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Applying whakapapa research methodology in Māori kin communities in Aotearoa New Zealand

July 2023

Publication: Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online
Author(s): Merata Kawharu, Paul Tapsell and Paratene Tane

Indigenous research methods centralises the importance of Indigenous ways of researching, validating and interpreting knowledge.

In Māori kin-community (kāinga) contexts this methodology is called whakapapa. It is an ethical approach to research. Through three kāinga case studies, our article explores whakapapa methodology as an expression of Kaupapa Māori research. We explore the importance of co-productive relationships or whanaungatanga; co-design and co-development, or kotahitanga; ethics procedures or tikanga; accountability to community or utu; and kin narratives or kōrero as a genealogically-ordered methodology of engaging kāinga and hearing their stories or views, compared to formal interviews.

In relation to the research teams and kāinga, we also discuss two intersecting values, which we call the mana/manaakitanga dynamic. It is a widely accepted dualism in Māori society.

Mana concerns ancestrally-framed authority based on descent, providing specialist views and perspectives, while manaakitanga concerns service through kinship, not least respect and consideration of others’ interests. Given their centrality to shaping genealogically-prescribed behaviours, we show how they apply in research contexts amongst researchers, who are not just ‘included’, but who also become engaged participants in overall kāinga-led and kāinga-owned outcomes.

We conclude by discussing how whakapapa methodology can help shape institutional ethics and help address grand challenges.

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