The politics of liberal legitimation: Deploying the Maori Notion of Hauora in the New Zealand health curriculum

Year: 2012

Author: Quinlivan, Kathleen, Rasmussen, Mary Lou R R, Aspin, Clive Aspin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In this presentation we explore the ways in which the politics of liberal recognition (Povinelli, 2003, 2006) shape how sexuality education in schools can respond to cultural difference. Drawing on findings from an Australian and New Zealand research project designed to respond to religious and cultural difference (Rasmussen, Sanjakdar, Aspin, Allen and Quinlivan, 2012) we explore the ways in which the Maori notion of Hauora is deployed in curriculum resources and in the classroom. Our findings suggest that the notion of hauora is made palatable through being aligned with individualistic notions of wellbeing that reflect the individual enterprise subject. Despite the best intentions of curriculum developers and classroom teachers to draw on Maori epistemologies and ontologies, their intentions are thwarted. In the context of a school classroom driven by notions of individual competition, our findings show that engaging substantively with hauora is secondary to successfully performing the individual enterprise subject Povinelli, 2006). The 'cunning politic' of recognition appears to legitimate Maori ways of knowing but actually reproduces rather than disrupts networks of power, in the process dumbing down Maori epistemologies.