237.131 Independent Study Week #1

Week 1: Mana Atua and Knowledge Systems

Task 1 (5 minutes)

REFLECT: Take 5 minutes to record anything that was new or familiar to you from this weeks class. 

Reflections on the first classroom session:

  • Similar approach to 237.130, and I think it’s good that this module builds on that.
  • Interesting to see the subtly different approach to running the class from the tutors, although it’s only the ice-breaking week.

Task 2 (1 hour)

RE-WATCH: When developing your writing for assignments you will often engage with a source more than once, re-watch Project Mātauranga, Season 2, Episode 8.

WRITE, DRAW or SKETCH: the main points you took from the episode.  Also take note of any questions that it might raise, and bring these to class next week.

I rewatched the video, and also came across a helpful transcript:


Main points from the video

  • Origin stories vary from Iwi to Iwi, so need to take care and not make sweeping statements like, “Māori believe …”
  • How were Māori astronomy stories translated by Pākehā into mainstream concepts?
  • How do the researchers identify original sources for areas like this, given that most of the history is lost oral history, and the source materials now being used are writings by colonists?

A lot of our old knowledge was written down by our philosophers from around about the late 1800s, and they’re really valuable resources because these are as close as we’re going to get to what we used to think in precolonial times. So, I mean, that’s really exciting, that raw information.

Tātai Arorangiwww.sciencelearn.org.nz, https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/videos/563-tatai-arorangi. Accessed 20 July 2021.
  • What constitutes “raw information”?
  • Interesting: mainstream versus indigenous as comparative terms.
  • Is science not indigenous to India, England, France, wherever?
  • Not all Māori knowledge is for everyone – need to re-read the 237.130 article.

Questions to take to class

  • In this context, what constitutes “raw information”, given that much of the knowledge has been lost and is being, essentially, reconstructed from second order sources such as colonial era writing?

Task 3 (2 hours)

RE-READ: Māori Marsden (Ngāi Takoto, Te Rarawa) offers a tangata whenua perspective on sustainability and resource management, through the framework of kaitiakitanga. Re-read Kaitiakitanga: A Definitive Introduction to the Holistic Worldview of Māori (which you will already be familiar with from 130 in semester 1).

SUMMARISE/BULLET POINT: the key ideas of the text, and write one finished paragraph (approx. 100-150 words) outlining one of the key ideas, use one quote from the text to support your discussion and practice including a citation. This provides the last name of the person who wrote the text, and the page number the information was on, so a citation for this text might be (Marsden 23).

READ: This short excerpt by Cleve Barlow (Ngā Puhi) on Kaitiaki and revise your paragraph to expand on your initial response, again include a short quote and citation.

Key ideas of the text

  • The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) makes it mandatory for anyone acting under it’s auspices to consider Māori cultural values.
  • Despite that, there are still concerns amongst Māori that local authorities may not do that.
  • The paper seeks to clarify that cultural values are cannot be dismissed as myth or legend; they are instead artificial constructs created to make it easier for people to understand the Māori world view.
  • I would describe this as a form of encoding – using narrative forms as a way of persisting information through generations.

… storytelling forges connections among people, and between people and ideas. Stories convey the culture, history, and values that unite people. When it comes to our countries, our communities, and our families, we understand intuitively that the stories we hold in common are an important part of the ties that bind.

December 20, Vanessa Boris |., and 2017 Vanessa Boris. ‘What Makes Storytelling So Effective For Learning?’ Harvard Business Publishing, 20 Dec. 2017, https://www.harvardbusiness.org/what-makes-storytelling-so-effective-for-learning/.

One item of interest

Modern man has summarily dismissed these so called myths and legends as the superstitious and quaint imaginings of primitive, pre-literate societies. That assumption could not be further from the truth. Myth and Legend in the Māori context are neither fables embodying primitive faith in the supernatural, nor marvellous fireside stories of ancient times. They were deliberate constructs employed by the ancient seers and sages to encapsulate and condense into easily assimilable forms their view of the World, of ultimate reality between the Creator, the universe and man.

Marsden, M., Henare, T., & New Zealand. Ministry for the Environment. (1992). Kaitiakitanga : A definitive introduction to the holistic world view of the Māori / M. Marsden & T.A. Henare. Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry for the Environment.

My feeling is that treating traditional Māori and mainstream ways of encoding complex information as a Zero-sum game[1]https://www.investopedia.com/terms/z/zero-sumgame.asp is not an inclusive approach. The two systems have validity in an of themselves, and it may well be that when used to complement each other they result in an outcome that’s better than using one in preference to the other. It’s interesting that science does use narratives to communicate complex theories to nonexpert audiences.

In summary, storytelling within science should not be disregarded. “The plural of anecdote is not data,” remains an important mantra to uphold the rigor of systematic data collection. However, when considering the communication of science to nonexpert audiences, a more appropriate mantra might be, “the plural of anecdote is engaging science communication.”

Dahlstrom, Michael F. ‘Using Narratives and Storytelling to Communicate Science with Nonexpert Audiences’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. Supplement 4, Sept. 2014, pp. 13614–20.

Revision, after reading Cleve Barlow on Kaitiaki.

To expand on the above, in a New Zealand context in particular, it’s appropriate to reflect on science and how it is communicated. We should cherish the uniqueness of New Zealand and create narratives that that engage and resonate with our people. Perhaps there is an opportunity right now with COVID-19 vaccination. Immunization comes from science, and that will be off-putting and worrying to some people. Perhaps we should acknowledge the role that narratives founded on traditional Māori cultural concepts can have in alleviating those concerns. Similar approaches are already being tried in mental wellbeing[2]https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/teahikaa/audio/2018701802/mahi-a-atua-a-maori-approach-to-mental-wellbeing.

Task 4 (2 hours)

READ ONE of the following:

either: the Introduction to the Oxford Illustrated History of Science by Iwan Rhys Morus (Wales). This chapter points out that even though science is often presented as 'objective', or contrasted to 'cultural beliefs' (i.e. religion, myth, legend, etc.) it is equally shaped by the time and culture that it operates within. Make a map of the points from the chapter, elaborating on these where appropriate.

or: Project Mātauranga is presented in a comparative, documentary-style format. Creative practices sometimes require different kinds of writing approaches, for example; Tina Makereti's (Te Āti Awa) "Twitch" uses a literary style narrative to compare a mātauranga Māori approach to the creation of the universe, with western scientific theories. Read Twitch and produce a piece of creative-writing (either prose or poetry) about your understanding of your own cultural framework regarding some aspect of cosmology and/or science, and your relationship to it.

Extension: This is an extra task if you are enjoying the topic and want to do more. Find an example or case study, such as pollution in freshwater streams and rivers, or the recent imaging of a black-hole. Reflect on the purpose of tikanga and/or science (i.e. what does it do/ how does it do it)? How does it affect the way we currently see the issue or example?

The Introduction to the Oxford Illustrated History of Science by Iwan Rhys Morus (Wales).

Don’t really like mind maps, but whatever – MindMeister allows you to have three for free…

Task 5 (1 hour) Self-directed study

ASSIGNMENT PREPARATION: READ the assignment brief (you will find this under Assessment Information and Drop-boxes in the left hand column). Make a mind-map of what you already understand about the terms tikanga, tatau, te reo, doctrine of discovery, tātai arorangi, whenua, colonisation/banal nationalism using this week's resources where applicable.

Meanings for the following terms, and connections between them:

  • tikangatatau
  • te reo
  • doctrine of discovery
  • tātai arorangi
  • whenua
  • colonisation/banal nationalism

What might I want the assignment to look like?

Tell a story?
Paint a picture?
Something that shows the sequence in which constellations rise, as an aid to navigation.

Would be good to paint something this time around, so that I can keep up my practice.


1 https://www.investopedia.com/terms/z/zero-sumgame.asp
2 https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/teahikaa/audio/2018701802/mahi-a-atua-a-maori-approach-to-mental-wellbeing
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