E Hine: Young Māori Women's Journeys Through Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood

E Hine: Young Māori Women's Journeys Through Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood

Anna Adcock (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand), Fiona Cram (Katoa Ltd., New Zealand) and Beverley Lawton (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6108-8.ch014
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Young Māori (Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand) women and their babies experience more health disparities than their non-Māori counterparts. These disparities arise from multiple determinants, including racism and stigmatization. This chapter explores the pregnancy, birth, and motherhood journeys of 15 young Māori women using a Foucauldian theoretical approach. Their experiences indicate that Māori women are subject to Eurocentric medical, disciplinary, and colonial gazes—through exclusionary health, education, and social services, and public prejudices—that see them as abnormal and in need of regulation. Often with the support of their whānau (families), the participants challenged assumptions about teen mothers. They strove to be the best parents that they could be, often re-engaging with education and working hard to provide a positive future for themselves and their children.
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E Hine, taiahoahotia tōku ara i te pō

Hineteiwaiwa, illuminate my pathway through the night1

The birth rate for teen mothers in Aotearoa New Zealand has decreased markedly since the 1960s, and currently two thirds of teen mothers are also legally adult; that is, 18 or 19 years old when their baby is born (Families Commission, 2011). Even so, in the media, medical literature and public policy, teen pregnancy and motherhood is seen as a cause for concern (Breheny, 2006). Likewise, research on teen motherhood has tended to be biomedical and based on the assessment of poor outcomes and risks for young mothers and their children, measured using quantitative methodologies (Collins, 2005). By focusing on risk, research frequently frames teen mothers as the ‘problem’, instead of exploring structural issues, such as poverty, that can be stronger determinants of the quality of life experienced by these young women and their children (Breheny, 2006). As teen pregnancy and motherhood in this country is also portrayed as a largely Māori - Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand – issue (Breheny, 2006), the socio-historic context of colonization cannot be ignored.

This chapter describes a strengths-based approach to research with young Indigenous women and their families. A Foucauldian theoretical lens encourages a re-thinking of the ways in which young Māori mothers are supported and regulated by institutions within a society where teenage pregnancy and parenthood are generally deemed abnormal or deviant. The objectives of this chapter are to encourage readers to listen to the voices of the young mothers (and their whānau/families) as they appear here, and to challenge the discourses that ‘Other’ them. For these women, impending motherhood was viewed as a source of potential rather than a loss of potential. These views should be valued.



The background section first details the rationale for a call for more authentic research into the lives of young Māori mothers and mothers-to-be, and then describes the responsiveness of a Foucauldian theoretical approach to answering this call. Lastly an overview is provided of the E Hine study of young Māori women having babies, followed by an account of their pregnancy and motherhood journeys.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Colonial Gaze: The way in which the colonial agenda seeks to maintain and legitimate power by determining colonial realities, including the dehumanization of colonial subjects and the perpetual separation of Us (colonizers, civilized) and Other (colonized, savage). See Frantz Fanon and Homi K. Bhabha.

Medical Gaze: The way in which the medical discipline dehumanizes illness/abnormality and separates the body from the person. See Michel Foucault.

Kaupapa Maori Research: Research that is conducted by Maori, with Maori, and for Maori. Research that is conducted in a Maori way.

Maori: The Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Eurocentric: The view that European culture or history is superior, and that other world-views and knowledge systems are inferior/lack legitimacy.

Normalizing Gazes/Practices: How the concepts of norm/normal and abnormal are reinforced in society, encouraging conformity (to the norm). For example, how school teachers - as professional judges of normality, observe, examine, and rank pupils according to established and normative developmental theories. See Michel Foucault.

Disciplinary Gaze: The way in which power relations are covertly maintained in advanced neo-liberal societies, especially through the use of disciplinary mechanisms, such as, surveillance, individualization, normalization, and self-regulation. See Michel Foucault. See Nikolas Rose and Loïc Waquant for further work on disciplinary mechanisms/technologies.

Whanau: Family, including extended family and non-blood relatives.

Disempower/Disempowerment: To take away power or autonomy from a person or group of people.

Othered: To be treated as fundamentally different or inferior to the norm (dominant or mainstream), thus creating a sense of apartness and reinforcing and/or reproducing positions of domination and subordination.

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