Theses Doctoral

Becoming and Being Aware and Engaged: An Exploration of the Development of Political Awareness and Participation Among Māori and Pākehā Secondary School Students in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Webb, Torica

This dissertation explores how political ideals, knowledge and participation are shaped, articulated and contested in and out of school for and by Maaori and Paakehaa secondary school students, school staff, families and communities with data generated through ethnographic research in Aotearoa/New Zealand (ANZ). The state of education in ANZ is both stable and precarious; stable because it is a national school system with a standardized curriculum and hiring standards regardless of whether a school is public or private with a central unit (Ministry of Education) responsible for overseeing these elements and education policy; and precarious in the sense that the school-age population is becoming increasingly diverse and must meet the needs of Maaori and Paakehaa, as well as Pacific Islander and Asian students. This is particularly imperative for Maaori and Pacific Islander children as they are less likely to have attended preschool when compared to their Paakehaa and Asian counterparts, and have higher dropout and unemployment rates.

Schools are important sites of cultural production representing the nexus of unceasing, multidirectional exchanges of ideas, knowledge and practices contributing to students' development of political awareness and participation through school organization, pedagogy, and social relations. Viewed through the lenses of the anthropology of education, learning and identity development, social and cultural capital, critical pedagogy and political literacy, I demonstrate the relationship between schooling, citizenship, society and identity using data I generated while conducting 15 months of ethnographic research in two secondary school settings: a state-integrated, coed Maaori boarding school, and a public, coed secondary school. I underscore students' experiences in social interactions, and formal and informal education practices imbedded in particular historical, political, sociocultural and economic contexts.

I generated data utilizing research methods consisting of participant observation, interviews and surveys to document school and non-school events and experiences including cultural performances, assemblies, classroom sessions, field trips, staff and faculty meetings, in addition to protests, media coverage and court proceedings for Maaori activists and other political activists accused of domestic terrorism in October 2007. Finally, I use the terrorism raids as a vehicle to discuss the role public pedagogy plays in educating the public, and relate my findings to the anthropological literature on indigenous movements and cultural homogenization to address the bidirectional interplay between globalizing forces and local effects on identity formation and cultural processes.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Anthropology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Harrington, Charles C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014