Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1.05 MB)

'Be(com)ing' Ngati Kahungunu in the Diaspora: Iwi Identity and Social Organisation in Wellington

Download (1.05 MB)
Version 3 2023-03-14, 23:26
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:54
Version 1 2021-11-10, 10:38
posted on 2023-03-14, 23:26 authored by Gonzalez, Christina M.

Ngati Kahungunu is an ideal example to investigate the processes of identity management and socio-political representation within and outside of their traditional tribal territory. It is the third most populous iwi in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with approximately 60,000 members, and boundaries that span from the Wairoa district down to the Wairarapa region. Kahungunu's complexity and dynamism are not restricted to its territorial boundaries. A large portion of Kahungunu members form expatriate tribal communities located beyond their tribal district. The Wellington region hosts the largest number of Kahungunu members dwelling outside of their tribal territory, as well as the Ngati Kahungunu Embassy. The Embassy is an organisation which, like many other expatriate Maori tribal bodies, faces the challenges of locating and reaching its tribal members to connect them to their Kahungunu home and heritage, while simultaneously representing their particular, Wellington-specific voices. This thesis explores the ways that Ngati Kahungunu identities are articulated, maintained and transformed by individuals and institutions in Wellington today, by analysing qualitative interviews with ten Kahungunu men and women, and a case study on the Kahungunu Embassy. Three chapters on iwi identity, home and social organisation illustrate how Kahungunu voices in Wellington can more adequately be heard, and their experiences included, in the tribe, despite their apparent geographic and cultural distance. A range of theoretical tools, including Diaspora theory, urban indigeneity, translocalism, flexible notions of home and belongingness to group, as well as cultural concepts grounded in Maori epistemology, such as whakapapa, are useful to reflect upon diverse ways of belonging to community and to place(s). I argue that many Kahungunu in Wellington extend and expand the meaning of 'be(com)ing' Kahungunu through introducing the concept of a 'third space of forms'. The semantic expansions of identity, home and social organisation can inform the purpose and direction of groups, like the Kahungunu Embassy, to better reflect the lived realities of its members.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Maori studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Maori Studies : Te Kawa a Maui


Bargh, Maria