Fa'alogo i leo o le fanau : a qualitative study of the ways in which students of Samoan background experience their education within the University of Canterbury.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores the ways in which students of Samoan background experience their education within the University of Canterbury. The focus is on two interconnected concerns: firstly the significance and effects of discourses in the act of constitution and subjectification of these students, and secondly, the constitutive effects of power relations that institutional policies and discursive practices produce and reproduce, in the university. In particular, I engage with feminist poststructuralist theory to explore how acts of constituting and being constituted shape these participants’ experiences, including the ways in which they resist discursive practices that constitute them as the Other. I also use this theoretical framework to attend to the interconnectedness of race, ethnicity, gender, class and culture. A further key facet of this research centres on methodological issues which arise from undertaking qualitative research, particularly in a cross-cultural setting. These include issues of theoretical position, the politics of positionality, and the contradictions and complexities of fieldwork. The findings highlight the ways in which dominant discourses and discursive practices constitute these participants as students and position them in multiple ways, within their inter-relationships of family, church community and the university. In the academy, the discourses of equal opportunity and equity have normalised the exclusive nature of the university rather than encouraging an inclusive institution. The experiences of the participants illustrate the exclusive and isolating effects of power relations, processes of normalisation, regimes of truth and power -knowledge. The four themes of collectivity, resistance, choice, and the “ivory tower” draw our attention to the possibilities for disrupting and reconfiguring dominant and interwoven discourses that have shaped these participants lives. Additionally, the concept of intersectionality moves the analysis beyond the politics of difference. Finally, although this thesis recommends that the University of Canterbury implement some practical initiatives, it proposes that the University move beyond the “barriers” approach to create a more inclusive academy, which acknowledges its role within the Pacific.