The evolution of an identity activist: An indigenous autoethnographic journey

Author: Mawera Karetai

The evolution of an identity activist: An indigenous autoethnographic journey

Mawera Karetai
3 November 2021

Karetai, M. (2021). The evolution of an identity activist: An indigenous autoethnographic journey. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic). 


This thesis is a critical reflective journey. It is indigenous autoethnography. It details the evolution of a social justice advocate, transforming into an identity activist, and the development of new ways of practicing in complex social spaces. The work takes the concept of unconditional positive regard out of psychology and introduces it as a foundation for professional practice across broad practice areas. There is a crimson thread that runs through this thesis - unconditional positive regard. My self-empowerment as a practice researcher manifests itself in this eclectic kaupapa Māori bricolage.

Humanist psychologist Carl Rogers believed that “each individual has within him- or her-self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behaviour” (Rogers C. R., 1980, pp. 115-116). Rogers believed in self-determination and in our ability to make changes in our lives if we are empowered to do so by approaching relationships with what he called “Unconditional Positive Regard”. Rogers’ will become the foundation for a model of professional practice used to overcome personal and social barriers, and to empower person/problem-centred change from an individual through to a societal level.

The methodologies used to present this professional practice thesis are an eclectic mix of traditional and non-traditional methodologies, resulting a unique bricolage that makes use of the tools available to build something new. Underpinning the methodological mix is kaupapa Māori as a research methodology, not because of any added value, but because of the way the writer, as an indigenous woman, naturally views the world. The indigenous bricolage methodology will be expanded on in Chapter Two.

Exploring and applying unconditional positive regard in an activism context, using a combination of real life, and fictionalised narrative to demonstrate the issues faced in some Aotearoa communities has resulted in the creation of two new models of practice. The Kohioawa Impact Model enables a practitioner to map the impact in their practice area/s, and map where they could be creating barriers in their practice. The Identity Activism Model is a pathway that maps a practitioner/subject relationship, to ensure that the practitioner is positioned in unconditional positive regard towards those they work with.

Each of the two models described works independently of the other but used together they create a very strong tool for self-awareness and maintaining person/problem-centred position in personal and professional relationships.

From the shoulders of giants, the development of the two new models adds to the existing work of others who have paved the way in activism and person-centred practice, to create new problem-solving tools for the practitioner toolbox.

Keywords: dysconsciousness, dignity, relationships, power, self-actualisation, mana, identity, activism, change, bricolage, kaupapa Māori

Mawera Karetai's thesis was supervised by Martin Andrew and Samuel Mann.


This thesis is not publicly available. The abstract is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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