The main divide - nature/culture dualisms and the Maori adoptee (2016)
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury. School of Health Sciences
The main divide – nature/culture dualisms and the Māori adoptee The dichotomy of the ‘nature-culture divide’ (Vaisman, 2013) punctuates the lived experiences of Māori adopted within New Zealand between 1955 and 1985, in several ways. The ‘closed stranger’ adoption process sought a ‘clean break’ between birth family and child, promoting the supremacy of environment and socialisation over biology, nurture over nature (Griffith, 1997). However, the engineering of new adoptive kinship relationships as if they were biological (Delany, 1997), simultaneously dissolved and mimicked ‘natural’ ties, placing adoptive families in the position of producing the very differences they were constructed to deny, and adoptees in a situation of “irresolvable contradictions” (Yngvesson & Mahoney, 2000, p. 83; Blake, 2013).
According to several writers, identity provides the coherence sought by adoptees in the face of biological/social ‘rupture’ (Haenga Collins, 2011; Yngvesson & Mahoney, 2000). For Māori adoptees, reconnecting with birth whānau (family) and whakapapa (genealogy) holds the promise of identity fulfillment, legitimacy and perhaps even ‘authenticity’. This too can be fraught, as the fragmentation perpetuated by adoption is not easily reconciled with the emphasis on integrity and wholeness of whānau and continuity of whakapapa in the Māori world (Ministerial Advisory Committee, 1988; Bradley, 1997). Furthermore, adoptees may find that their claim to biological ties nonetheless falls short of the upbringing within Māori community that is integral to Māori identity and personhood (Kāretu, n.d., Durie, 1997, cited in Newman, 2011).
Caught between a dualism of essentialism and constructionism (Woodward, 1997), the Māori adoptee identity ‘project’ is complex and has the potential to yield important insights relating to identity (West, 2012). This presentation will outline current PhD research that is exploring Māori adoptee identities as they are constructed ‘in between’ (Collins, 1999; Waters, 2004; Webber, 2008; Yngvesson & Mahoney, 2000), from experience (Alcoff, 2010) and as resources (Wieland, 2010).
CitationAhuriri-Driscoll, A (2016) The main divide - nature/culture dualisms and the Maori adoptee. Auckland University of Technology, Auckland: International Conference on Adoption Research 5, 7-11 Jan 2016.
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ANZSRC Fields of Research16 - Studies in Human Society::1699 - Other Studies in Human Society::169904 - Studies of Māori Society
32 - Biomedical and clinical sciences::3215 - Reproductive medicine::321599 - Reproductive medicine not elsewhere classified
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