Dr Carl Te Hira Mika lecture: Dealing with the indivisible

Thursday, August 17 2017
5:30pm - 7pm
WA224 Conference Centre
AUT City Campus

5:30pm Registration
5:45–6:00pm Mihi whakatau: Dr Valance Smith
6:00–6:15pm Conveners’ welcome: Abby Cunnane and Balamohan Shingade
6:15–7:30pm Keynote lecture: Dr Carl Te Hira Mika
7:30pm Shared kai in ST PAUL St exhibition lei-pā

This is the opening lecture for 'Ipu ki uta, ihu ki tai', the ST PAUL St Gallery 2017 Symposium. Dr Carl Te Hira Mika’s essay, Overcoming Being in Favour of Knowledge, is the basis for this keynote presentation addressing the terms ‘whakapapa’, ‘whaunanga’ and ‘ira’, troubling a reductive translation of matauranga as 'knowledge', and the corresponding idea that things may be known definitely. The keynote, Dealing with the indivisible: A Māori philosophy of mystery, raises the counter-colonial potential of mystery and Being in relation to the concepts of wellbeing, self-sovereignty and the sovereignty of things in the world. 

Free and all welcome.

MawhaiImage: Mawhai (native cucumber), Ihumatāo. Courtesy of Rebecca Ann Hobbs.


Māori thought about origins places emphasis on the complete interconnection between things in the world (Marsden, 2003). There are huge consequences for that philosophy in all areas of Māori life, especially where colonised approaches strongly encourage its opposite - a view of things in the world as separate from each other. The Māori academic, as one agent of representation, then has to grapple with both possibilities, ethically making sure that he or she depicts something as interrelated whilst the text forces him or her to fragment that thing from its whanaunga, relations. 

We would probably think that ‘mystery’ – which I understand as a limit on what we know about an object, related to its ability to withhold part of itself from our view – is undermined by that fragmentary thinking. Fragmentary thinking certainly aims to demystify something, to bring it into pure clarity. But in this paper, I extend the notion of ‘mystery’ to include what happens when fragmentary thinking is itself part of a whole. It becomes contingent on holistic thinking (Mika, 2017). In other words, fragmenting thinking is deliberately made part of its opposite and becomes part of the whole. 

What, then, happens to the object that fragmentary thinking is trying to clarity – is that also made mysterious? I explore these issues of obscurity (pōuri) through a Māori lens. Where I have in the past avoided the phrase ‘matauranga Māori’ (see for instance Mika, 2012), now I consider a Māori philosophy of mystery as a key aspect of it. Rather than speaking about the issue of ‘knowledge’, though, I am more interested in a deep Māori holistic, subjective experience that lies within common concepts such as ‘whakapapa’ and ‘ira’. These concepts, I suggest, actively speak to the Māori representer of things in the world, insisting that he or she carry on beyond a fragmented representation of those things. 

Marsden, M. (2003). The woven universe: Selected writings of Rev. Māori Marsden. Otaki, New Zealand: Estate of Rev. Māori Marsden.

Mika, C. (2012). Overcoming Being in favour of knowledge: The fixing effect of matauranga. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(10), 1080-1092.

Mika, C. (2017). Indigenous education and the metaphysics of presence: A worlded philosophy. Oxon, England: Routledge.

This is the opening lecture for 'Ipu ki uta, ihu ki tai', the ST PAUL St 2017 Symposium; please see the symposium event page for full details of the following days.


Last updated: 25-Jul-2017 3.30pm

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