Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Black Rainbow: Stories of Māori and Pākehā working across difference

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posted on 2021-11-14, 23:02 authored by Fabish, Rachael

This thesis examines the impacts of colonialism on the interpersonal experiences of Māori (indigenes) and Pākehā (settlers) involved in anarchist organising in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. This research contributes to literature on urban Māori identity, processes of Pākehā change, and ‘biculturalism as lived’. It also contributes to international literature on indigene-settler relations, whiteness studies, activist studies and anti-oppressive praxis. The central research question is: how do Māori and Pākehā work together across difference? This question was also considered when developing a collaborative methodology, in response to Kaupapa Māori (indigenous) critiques of ‘traditional’ research. This involved establishing and working closely with Black Rainbow, a collective of five Māori and two Pākehā activists (including myself). We met over twelve months and recorded our discussions, as ‘interactive interviews’. These discussions have been transformed into ‘stories’ showing the rich shared meaning-making that occurred while we told tales of our experiences in the anarchist ‘scene’. The Black Rainbow discussions show the difficulties of working across difference in Pākehā dominated communities, where Pākehā often undermine or tokenise Māori identity, respond insensitively to Māori members’ concerns and fail to share power.  Throughout this thesis I build on Uma Narayan’s work, arguing that ‘insiders’ epistemic privilege’ is based on lived experience and tied to identity, yet ‘repressive authenticity’ is often used to dismiss urban Māori identity and therefore, their epistemic privilege. Further, insiders’ epistemic privilege is experienced through emotional reactions, yet Māori ways of expressing emotion are often invalidated. Black Rainbow allowed Māori members to validate each other’s epistemic privilege, especially through humour. It also allowed a place for careful listening for Pākehā members. I argue that this listening is not passive, but also involved ‘learning to be affected’ by the ‘epistemological discomfort’ at the heart of ‘processes of Pākehā change’. I see this as the emotional cost of truly accepting insiders’ epistemic privilege, and I propose that sitting with this discomfort, shifts some of the emotional burden onto Pākehā, as well as the threat to identity that Māori may experience when working across difference.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Social Anthropology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Bönisch-Brednich, Brigitte; Bargh, Maria