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Free public event: Run it straight – Towards a nurturing masculinity in Polynesian men

07 March 2023

What does it mean to be a Māori or Polynesian male in Aotearoa New Zealand today? How is that shaped?


In his upcoming, free Tauhere UC Connect public lecture at the University of Canterbury, Senior Lecturer Dr Phil Borell (Ngāti Ranginui, Pirirākau) will discuss views of Polynesian masculinity and enduring stereotypes of the Polynesian male.

His important kōrero, titled Run it straight: Towards a nurturing masculinity in Polynesian men, is free to attend in person at the University of Canterbury and will be livestreamed on the University’s Facebook page on Wednesday evening, 15 March.

Phillip Borell University of Canterbury Senior Lecturer Dr Phil Borell (Ngāti Ranginui, Pirirākau)

In his public talk, Dr Borell will discuss how Polynesian masculine identities are constantly evolving.

“However, certain historical narratives have prioritised particular views of what Polynesian masculinities might be. There are many enduring stereotypes of the Polynesian male; from the naked warrior that embodies the noble savage trope, the infamous Jake ‘the Muss’ Heke character from Alan Duff’s Once Were Warriors book and film series, and the supremely charismatic athletes whose ‘natural’ flair and talent supersede any form of hard work, or agency,” he says.

A common thread among these accepted Polynesian masculine archetypes is physicality, he says.

“Polynesian masculine identity has long been accepted as one of physiological differences: strength, speed and size. However, there is growing need to re-examine what masculine identity means to contemporary Polynesian men.”

This kōrero will challenge existing stereotypes of Polynesian masculinity through the pūrākau (stories) of several Polynesian National Rugby League (NRL) players while moving toward a theory of nurturing masculinity.

  • The year 2023 marks the University of Canterbury’s sesquicentenary and the 150th anniversary theme is: Ka titiro whakamuri, ki te anga whakamua | Guided by the Past, Shaping the Future.
  • Register to attend free at: Tauhere UC Connect public lectures are also livestreamed on the University of Canterbury Facebook page, and made available to watch later on YouTube.

About the speaker

Dr Phil Borell has been researching and teaching at the University of Canterbury since 2008. Phil graduated his MA with Distinction in 2013 and his PhD in 2022. His thesis provides a thorough analysis of Māori contributions to the sport of rugby league between 1908 and 2012. His doctoral thesis utilises Māori and Pasifika research methods (Pūrākau and Talanoa) to give voice to the experiences of Polynesian (Māori and Pasifika) athletes in professional rugby league.

Phil's research has grown out of his time as a rugby league player, fan and now as a trainer in Canterbury's Premier Reserve rugby league competition.

Phil has also published written works examining Māori sporting practices; indigenous masculinity; the politics of sport in Aotearoa New Zealand; and sport and education in Aotearoa New Zealand. His research has a focus on critiquing and rewriting dated narratives of Polynesian masculinity and using sport as a platform for de-colonial practice.

At UC, Phil continued his studies while also working at Aotahi – School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, and teaching into the Bachelor of Sport Coaching. Last year he won the Faculty of Arts Lecturer of the Year award as well as the Overall Lecturer of the Year for UC, for the second year running, in the UCSA Student Choice Awards.

Tauhere UC Connect public lecture: Run it straight – Towards a nurturing masculinity in Polynesian men, 7pm – 8pm, Wednesday 15 March 2023, in C1, Central Lecture Theatres, at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus, Christchurch. Presented by Dr Phil Borell, Senior Lecturer (Above the Bar), Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Canterbury.

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