Close Encounters of the Genetic Testing Kind: Negotiating the interfaces between Matauranga Māori and other knowledge systems
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Since the decoding of the human genome project concluded in 2003, rapid technological advances in the area of human genetics including genetic testing and bio banking have accelerated. Public discussion of genetic testing and biobanking are the focus of this thesis. Genetic profiling and predictive tests aim to establish the causal conditions for disorders such as Fragile X, cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease. Biobanking involves the storage of genetic material for genetic research and can also include genealogical research. The complex and varied relationships that Maori (indigenous peoples of New Zealand) in different social locations have with western science (and human genetics in particular) is at the heart of this thesis. The thesis explores the responses of three differently located Maori social groups to the challenges posed by genetic testing and biobanking. Focus/contact group discussion with Maori members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a group of rongoa or traditional Maori health practitioners, and a group of Maori lawyers illustrate both diversity in the ways in which Maori respond to the issues posed by human genetics, and connections among them as they draw on Maori ontologies and epistemologies. In the analyses of these discussions which constitute the core of this thesis, Maori can be seen juggling alternative frames of reference and negotiating between knowledge systems. The thesis does not purport to provide an overview of Maori responses to genetic testing. Instead it uses discussion among three groups of research participants to illustrate the relevance of temporal and relational knowledge in local situations. A range of social science and Te Ao Maori conceptual tools are used to analyse conversations among research participants. These tools include discussion of power/knowledge and governmentality, actor network theory, sociological discussions of agency as well as concepts of whakapapa, kaitiaki, mauri, and mana motuhake. My goal is to illustrate both connection and heterogeneity in Maori responses to the challenges posed by genetic testing and bio banking.