Developing research practice

Hi, I am Misatauveve Dr Melani Anae, currently Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies and the Postgraduate Student Advisor at the Centre for Pacific Studies.

Melani Anae

I am part of a large extended Samoan aiga, and am the mother of three children. My father hails from the villages of Apia and Falelatai; my mother from Siumu from which my matai title of Misatauveve originates.

As former Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies I have been privileged to provide the leadership for the Centre for Pacific Studies to grow from a small language-based programme into a collaborative hub for studying Pacific indigenous knowledges centred on a modern Fale Pasifika complex. My research work and service to Pacific communities in New Zealand was acknowledged when I was awarded the Companion to the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) in 2008.

I have lectured and carried out research internationally, most recently at the University of Hawaii Manoa as a Fulbright New Zealand Senior Scholar where I examined ethnic identity journeys for first- and second-generation Hawaiian/US-born Samoans; and at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan as Visiting Scholar at the Summer Institute of Indigenous Graduate Studies where I taught a course on Pacific research methodologies.

As an anthropologist I have carried out research and published extensively in the areas of ethnicity, health, education, relational ethics, Pacific research methodologies and Pacific approaches to a broad range of social issues. My research interests include regional processes of migration, urbanization, ethnicity, and the politics of identity, more specifically focusing on more finely nuanced understandings of identity journeys and identity construction of Pacific peoples and communities in New Zealand.

My philosophical leadership as a researcher is based on the Pacific cultural reference of teu le va, a Samoan cultural reference focussing on the valuing and nurturing of sacred and secular relational spaces between people, knowledge, environment, ancestors, the cosmos and things . Teu le va provides a Pacific approach to relational ethics and focuses on the researcher developing and maintaining relationships which will provide optimal outcomes for all parties involved in the research process.

I practice ‘native research’ in that I try to ‘do’ research that will lead to transformative change for Pacific peoples and communities in New Zealand.

My current research

As Theme leader of the Identity and Well-being stream of Te Whare Kura, one of the University of Auckland’s Thematic Research Initiatives, I am part of an interdisciplinary project - The relationship between ethnic identity and well-being: towards indigenous transformative models. This project will examine the ways ethnicity and cultural identity interact in the lives of young indigenous (Maori and Pacific) New Zealanders; how a commitment to and disinterest in ethnicity/cultural identity is fostered; how this impacts on their lives; and the transformative potential of their justice, education, and health experiences.

I am the University of Auckland BRCSS Coordinator for the Pacific Postgraduate Seminar Series, a grid which enables regular research talanoa between Postgraduate students and academic staff about their research work, covering New Zealand’s 7 Universities (Auckland, AUT, Massey, VUW Wellington, Waikato, Canterbury, Otago). The following are some Postgraduate student evaluations of the sessions:

All three presentations were very interesting…all were different…but it was great to experience different types of references and paradigms

…presenters have done an excellent job in promoting Pacific worldviews and Pacific methodologies in the midst of…dominant western worldviews…These newly/proposed methods, worldviews [are] very encouraging for upcoming current and future Pacific students….

Translating Pacific research into policy using the teu le va cultural reference

As main author of the Ministry of Education’s Pasifika Education Research Guidelines (2001) , and one of the main authors of the second Ministry of Education Pasifika education guideline document, Teu le va: Relationships across Research and Policy: a collective approach to knowledge generation and policy development for action towards Pasifika education success (Airini, Anae et al 2010), I have used the philosophical cultural reference of teu le va to promote the forging of optimal relationships in research to translate research into policy for indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

Integral in providing a conceptual and philosophical reference and methodology for future Pacific educational, and other social science research in New Zealand, this document was informed by my conceptual paper commissioned by the Ministry of Education in 2007 ‘‘Research for better Pacific schooling in New Zealand: Teu le va – a Samoan perspective’, in Mai Review 2010 Issue 1, Pacific Research in Education: New Directions. Auckland: Mai Review ISSN 1177-5904, 24pp.

• At present, I am part of an MOE Pasifika Education Research Priorities Working Group made up of MPIA, MOE, and academics from University of Auckland, Massey and Canterbury Universities. This initiative arose from Pasifika Research Guidelines (Anae et al 2001), 2007 Pasifika Education Symposium (NZARE Pasifika Caucus and MOE), and Teu le va: Relationships across Research and Policy: a collective approach to knowledge generation and policy development for action towards Pasifika education success (2010). The group is developing a Pasifika Research Priorities plan for future Pasifika education research in New Zealand.

Other things that ‘researchers’ do

I play an active role in professional and public service, serving as a panel member on:

  • 2011 Marsden Fund Panel
  • 2001, 2006, 2012 Peer Review Panel for PBRF Quality Evaluation for TEC
  • Fulbright Selection Committee for US Fulbright Graduate Student Award Applications 2009-2010.
  • ‘Growing up in New Zealand’ UOA longitudinal project Pacific reference group
  • 2010-2011 Chair, of the University of Auckland’s Pacific Reference Group
  • A number of national working parties and committees (including the Pacific Islands Health Research Council and HRC Expert Pacific Panel).
  • Overall coordination of the UOA Pacific Postgraduate Programme 2004-2010 (fono; Pacific Postgraduate seminar series, writing retreats, Toktok electronic newsletter)