Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

‘‘Oh, you don’t look Māori’: Social ascription, Māori identity and wellbeing (#26)

Ashlea Gillon 1 , Donna Cormack 1 , Belinda Borell 2
  1. The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

Ethnic identity is complex. It often involves an intricate interplay between how people self-identify and social ascriptions of their ethnic identity. Being misidentified can happen when assumptions are made based on what someone looks like, from markers of phenotype such as skin colour to other markers such as body adornment or accent. For some Māori who may not fit broader assumptions about Māori identity, this can be challenging.

Māori identity is fluid and variable; it is based on self-identification, as well as factors of a collective experience. Racism can perpetuate stereotypes about Māori that impact on Māori who do not fit these categories. This study looks at the impacts of social ascription for Māori who actively identify as Māori but are socially assigned as Pākehā (white) by exploring the relationship between identity and wellbeing and the subsequent effects this has for Māori who are socially ascribed as Pākehā.

This is a Kaupapa Māori study using semi-structured whakawhānaungatanga interviews and influences of narrative storying approaches to explore the experiences of 10 individuals who work or study at a New Zealand tertiary institution. The study participants were adults who self-identified as Māori but reported that they were often socially ascribed as non-Māori.

This presentation will discuss their stories and the themes that have been identified and the impact of social ascription. The use of Kaupapa Māori theory and research methods creates a space for kōrero to be shared and people to tell their stories and experiences in order to further the understandings of Indigenous identities and Indigenous wellbeing.