‘Māori History can be a Freeing Shaper’: Embracing Māori Histories to Construct a ‘Good’ Pākehā Identity





Recent upheaval in racism debates across western countries is exemplified in New Zealand in the decision to compulsorily teach Māori histories in schools. Until recently this history has been largely marginalised and ignored by settlers/Pākehā who maintained a belief in histories which served to legitimise the Pākehā position of power. Earlier analyses have identified how the media has maintained normative Pākehā dominance and power through a consistent dissemination of a limited set of racist discourses. Our thematic and discursive analysis explores how media that embrace Māori histories (9 media items published 1 April 2019 to 30 September 2019) work to provide discursive resources for Pākehā in navigating the current debates. A process of hard work followed by transformation into an enlightened future was identified as a pathway for Pākehā to navigate the current upheaval and construct a ‘good’ Pākehā identity. The construction of a racist Pākehā outgroup works as a comparison to emphasise the ‘good’ Pākehā as ideal, and to assign blame for past and present racism. Our analysis demonstrates that despite overtly positive coverage, media accounts can still work to maintain Pākehā centrality and side-line or render invisible structural racism and Pākehā privilege.

Keywords: te Tiriti o Waitangi; colonialism; media studies; discourse analysis; New Zealand history

Author Biographies

Tim McCreanor, Massey University

Prof. Tim McCreanor (Professor in College of Health, Massey University, and Senior Researcher at SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre):

My broad public health orientation and interest in the social determinants of health and wellbeing, provide a platform for social science projects that support and stimulate social change. In particular, my research seeks to foreground, critique and redress the mechanisms of talk, text and other forms of communication that operate to produce, maintain and naturalise the disparities, exclusions and injustices so evident in our society. Key topics include racial discrimination, youth wellbeing, alcohol marketing, media representations and social cohesion.

Virginia Braun, University of Auckland

Prof. Virginia Braun (Professor in school of Psychology, University of Auckland):

I am interested in examining the relationship between the social, the scientific and the individual, in relation to bodies, sexuality and health. My research examines the influence of culture and society on individual choices, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as on broader issues like public health policy and practice. My research is specifically influenced by feminist, social constructionist, and discursive theory and practice, and tends to employ qualitative methodologies.




How to Cite

Pedersen, R., McCreanor, T., & Braun, V. (2022). ‘Māori History can be a Freeing Shaper’: Embracing Māori Histories to Construct a ‘Good’ Pākehā Identity. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 19(2), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-id516