoraki te maunga, ko Waitaki te awa, ko Rakai te hapū, ko Waitaha te iwi) is a Professor in Indigenous, Environmental and Global Studies in the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, Canada. Completed doctoral studies in 2003 on Indigenous Peoples and the development of the global order, and has taught at the University of Alberta since 2004. She researches climate change, human and more-than-human justice, and Indigenous ethics and values; her most recent work is on Māori ethics and values for freshwater management in Aotearoa New Zealand.