Undertaking bi-cultural research: key reflections from a Pākehā (non-Māori) New Zealander

By Maria Hepi

Maria Hepi (biography)

What does it mean to be a bi-cultural researcher? The following eight key reflections are based on working bi-culturally in New Zealand.

I am a Pākehā (non-Māori) New Zealander and started learning Māori language and culture at university in 1995. Previously I had little to no contact with te reo Māori (the Māori language) or te ao Māori (the Māori world and culture). During my studies I became involved in kapa haka (the university Māori cultural club), and as such was exposed to a whole new world.

When I embarked on my journey into te ao Māori I naively thought I would be only learning about the Māori language and culture, however I also learnt what it meant to be Pākehā. I had been blind to my own culture as I had nothing to reflect it back to me.

The reflections below are based on my master’s research, which involved interviews with 12 Pākehā who had learnt the Māori language extensively and been involved in te ao Māori and their experiences of this, as well as my own experience. The quotations come from my interviews.

1: It can be difficult and frustrating being within another culture, not being able “to be as loud as in your own”.

“I think it is important to remember, whether you are going on to a marae [meeting grounds] … or whether you are talking to someone [Māori] who’s got strong feelings about something, to remember that it is not your culture, that you are a guest and that you do sometimes just have to take second, third, or fourth best and be prepared for that…you can’t be as loud and as outspoken as you are in your own culture, because it just doesn’t wash, and I have learnt that, the hard way!”

A useful analogy relates to families. It is fine to criticize your own family but we do not appreciate others criticizing our family. Outsiders will criticize from an ill-informed knowledge base, and also your family is not theirs to critique!

2: It is impossible to know another culture as you know your own. Do not presume that you do or can.

“It is just like another camera angle … you just see things or understand them in a different way … . The glimpses I have caught of them have been pretty cool, and I am fully aware that they are glimpses in regards to what other [Māori] people can understand and see, and I think it is important to remember that.”

This can be compared to women and men understanding each other. As a female I will never know what it is like to be a male; I may get glimpses of understanding but no true understanding.

3: Although sometimes difficult, bi-cultural research is also very rewarding. You can gain a deeper understanding of issues from dual perspectives.

“It is almost like you get a binocular vision. You can see that there is another world out there and another way of seeing things, and you get both, and I think that is quite exciting actually.”

I have sometimes asked myself why I continue to do bi-cultural research when it is more difficult than just working within my own culture. However it always comes back to how fortunate I feel to be able to see and understand the world from a different perspective and how that then enriches my own analysis or understanding of the world.

4: In order to work effectively within another culture you have to be comfortable in your own culture

“I think by actually getting into the Māori world I think I have actually become comfortable as a Pākehā, I feel really comfortable as a Pākehā … my world is really a Māori world in many ways, but I feel Pākehā. I am a Pākehā New Zealander, and I think that is a really comfortable place to be.”

“And to realise more and more that I am not Māori, and they don’t want me to be, or to pretend to be Māori. They don’t need me to help them, but I think it is certainly important that I respect who they are and … I think it is respecting my own inheritance.”

To me this is key to being able to work effectively. You have to value your own culture as much as you value the other culture. There will always be things that are better and worse (in different people’s minds) in each culture. One is not better than the other, they are just different.

5: Something done differently in another culture is not wrong, it is merely different; there will be valid underlying reasons.

“And so, when I am confronted with the fact there is a completely rational reason for the opposing view, I am thinking, ‘Wow, we can’t both [be right], but you can!’ It is just understanding that the views are different, but right. Yeah that would be my greatest gift really.”

Often people want the same things, we all want to be safe and healthy and happy. However how we achieve those things and how we view what it means to be safe, healthy and happy may be different and we may also have different mechanisms to achieve that. For instance, as a Pākehā, I view health as a mainly physical dimension eg., as absence of disease. However for Māori, health may not only include the physical side but also the spiritual side of their being and their connection to the land, their iwi (tribe) and their tūpuna (ancestors).

6: Do not aspire to be the ‘knight in shining armour’; rather be a resource and support for the other culture’s own aspirations.

“Yeah certainly there have been people that have questioned my involvement and I think that’s good, I think it’s healthy, I think I need to be questioned on a regular basis. If there’s no real reason why I should be the person doing this, I should stop. So that’s one of the criteria that I apply, ‘Are there any other people that could do the job?’ and if there are, then why the hell am I doing it?”

Māori do not need rescuing. The best way for Māori to achieve what they would like to achieve is for Māori to do it themselves in the way they wish to. Therefore your role as a non-Maori is to just be there as a resource to be pulled upon and to support Māori aspirations. I do this by working with mainstream organisations to get them to expand their understanding past their own cultural viewpoint to include an understanding of how Māori may address an issue.

7: Learning about another culture does not happen through a book; it needs hands-on experience.

You cannot learn about a culture through a book, it is the lived experience that gives you the understanding of that culture.

8: When working on issues from/of another culture, it is important to work with people from that culture.

I applied the Tuākana-Tēina model that is part of Māori culture to undertaking work with our Māori community co-researchers. The Tuākana-Tēina model is about acknowledging different people being the experts at different times, with one learning from the other, the roles can be reversed at any time depending on the context. Tuākana means older/senior and tēina younger/junior. For example when we as Pākehā go on to the marae or are undertaking analysis with data from Māori participants we are the tēina (junior) and our Māori community co-researchers are the tuākana (senior). Whereas when we come to writing research proposals we are the tuākana and they are the tēina (because we are trained in writing proposals).

Do these reflections resonate with you? Do you have other lessons or experiences to share?

To find out more:
Hepi, M., Foote, J., Marino, M., Rogers, M. and Taimona, H. (2007). ‘Koe wai hoki koe?!’, or ‘who are you?!’: Issues of trust in cross-cultural collaborative research. Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 2: 37-53.

Jellie, M. (2001). The Formation of Pākehā Identity in Relation to Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori. Master of Arts in Māori, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Biography: Maria Hepi is a social scientist for the Social Systems Team at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in Christchurch, New Zealand. She specialises in bi-cultural research and applies social science methods to expand the understanding of representatives from mainstream organizations past their own worldview to include an understanding of how Māori may address the same issue. She undertakes research with communities, hapū (subtribes), industry, local and central government, and other agencies to address challenging or intractable problems that involve high levels of complexity and uncertainty. Current research projects include supporting iwi evidence-based social investment and co-framing for health gain.

25 thoughts on “Undertaking bi-cultural research: key reflections from a Pākehā (non-Māori) New Zealander”

  1. Yes, not being ‘as loud’ whilst in another country chimes with me (as does not being a ‘knight in shining armour’ but a source of resources and support). Whilst working in Myanmar, I felt the volume turned down on my presence somewhat: things that were common sense to me, and I would shout from the roof tops, were sometimes barely discernible to some I would talk with. I learned to listen, explore and suggest rather than talk, judge and state. Gradually, I started to discern a new way of seeing and doing things (and I think my Myanmar colleagues gained similar insights from me). The trick is to be who you are (the people you work with want that) but tread a little more softly upon others’ ground. Thanks for the read: as I say, it resonates.

    • Hi Charles, thank you for your feedback. You are right it is a transition from talk, judge and stating to listening, exploring and suggesting, very eloquently put. I think for scientists and researchers this can be especially hard to do as we have been trained to be the ‘expert’ and it feels unnatural to sit back and be learner/student once again. I love your ‘tread a little more softly upon others ground’ I may have to steal that for future presentations on this topic!

  2. An awareness of conflation is important when entering cultural spaces, especially when the subjects of research have been colonised in the past by often well meaning researchers. The challenge of working together is an opportunity taken up by indigenous peoples. An example can be working through bicultural and transdisciplinary research through the concepts found in decolonising methodologies, a handbook for weaving. The weaving allows the strands to be equally represented as it is in the look of a kete. Weaving allows for the combined strength to be greater than the single strands, but starts with pliability first. The weakening of the strand starts with an edge run over the strand and leads to a strength after the weave. Rangatira were leaders who could weave people, but the people would need to be pliable. The ultimate rangahau, Tane had a wind weave that with the power of his mind allowed him to ascend to the highest heaven. There he gained the kete of knowledge, and then brought them back to be planted so everyone could benefit from Tane’s taonga. In our frameworks we have insights from the ranga in every generation’s step. Knowledge acquisition has been a part of the whare wananga since our people arrived. The ara is there so we don’t conflate, but weave to be transformative. Be careful how we bring different worlds together.

    • That is a lovely metaphor – weaving preserves the identity of the strands within the whole, giving rise to something that is stronger than the sum of it’s parts.

    • Kia ora Rawiri,
      Ka rawe! This is one of the things I love about te ao Māori is the use of metaphor to bring about understanding. It is not something I have experienced much in te ao Pākehā and if it has been done, it certainly isn’t done as eloquently. I am quite literal thinker so I really enjoy the challenge of having my mind expanded to view something in a different light and this is what being involved in te ao Māori has done for me, and I feel very fortunate, and also humbled, that I have been given the opportunity.

      Ngā mihi

  3. Hi Maria. Lovely reflections. I just want to ask a question about your point five: “Something done differently in another culture is not wrong, it is merely different; there will be valid underlying reasons”. In the Maori-Pakeha context, I can see how you would say that, but would you extend the same sentiment to cultures, say, that practice female genital mutilation?

    So I guess my question is whether you regard those principles of bi-cultural working to be culturally universal, specific to NZ, or somewhere between? I find these sorts of questions quite difficult: the vast majority of other people’s cultural practices can be simply accepted as different, and you’re right that beginning to understand them throws light on our own cultural pre-suppositions, but there are a few practices in other countries (and I include some Western ones) that are so deeply offensive from our own perspectives (and indeed from the perspectives of some of those speaking out in the cultures concerned), that just welcoming the learning experience seems inadequate.

    Do you have any views on this?

    • Hi Gerald,
      Interesting you ask that question as I had the same question asked of me when I gave a lecture on bi-cultural research at university the other day. My response is that it is not up to one culture to critique or change another culture. If a culture is to change then it is up to the people within that culture to challenge the cultural norms to enact that change. In western culture it hasn’t been that long that women have had equal rights and some would argue that we still don’t. In fact it is only one generation ago. My mother said that when she married my father she had to stop flying as an air hostess and go on the service desk because the airline thought she should be able to be home to cook dinner for her husband. Sounds archaic now but back then it wasn’t. I just watched a video the other day of a journalist interviewing NZ women in the 60s or 70s about getting paid for doing the same job as men. I was really surprised how many women said they did not think that was right, and men should get paid more. Years ago Chinese mothers used smashed their daughter’s feet and then bind them in order for them to have small feet. It doesn’t happen now and it wasn’t pressure from the outside but from pressure and lobbying from within their own culture.

      That is my opinion on it anyway, and it stems from having the same discussion with my lecturer of te reo Māori at university. We were discussing women’s speaking rights at pōwhiri for some iwi. As much as I thought it was sexist and wrong she said if Māori wanted this to change then it was up to them to change it and not have another cultural opinion enforced on them and their practices. Also after learning the tikanga behind why some iwi don’t let women speak at pōwhiri I no longer thought it was sexist or wrong. Funnily enough, like I say in my blog, there were valid underlying reasons for this protocol. I hope that answers your question?

      Happy to discuss further 🙂

      • Thanks Maria. I do not have a very clearly worked out view on this, but I do think there are problems with both extreme positions: a belief in the right of everyone to intervene in anyone else’s culture (which leads to wars, as we have seen in the Middle East) and a belief that all aspects of a culture should be protected from external criticism.

        While the principle of cultural self-determination seems worthwhile, if we say that this should be upheld above all else, it means that the idea of our common humanity falls, and with it any notion of human rights. Worse, should we respect the cultural rights of neo-liberal Western societies to polute the Earth, when we all inhabit this Earth together? It seems to me that Maori culture is much more sensitive to the ecological consequences of human intervention than, say, the US dominant culture. For this reason, I cannot accept that all cultures are equal and should be immune to external critique.

        Perhaps the missing link in the argument is that Maori culture has survived and is now thriving again despite colonization. It is the context of colonization that makes criticism of the culture pernicious, because well-meaning concern can turn to oppression without the critic even being aware of it.

        I wonder if we need to distinguish between two situations, which demand different responses from us (‘us’ being Pakeha, or others in a dominant culture):

        1. Dominant cultures which affect either the whole of humanity or oppress minorities. These, it seems to me, are a legitimate target for everyone.

        2. Cultures under threat of oppression, and the priority here is space for self-determination, with change (if change is needed) coming from inside.

        There are nevertheless some grey areas, and it seems to me that one of these concerns women’s rights. What about the fact that Saudi women have very much a second class position in their society? Saudi society could be considered a dominant culture in that country, although the Saudi people are a small minority in the global community. There are plenty of Saudi women calling for change, but the forces of power are implacably opposed. Should people outside Saudi lend those women support?

        Perhaps the most serious women’s issue though is female genital mutilation, which is practiced in many cultures, both dominant and oppressed in different parts of the world (contrary to popular belief, FGM is not associated with Islam, but with previously existing cultural practices). Usually it is women who practice FGM on girls, yet there are plenty of women who have also spoken out against it within those cultures. Should we not show some solidarity here? If you think about it, what ‘reasonable explanation’ can be provided for the continuation of FGM other than one which is about the subjugation of women? I can’t see an explanation for this practice that would make me accept it as ‘different’ rather than ‘wrong’.

        Further thoughts?

        • I would not say Māori culture is thriving by any means Gerald. The language is under serious threat of extinction and it is still a struggle for Māori approaches and ways of being to be recognised by our government as legitimate and credible but things are slowly changing and we have a long way to go. If another culture was to ask for our support then by all means YES support! However in my view it is never a good idea to go in and impose your cultural beliefs and ideologies on another culture if you have not been invited to do so. So that’s really my point about ‘something done in another culture is not wrong merely different’. If part of that culture then decides that a cultural practice is not ‘right’ anymore and they want some help and support to challenge those in power or those undertaking those practices then sure help and support. But that want for change has to come from within not imposed upon from the outside. Does that answer your question?

          • Yes that makes sense.

            I am disappointed to hear that Maori culture is not thriving though. When I was living in NZ, it was certainly on an upswing. So what has happened in the intervening six years. Is this to do with an unsupportive National government?

            • Oh it is still on an upswing but that swing is still well below where Māori should be. Education, health and justice figures are still well below what they should be but are slightly improving. There is still a 6-7 year gap between life expectancy. A good example of the bias in government funding is the New Zealand symphony orchestra gets a lot more funding than Te Matatini (the national kapa haka organisation). Te Matatini receives 1.9 million compared to 14.6 million for the NZSO and the ballet receives 5.4 million. Another example is nurses who work in Māori health providers receive less money than if they worked in mainstream health organisation enough though evidence shows that Māori have better health outcomes when they access services from Māori health providers. Te reo is still in threat of becoming extinct but there is a growing call for it to become compulsory in school, and I can see that happening in the next 10 years. That should hopefully ensure it does not become extinct. For me thriving means that Māori stats should be at least as good as Pākehā or even better. We probably just have a different expectation on what ‘thriving’ means for Māori 

              • In response to your last comment about thriving, I guess I meant it as moving in a positive direction, or gathering steam, rather than in the sense of being comparable with Pakeha in terms of indices of health, etc. Yes, when you look at things like life expectancy, there’s a long way to go.

  4. Maria (Hepi )
    May I firstly say I am very impressed with your explanations , views and
    Insights from your research . Congradulations !
    I have which may seem an unrelated question , but hoping you satisfy my curiosity !
    Please could you tell me if your surname (Hepi) is a Maori name ?

    • Hi Sue,
      yes my surname is a Māori name, it is my husbands surname. We meet after I had undertaken my Masters at university. Don’t worry it does confuse a lot of people.

      • Also I probably should have added in the blog that being part of my husband’s whānau and also my kids being educated in bicultural schools this has also added to my lived experience of te ao Māori.

  5. Kia ora Maria. Ngā mihi nui kia koe. Thank you for your written reflections about what you describe as undertaking ‘bi-cultural’ research in NZ. The firsthand accounts that you have shared in your blog speak favourably of people’s experiences with Māori culture and this is good to hear. Testimonies of this kind help to enhance the mana of Māori culture.

    Your blog raises a number of questions (for me) that perhaps you and/or other bloggers might care to comment on.

    First, your blog suggests that you find meaning in being a ‘bi-cultual researcher’, but I am curious as to why you use the term ‘bi-cultural’ and just what you think this term means in 2017? I was once invited to write a short paper on my views of bi-culturalism in New Zealand. I eventually abandoned this task because I found this concept really difficult to define in a way that was relevant to our history as a nation and more recent emergence as an increasingly multi-cultural society. For example, bi-culturalism lacks meaning (for me) when < 5% of non-Māori in New Zealand are able to speak the Māori language and our government is unwilling to financially support the teaching of the Māori language in English medium schools. This situation persists, even when Census data shows that speakers of the Māori language are in decline (2001-2013).

    Second, I’m curious as to what you mean by the use of the expression ‘bi-cultural researcher’? For example, how is this different from being a non bi-cultural ‘researcher’ who participates from time-to-time in activities in Māori communities (e.g. tangi, pōwhiri, hui, wānanga etc). Personally, I struggle with this concept because I am once again unsure how to attach meaning to it. For example, most western ‘researchers’ graduate from university in New Zealand, having spent anything from 8-12 years + of their lives committed to the study and mastery of one academic discipline. As a society, we expect this level of commitment and investment in higher education in order to earn the name ‘researcher’ in the western scientific knowledge tradition. For me, I wonder how the concept of a bi-‘cultural researcher’ can have meaning without a commitment to 16-24 years of study and dual language mastery.

    Finally, your blog implies that your ‘bi-cultural’ experiences are part of your work as a ‘researcher’. I would be really interested to know just where you think the work of a ‘bi-cultural researcher’ sits in relation to what Linda Smith and other Māori pūkenga (transl. scholars) in the western academy have characterised as ‘decolonising methodology’? I have a couple reasons for asking this question. First, there is a very interesting theoretical positioning in the idea of a ‘bi-cultural researcher’ that I have never thought about before. Second, (personally), I avoid the use of the words ‘research’ and ‘researcher’, as labels to try and communicate the meaning of what I do to others. There is for me, an uncomfortable dissonance associated with bringing the notions of ‘bicultural’ and ‘researcher’ together as a pronoun. After many years of real-world experience, I am inclined to agree with Linda Smith that …“The word itself, ‘research’, is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary. When mentioned in many indigenous contexts, it stirs up silence, it conjures up bad memories, it raises a smile that is knowing and distrustful. It is so powerful that indigenous people even write poetry about research. The ways in which scientific research is implicated in the worst excesses of colonialism remains a powerful remembered history for many of the world’s colonized peoples.” (Smith 2012). Decolonizing Methodologies (Kindle Locations 233-236). Zed Books. Kindle Edition.

    StatsNZ (2013) NZ social indicators. Retrieved from [Moderator update – In March 2023, this link was no longer available and so the link structure has been left in place but the active link deleted: stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Culture%20and%20identity/maori-lang-speakers.aspx]

    Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonising methodologies: research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press.

    • Kia ora Anthony,
      Thank you for your well-considered comments, I will try to answer your questions as best I can. Your comments regarding biculturalism in New Zealand relate well to a comment I had from an Irish friend on my Facebook post yesterday of this blog. She too struggled to see how NZ was a bicultural country when te reo isn’t compulsory in schools and signs aren’t in both languages etc like they are in Ireland. My reply to her is that she is right but when I am speaking of biculturalism I am thinking of it in regards to the Treaty, however the Treaty has not been honoured and this is the problem. For me the Treaty represents Māori on one side of the partnership and on the other is our multicultural society. I as Pākehā citizen I have the same rights as a new immigrant citizen of whatever ethnicity (this is the multicultural side). However Māori as Treaty partner have a different status as the Treaty partner. I know this isn’t the case all the time (well a lot of the time) but it is what I hope our nation is aiming for. Hence the reason we have Māori seats and Māori health providers and kohanga etc and Vision Mātauranga in the research world.

      Second your question around being a bi-cultural researcher. I don’t think of myself as a bi-cultural researcher because I participate in te ao Māori time to time by attending tangi, pōwhiri, hui, wānanga. I call myself a bicultural researcher because by learning the language and the culture and becoming involved in te ao Māori in my personal world (firstly by joining a kapa haka group at university and now my husband and kids are Māori and so I engage in te ao Māori quite frequently) it is because I have a good understanding of both te ao Pākehā and te ao Māori and I have reflected on this over many years with it starting with my Masters on the Formation of Pākehā identity through te reo Māori and te ao Māori back in 2001. Having a good understanding of both cultures allows me to understand the different perspectives of both world views and how these converge or diverge to achieve common goals held by both cultures. This skill allows for an in-depth analysis of research that involves both Māori and Pākehā perspectives that someone from a mono-cultural world view may not be adept at applying. I apply social science methods to expand the understanding of Pākehā representatives of mainstream organizations past their own cultural viewpoint to include an understanding of how Māori may address the same issue. This is what I mean by calling myself a bi-cultural researcher.

      Your third question around where I think the work of a ‘bi-cultural researcher’ sits in relation to what Linda Smith and other Māori pūkenga (transl. scholars) in the western academy have characterised as ‘decolonising methodology’? I’m not sure I know how to answer this as I’m not sure I understand your question? Do you mean where does a bi-cultural researcher sit in relation to kaupapa Māori research? In regards to ‘research is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary’ that is the first line I use in the paper I wrote ‘‘Koe wai hoki koe?!’, or ‘who are you?!’: Issues of trust in cross-cultural collaborative research” that is cited under ‘To find out more’ under the blog which you may be interested in reading? I would like to think that by engaging in more respectful practices that the word research, which once was the dirtiest words for indigenous peoples, will not be so and be seen as something that can be of benefit to indigenous people.

      Happy to discuss further Anthony and again thank you for considered response.

      • Kia ora Maria, thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. I was greatly heartened to read in your responses that you are able to share your experiences in working with and for Māori communities with your husband and children. I think that this is one of the very best preparations for a vocation of this kind.

        In answer to your question about the relationship between bi-cultural research and kaupapa Māori, I had a couple of thoughts in mind. First, as stated, I was just genuinely curious. I am currently writing a paper in which I have attempted to theoretically position the different frameworks that are being used in New Zealand to achieve the co-ordination of knowledge development between Māori and western science knowledge traditions. There currently is no category for bi-cultural research!!

        Second, my question was an attempt to better understand if what you are doing is kaupapa-based. This question was triggered partly by the name ‘bi-cultural research’ which, as I have stated, involves an ackward choice of words. When I read your answer this morning, I felt quite personally challenged by your sense of hope for a better future. However, today at work, I twice witnessed and felt, first hand, the pain and grief of Māori communities who are suffering as a direct consequence of harm caused by involvement in western scientific research. So while I can deeply respect and admire your sense of hope, today was yet another timely reminder that my real-world reality is very different to the future that you are hoping for.

        Nāku noa, nā Anthony

        • Kia ora Anthony,
          Thanks for replying again. That is interesting that there is no category for bi-cultural research. In the Ko Wai Koe paper I wrote I set out the tuakana-teina process that we have used working up in the Hokianga with community based co-researchers that might be of help. I have also written literature review on mātauranga Māori and environmental decision–making that may be of interest as well? I think there is bi cultural research where you have kaupapa Māori research on one side and western research on the other and then there is bi-cultural research analysis within bi-cultural research projects if that makes sense? For instance one of my Pākehā colleagues is a systems scientist and we have both worked on the same projects in the Hokianga with our kaupapa Māori co-researchers, however he would not call himself a bicultural researcher like I do but he would say he has expertise in working within bi-cultural projects.

          And yes I am an optimist in regards to research and te ao Māori, probably naively so! However for me the only way to improve research practices is to either get more Māori researchers or work with those non-indigenous researchers who do work with indigenous people to understand how to undertake research that is respectful and of benefit to indigenous people and not the other way around. Like most change it takes time and is a process…that hopefully my mokopuna will see in their lifetime but it will probably most likely be my great-mokopuna. I have just come back from an evaluation conference in Australia and I was pleasantly surprised to see some change in their non-indigenous Australian research practices of working with indigenous Australians. They are a fair way behind that what has been happening in New Zealand over the past couple of decades but there is change there. I live in hope…

  6. Thanks Maria, this is really succinct and practical guidance and insights from your research. Your eight insights seem simple, but can be very challenging. I wonder if you can see some parallels or cross-over from your work in bicultural research to inter-disciplinary research. What I am thinking is that respect for the difference between cultures may have a lot to teach us about working with different assumptions and worldviews between academic disciplines.

    • Hi Graeme,
      Yes I can see parallels and a cross-over from my work to inter-disciplinary research. To me bicultural research is ultimately about respecting each other and different world views. You do not have to agree with that worldview but you should respect that worldview, it’s about working with, not against each other. For instance not positioning oneself and your worldview or discipline as the worldview/discipline of all worldviews/disciplines. If that makes sense?

    • Kia ora Graeme the minority culture in a bicultural setting often runs into assumptions and worldviews that are often a hegemony from the dominant culture. Understanding how indigenous cultures collaborate in productive ways can help academic disciplines, but often the researched subjects, indigenous people are not the beneficiaries in academia

      • Kia ora Ra
        Thanks for that comment. You have alerted me to the shortcomings of my language and categories. Interdisciplinarity has been used rather uncritically to refer to ‘academic disciplines’, and that has served to further the assumed and unsatisfactory divide between researchers and ‘researched subjects’.

        I am very committed to critiquing that distinction in my own practice and in academic thinking. Thanks for highlighting my own sloppy use of language in my comment to Maria. As the French would say, ‘touche!’

        I am working with you and with others to explore what we might mean by co-creative and collaborative capacity, and what that might mean for researchers to work in ways that bring resources to the resources already held by communities in an effort to address issues and questions relevant to the communities. One of the concepts that I am finding helpful at the moment is that of seeing research and enquiry as within the ecosystem of the enquiry, rather than separate from what is studied; and then to see research as a process of sharing and integrating resources of knowledge, capabilities, technologies and meaning in ways that enable purposeful change.

        Thanks again for touching on a vital matter that runs deep.
        Mā te wā


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