Torn identītīes: A Kāi Tahu Pūrākau of whiteness

Author: Adrian Woodhouse

Torn Identītīes: A Kāi Tahu Pūrākau of Whiteness

Adrian Woodhouse
28 June 2021

Woodhouse, A. (2021). Torn Identītīes: A Kāi Tahu Pūrākau of Whiteness. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic) [3.948 MB]


Positioning of Research Project within the wider Doctor of Professional Practice programme

This research project is the final component of the Doctor of Professional Practice degree and builds on earlier work established in the year one papers ‘Review of Learning’ and ‘Learning Agreement’. Within these earlier papers, Indigenous Autoethnography and pūrākau (Māori storytelling) were explored as key theoretical concepts; these have been further expanded upon within this final project work.

Personal/Professional Identity, Practice Context and Project Kaupapa

In my professional life I have been a chef and, for the past 17 years, I have taught culinary arts at Otago Polytechnic primarily teaching on the Bachelor of Culinary Arts programme over the last decade. From an early age I had a passion for cooking which led me to train in the classical French curriculum and to go on to practice as a chef in the field of Haute Cuisine (more commonly referred to as Fine Dining). As a chef and a culinary arts teacher, kai (food) is a natural medium for me to encapsulate my way of seeing and making sense of this world. The pūrākau within this project are about kai and the whenua (land) exploring how my interactions with kai and the whenua are an expression of my cultural identity.

Like many others who whakapapa (descend from) to the southern reaches of Te Waipounamu, I am a descendant of an early mixed race marriage between a Kāi Tahu wahine (women) and a European whaler in the early part of the Nineteenth Century. Through the agendas of the settler colony in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the actions of cultural assimilation I have found myself confused as to the validity and legitimacy of my Kāi Tahu identity. This project is an insider’s perspective from a self-labelled “white guy”, as I journey through the process of (re)claiming and (re)positioning my indigenous Kāi Tahu identity within my life. Within this wānaka (learning journey) of self-discovery, I have engaged in a process of sense making and self-healing through cultural restor(y)ing processes.

As a story of Kāi Tahu cultural dislocation, it is situated within a wider Kāi Tahu whānui narrative, where the legitimacy of our indigenous identity has been challenged by social and cultural constructs derived from a Western world view. As such, the wider kaupapa (purpose) of this project is that provides an enabling tool for Kāi Tahu whānui cultural reconnection, revitalisation and empowerment. In particular, it is intended to resonate with those Kāi Tahu who do not see themselves as meaningfully connected or authentic within their indigenous selves.

With the focus of this research being on Māori cultural regeneration, the ontological, epistemological and axiology positions within this project are framed within Kaupapa Māori Theory. As such, the research is situated within an Indigenous Autoethnography methodology and adopts pūrākau as a means to analyse the lived experience and craft mātauraka (knowledge) in ways that connects with contemporary society.

Through the lens of self (including whakapapa), this project analyses’ and critiques the lived experience through critical Whiteness Theory to illuminate why Kāi Tahu (like myself) have felt culturally dislocated from their culture. Furthermore, with the work situated with the institution of Haute Cuisine, it exposes how the white ideologies, values and beliefs of Haute Cuisine continues to practice and perpetuate whiteness. It asks questions of Haute Cuisine and its hegemonic ideologies in perpetuating the culturally isolation of Māori from their authentic selves.

Most importantly, this project confirms that for Kāi Tahu (and other iwi) cultural identity is embedded within a unique set of world views and values. For those Māori who are culturally dislocated, reconnecting with these world view and values has the potential to heal historical cultural trauma and embody ones indigenous self. 

Keywords: culinary arts; education; colonisation; kaupapa Māori; pūrākau; indigenous autoethnography

Adrian Woodhouse's thesis was supervised by Martin Andrew, Richard Mitchell and Kelli Te Maihāroa.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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