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Being Pākehā & Researching the Experiences of Māori Women and Weight Loss Surgery: On Ethics & Ethnography

Clare Joensen


This paper proposes that the positionality of Pākehā researchers wishing to learn from Māori, can be reimagined as an atmospheric inter-subjective space within which conversations can happen across difference and between commonalities. I outline my own reckoning as a Pākehā attempting to enter this field as a part of my MA research on Māori women’s experiences of weight loss surgery. I argue that a form of differential distancing, while holding onto an ethic of care, enables a form of academic inquiry that is less stymied by the politics of permission. This paper also proposes that ethical representation can be bolstered by staying close to the logics for living of our participants and conceptualising their narratives through ‘embodied becoming’. I argue that this multi-faceted approach enables ethnography which retrieves nuance and releases participants, to a degree, from discourses that primarily frame individuals as victims of the state.


Embodied becoming; ethics of representation; Māori; Pākehā positionality; weight loss surgery

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