ARE MAORI HAPU ‘HOUSES’? ARE WHAKAPAPA ‘STRATEGIC IMPROVISATIONS’? THE ETHNOHISTORICAL EVIDENCE FROM NGAI TUHOE

Steven Sebastian Webster

Abstract


A recent exchange regarding the nature of Maori hapu has revived the old controversy whether or not ancestral descent groups can be organised on the basis of cognatic descent (through either or both parents in each generation). An innovative application of Levi-Strauss’s concept of a house society, and Bourdieu’s theory of practice, has challenged an answer to the old controversy, widely accepted since the 1970s, that hapu are entire descent categories narrowed to actively involved descent groups. The alternative view argues that Maori hapu were probably never based on such ambiguous grounds, but rather have developed since the 1880s as an ideology legitimating the solidarity of extended families (whanau), other kin, and non-kin closely associated with a meeting house and resourceful leadership able to extend hospitality. In defense of the earlier view that hapu are cognatic descent groups and categories, and probably have been at least since the 1840s, this essay reviews the recent exchange and examines the ethnohistorical evidence from one Maori iwi, Ngai Tuhoe.

Keywords


ethnohistory; cognatic descent groups; houses; marae

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol10iss1id232