Integrating the nation: Gendering Maori urbanisation and integration, 1942-1969

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Theses / Dissertations
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Thesis discipline
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Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury. History
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Volume Title
Woods, Megan C.

This thesis examines the mid-twentieth century attempts to create integrated and therefore 'ideal' Maori citizens. These attempts, in turn, led to the re-imagining of the cities and ultimately of New Zealand as an integrated nation. In investigating the creation of integrated citizens and the integrated nation, this thesis asks four central questions: why the policies of integration and urbanisation were pursued; who pursued these policies; how these policies were implemented; and where integration occurred, examining houses/homes, hostels, and bodies as crucial sites where the policies were implemented. In answering these questions, I argue that the creation of both integrated citizens and the integrated nation were gendered processes. In particular, this thesis focuses on the role of women. Playing out stereotypically maternal roles within supposedly 'apolitical' and 'private' domestic spaces, Maori women became the target of state policy. In recognition of their importance to integration, the state aided Maori women in the establishment of their own voluntary organisation, the Maori Women's Welfare League. In addition to aiding the state, this organisation provided pivotal leadership in the urban environments. Through their organisation Maori women not only assumed leadership positions that were formerly the domain of Maori men, but also adopted many 'cultural missionary' roles formerly the domain of Pakeha women. Shifting the focus to young, single women and their bodies, I further argue that bodies and beauty became crucial to constructions of ideal citizens, and that women's bodies became emblematic of the integrated nation. Maori, however, were not simple victims of the policy of integration. Maori women, in particular, negotiated the policies and found agency. Through apparent complicity with the state, the women were able to exploit the aspects of the policy aimed at retaining aspects of Maori culture. Furthermore, urbanisation and integration are not presented as solely North Island phenomena; instead, the focus is extended to include the South Island, and in particular to the city of Christchurch.

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Copyright Megan C. Woods