Unsettling Pākehā fragility : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Politics at Massey University, New Zealand

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Massey University
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In this thesis, I explore the way that Pākehā (settler) identity can act as a barrier to, or alternatively, as motivation for, engaging with colonialism and decolonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand. I also discuss Pākehā conscientisation, and how Pākehā can continue to hold ourselves accountable on this non-linear journey. I construct a composite epistemology drawing from interpretivism with an explicitly structural element, critical feminism and action research with a Baradian twist. This is used to explore the journeys of seven participants grappling with being Pākehā, discovering their complicity in colonial structures and practices, and imagining different ways of being and decolonised futures. I search for their edges of comfort, and at times, our conversations enable an evaluation of previously uninterrogated positions. As a Pākehā researcher, studying other Pākehā, while trying not to re-entrench colonial structures, I am conscious of the need to try to engage ethically in this topic alongside my participants as we work on ourselves and each other. The Baradian action research element imagines participants as accomplices in a broader project of understanding our complicity in colonialism and disrupting our own Pākehā defensiveness. This approach accounts for the inevitability that our encounters facilitate change, in both the researcher and the participants, through involvement in the thesis. I draw heavily on literature across the themes of whiteness, white fragility, settler colonialism, Pākehā identity, ignorance, uncertainty, discomfort and ethical engagement. I find that there is a high degree of alignment between the theory and the experiences of my participants. This holds both in terms of the problem space they recognise in Aotearoa, and the way they navigate complicity, seek to make space, catch ongoing colonial processes in their own ways of being and reach toward uncertain futures.