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The phenomenology of near-death experiences in Northland Māori of New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Palmerston North Campus, Manawatū, New Zealand
Near-death experiences (NDEs) can be described as profoundly life-changing, subjective
events, that typically manifest in those who have been pronounced clinically dead. Over the past
four decades, NDEs have been a field of interest for many researchers. However, the majority of
NDE research has been conducted in Western contexts, with fewer than ten studies completed in
non-Western regions (Sleutjes, Moreira-Almeida, & Greyson, 2014). The limited non-Western
NDE research makes it difficult to determine the role culture may play in the development or
interpretation of the NDE.
The focus of the current study is the phenomenology of the NDEs of Maori residing in
Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Because of the Maori focus, Kaupapa Maori Research was
selected as the most appropriate methodological framework for this study. A ‘whanau of
supervisors’ consisting of five Kaumatua and Kuia assisted the non-Maori researcher with
respect to Kaupapa Maori. Six participants took part in unstructured interviews. Findings
revealed the significant role of tikanga Maori within the NDEs of participants’, as well as a high
similarity with the features often reported by NDErs of Western culture. Based on these results,
it is suggested the two positions previous authors have regarded as conflicting, are not in fact
mutually exclusive. The NDE may be cross-cultural in nature and culturally interpreted, but
incorporate elements developed in reference to culture.