Pā’ina: Using the metaphor of a potluck to reimagine a third space for ethical research in Indigenous contexts


  • Elisabeth Moore Victoria University of Wellington


This paper delves into the innovative use of the potluck, or pā’ina, as a metaphor to reimagine a research approach aimed at fostering collective understanding between non-Indigenous knowledge seekers and Indigenous knowledge guardians in Indigenous contexts. By embracing the broader context of research, this metaphor strives to create a dialogical, relational, and ethical space for knowledge seekers to engage with knowledge guardians, promoting a reciprocal and respectful relationship. Central to this metaphor is the recognition of the insider/outsider binary and the need to transcend it. Indigenous knowledge is often guarded and restricted, granted access based on relationships and shared experiences. Understanding the complexity of these socio-spatial relationships is crucial for researchers to navigate respectfully. The metaphor also draws from the Oceanic concept of vā/va/wā, signifying the space between entities and the importance of maintaining harmony and balance within relationships. This relational space between the self and the other allows for transformative encounters and meaningful connections. To navigate this third space, researchers must undergo introspective reflexive exercises to understand their situationality and how it influences their research. Knowledge seekers must unsettle their histories, understand context, listen to the stories of others, create shared understanding, and launch new relationships that are centered on respect and reciprocity. Throughout the research process, the metaphor of pā’ina encourages researchers to be active participants, nurturing relationships with communities they seek knowledge from and reflecting upon their role within it. The pā’ina metaphor offers a transformative approach for Western academia to critically examine its historical impact on Indigenous communities and embrace a more respectful and inclusive research paradigm. By centering Indigenous voices and building meaningful relationships, this third space provides an opportunity for collaborative and sustainable research for the benefit of all stakeholders involved.