Volume 110 2001 > Volume 110, No. 2 > Reviews, p 215-228
BENSA, Alban and Isabelle Leblic (eds): En Pays Kanak: Ethnologic Linguistique, Archéologie, Histoire, de la Nouvelle-Calédonie. Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2000. xii + 368 pp. bib., figs, maps, photos, tables, n.p. (paper).
ADRIAN MUCKLE RSPAS, The Australian National University
En Pays Kanak appears at a time of significant change within Kanak communities in New Caledonia and, in so far as it provides the opportunity to reflect on the processes of change and suggest future directions for research, it is an important work. In 1998, the Noumea Accord sought to create institutional frameworks for change by making a place for customary bodies, acknowledging a Kanak identity, recognising the need to protect Kanak cultural heritage, and requiring that links be established between the customary and the civil law status of persons. This anthology of research carried out prior to the Noumea Accord shows the furious activity in which Kanak are already engaged and provides some keys to understanding processes of reconstruction, transformation and renegotiation in contemporary, historical and academic contexts. It is edited by two anthropologists and contains the work of 18 authors including I. Merle, M. Naepels, F. Ozanne-Rivièrre, C. Salomon and C. Sand.
The 16 studies are arranged in three sections; “Practices and Rules”, “The Colonial Shock Revisited” and “New Initiatives”. It is, however, in terms of the chronological move from the historical to the contemporary contexts that I should like to structure my own comments.
Four studies address the transformations associated with the 19th century. C. Sand, J. Bolé and A. Ouetcho examine the archaeological record to question existing estimates of pre-European population density. They argue that the population at the time of Cook's arrival was larger than has been allowed by existing studies and, in a hypothesis that is certain to be challenged on empirical and ideological grounds, suggest that the transformation of Kanak societies in the period between 1774 and 1853 must be reassessed accordingly. Focusing on just this period, A. Bensa's contribution is an ethnographic and political history of the Koné region and the rhetorical and political strategies deployed by two clans within the Pwêjaa “chiefdom”. Bensa draws extensively upon oral traditions to underline the exceptional character of both his main protagonist, the chief Goodu, and the emergence of this centralised “grande chefferie” in relation to traditional norms and hierarchies. Alternatively, C. Illouz's study of a “theological mutation” on Maré considers the way in which chiefdoms confronted European diseases and negotiated their submission to the new Christian order while maintaining the structures of traditional authority. Drawing upon the analysis of French colonial policy in Algeria, I. Merle examines the functions of the colonial organisation of space and the policy - 216 of cantonnement whereby Kanak were presumed to own land collectively and were confined to reserves (tribus). Her tentative conclusion that the imposition of collective property on Kanak was less to do with the presumption of communalism and more to do with the colonial bureaucracy's desire to preserve the authority of the state against the free market and impose its control over the small-holder settlers is an ironic reminder of the central position of the state in the current programme of land redistribution and development.
Several studies bridge the gap between past and present contexts. Casting her research in comparative linguistics in terms of the “reconstruction of cultural history”, F. Ozanne-Rivièrre compares Proto Oceanic kinship terms with those used in Kanak languages to consider the changes and evolutionary processes evinced by these comparisons. M. Pineau-Salaün sketches the historical context for contemporary debates concerning the obstacles confronted by Kanak in the education system. Included in her “reconstitution” of education under the indigénat is the “Kanak memory” which bears witness to the sense of violence and privation associated with the European classroom. D. Dussy examines the “strategic representations” developed by different Kanak communities to legitimise their presence within the “white town” of Noumea. Renouncing any attempt at a positivist reconstruction of pre-colonial settlement patterns, Dussy examines her own interviews with representatives of the different groups (each of which claims a consensual discourse “focused on the reconstitution of the precolonial environment” of the region) and tries to understand why it is that each representation of the pre-colonial context is so different. In a more recent context, the extension of universal suffrage to Kanak between 1946 and 1958, E. Soriano examines the strategies by which Kanak leaders mobilised their electorate and brought Kanak to the polls with a collective voice.
The majority of studies relate to contemporary contexts and the most rewarding are those which directly address themselves to these rather than to an ambiguous tradition. A study of ritual and ceremonial exchange amongst the Paimboas by D. Bretteville epitomises the latter focus. One of the studies that stands out is C. Salomon's critique of gender relations. Salomon writes in the context of a rapid increase in the number of sexual violence cases being brought before the judicial system. Salomon attributes this willingness to the transformation of traditional gender relations, which she examines in terms of duality and disparity, and the emergence of women's associations prepared to campaign on these issues. A similar willingness to refer conflicts to the local authorities is described by M-H. Teulières-Preston in her study of the traditional rules for appropriating and exploiting the maritime zone. This occurs despite the fact that these orally codified customs are seldom recognised by French law. The increase in the number of conflicts between fishermen reflects the keen desire of many Kanak to protect the marine environment and its resources from commercial fishing.
Further rewarding reading is to be found in I. Leblic's study of adoption and transfer in the region of Ponérihouen as well as in M. Lepoutre's study of “medical pluralism” and the cohabitation of traditional and Western medical practices on Lifou. I. Bril discusses her study of the nêlêmwa language in terms of both the scientific problems raised by linguistic variation and the broader cultural issues - 217 raised by the linguistic investigation. The two final chapters are devoted to the increasing number of Kanak who choose to live in Noumea. M. Naepels' study of migration to Noumea from the Houaïlou region focuses upon the ambivalent position of those who exchange the social constraints of the tribal milieu for a space beyond this system of local control where one's identity is no longer secure. From another standpoint, C. Hamelin focuses upon the formation of urban Kanak communities pointing to the construction of a dual sense of belonging between Noumea and the tribu, and the extension to the city of the social dynamics of the tribu.
BISHOP, Russell and Ted Glynn: Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1999. 217 pp. bib., figs, index. Price: NZ$39.95 (paper).
JUDITH SIMON University of Auckland
Ever since the Hunn Report of 1960 revealed statistically that Maori school achievement levels were below those of non-Maori, educationalists, psychologists and sociologists have sought to explain and provide solutions to the problem. This work by Bishop and Glynn is one of the latest to address this issue.
The book is primarily concerned with the pedagogies in use in New Zealand classrooms and their significance for Maori and other ethnic minorities. Like a number of other writers, the authors contend that the general under-achievement of Maori in schooling is largely the result of Pakeha-designed pedagogies that fail to take account of Maori interests and educational aspirations—and in that way perpetuate relations of dominance and subordination in the wider society. Taking issue with those researchers (e.g., Harker and Nash 1990 in ACCESS, 9(2):26-39) who explain Maori under-achievement in terms of socio-economic status alone, Bishop and Glynn set out to demonstrate that, indeed, “culture counts”, and to offer a pedagogical approach that is cognisant of culture.
The pedagogical approach offered draws heavily upon the work of a number of other researchers. In particular it draws upon the Kaupapa Maori theory developed by Graham Hingangaroa Smith. As the authors observe, Kaupapa Maori is “a discourse that has emerged and is legitimated by the Maori community” and “assumes the taken-for-granted social, political, historical, intellectual and cultural legitimacy of Maori people”. A Kaupapa Maori position, they further explain, “is predicated on the understanding that Maori means of accessing, defining and protecting knowledge existed before European arrival in New Zealand”, were protected by the Treaty of Waitangi but subsequently marginalised, and today are “legitimated within Maori cultural discourse” (p. 63). The Kaupapa Maori discourse is seen to underpin the Maori educational initiatives, Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori. Bishop and Glynn acknowledge that, in response to these Maori initiatives, mainstream schooling has, since the 1980s, undergone a number of policy shifts that brings it closer to the aspirations of Maori parents.- 218
Bishop and Glynn are concerned to address issues of power and control within the teaching process. Drawing upon the research of Australian educationalist Robert Young's Critical Theory and Classroom Talk (1991, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters), they criticise “traditional method classrooms”, in which teachers remain dominant by “retaining power over issues of initiation, benefits, representation, legitimation and accountability mainly by creating a teaching context of their own design” (p. 136). In this way, they say, teachers impose their own cultural understandings upon their pupils. By contrast, the authors argue for a “discursive classroom” in which power is shared, with the learner becoming the teacher's “pedagogical partner” and the pedagogy consciously co-constructed. They stress the importance of students having the power to initiate a discourse so as to ensure “that it will be their cultural discourses… they will be drawing from and making reference to, rather than those of the teacher” (p.146). Bishop and Glynn offer “narrative pedagogy” as one means of creating power-sharing relationships within the classroom. Fundamental to narrative pedagogy is the telling of stories that, as the authors point out, are “powerful ways of representing truth”. As they explain, “Different stories give different versions of and approaches to the truth. Stories allow the diversities of truth to be heard, rather than just one dominant version. Stories allow power and control to reside within the domain of the storyteller” (p. 177). The authors cite several classroom research studies—mainly from overseas—to illustrate aspects of their claims.
While the book raises some important issues and offers a number of useful insights, the significance and value of these tend to be undermined by the way the work is structured. The development of ideas from chapter to chapter is not always smooth, and at times is repetitive and confusing. These features could be attributed, perhaps, to apparent efforts by the authors to bring together disparate items of research work, much of which they had previously published. The book would have benefited from more rigorous editing in this regard.
With the fundamental argument of this work being that “culture counts” one would expect some discussion of the concept of culture early in the book. A perusal of current social science literature reveals variations in the ways that culture is conceived not only across disciplines but also within disciplines. Thus where culture is the key concept of a work, it would seem highly necessary to discuss its meaning and clarify its parameters. Such a discussion, however, is entirely missing from this work—indeed, the term culture does not even appear in the index. As it is, there are a number of inconsistencies in the ways in which the authors employ the concept, and this is not only confusing but also inevitably lessens the impact of their arguments. The terms “cultural group” and “ethnic group” seem to be used interchangeably and “cultural diversity” is equated with “ethnic diversity”. The nearest the writers get to clarifying the term culture is through the use of parentheses. For instance on p. 149 reference is made to children's “experiences, sense-making processes or theorising abilities (their cultures)”. This is a very limited (and contestable) definition of culture to say the least. “Culturally-responsive pedagogies” are represented at times as pedagogies that take cognisance of the traditional values and practices of students of minority ethnic groups, but at other times are represented primarily as those that take cognisance of asymmetrical power relations. Some - 219 discussion of the dynamic nature of culture (how it is re-created with each generation in response to changing historical circumstances) and of its political role in ethnic relations could have clarified the relationship between culture and power at least.
Notwithstanding its deficiencies, the work offers some interesting perspectives on pedagogy directed at addressing the problem of educational under-achievement among Maori and other ethnic minorities. It is to be hoped that the authors will follow this up with research demonstrating the efficacy of their pedagogical approach in practice.
RATA, Elizabeth: A Political Economy of Neotribal Capitalism. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2000. xx + 265 pp. bib., glossary, index, notes, n.p. (cloth).
TOON VAN MEIJL Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies University of Nijmegen
This book makes an important and innovative contribution to the critical analysis of commercial enterprises by neotribal Maori organisations in recent New Zealand history. It combines a sophisticated theoretical perspective grounded in regulation theory with a semi-autobiographical narrative of the revival of a Maori extended family that became engaged in the establishment of a marine farm on ancestral tribal lands. The author was involved in the reconstitution of the Maori family through her late husband, who was Maori, and their two sons. Although the history of the Maori family has been written in a detached style, the author's personal involvement in the tribal business has undoubtedly inspired her to present the historical events in a compelling narrative.
After the Maori family was reunited almost by accident at the funeral of a key figure in the family's genealogy, it soon became a conscious strategy to reconstitute tribal kinship links in preparation for the establishment of an economic enterprise that was intended to provide the means of material existence for the revival of a traditional extended Maori family and its descendants. During the space of a decade, kinship relations were revived, the genealogy of the extended family was reconstructed, traditional cultural practices were revitalised, and in that context the Maori language was also used again more intensively. The Maori family returned to ancestral lands in the far north of New Zealand where tribal ties were reinforced and a marine farm was established.
In the course of this revival, however, a range of unanticipated questions emerged about the meaning of kinship in the context of land ownership and labour. Since kinship had provided access to the communal land and waters, membership of the extended family suddenly also became significant for economic reasons. After all, the land and the waters were to be used to make commodities that would return a profit, which, in turn, would be reinvested into the land and the waters for the purpose of accumulation and expansion. In this process, it was not long before the family was confronted with the question of who actually owned the land and who - 220 would “own” the products of the farm? And who would own the income and the profit derived from those products?
Neither the land nor the farm had legal title, although in the trust deed that had been drawn up to institutionalise the family in order to become eligible for a bank loan, the language used to refer to the kin group had been all-inclusive. As the economic venture progressed, however, the issue of family membership became problematic in connection with the question of equity in terms of ownership and labour: who comprised the family? What was the status of in-laws? Were Maori inlaws to be differentiated from non-Maori in-laws? What was the status of children? Are children still too young to make a contribution to the farm entitled to a share?
All these questions revolved around the central question: of who should receive which benefits from the marine farm and why? This question, in turn, ensued from another important issue that had not been resolved: who would decide the value of each task? In other words, the question regarding the differential value of different types of family members tied in with the issue of leadership, which in the end appeared insoluble. Ultimately, one branch of the family dropped out of the economic enterprise.
Thus, Rata convincingly shows not only how kinship provided access to the traditional means of production, but also that the commercial activities changed the meaning of kinship relations in fundamental ways. In theoretical terms, her main argument is that the eventual division of the revived family in the course of the development of a commercial enterprise inevitably resulted from the inherent tension between the communal ownership of the means of production and the commodification of the production process, which implied a structural division between buyers and sellers of labour power in the creation of surplus value, involving class exploitative relations and not communal relations. Furthermore, she argues that the neotraditionalist ideology of communal relations and tribal leadership functions to conceal the new exploitative class relations of production so that Maori neotribal capitalist activities appear as the restoration of the traditional mode of life. In addition, she argues that the specific combination of neotribal capitalism and neotraditional representations of communal kinship relations is contingent with the postfordist regulation of capitalism in global spheres. It enables the incorporation of traditional resources in a postcolonial world, which in this case is achieved without the privatisation of capital resources, thus simultaneously containing civil unrest from indigenous peoples since the exploitative class relations emerge concealed as revived traditional social relations. The neotraditional revival of Maori kinship in terms of tribal hierarchies also functions to resolve the psychological crisis of indigenous people who have become dispossessed, proletarianised and impoverished in the course of colonial history.
The main strength of this book is the combination of an astute analysis of recent empirical events with a refined theoretical perspective. In my view, however, the book could have gained some appeal for a wider public if the author had begun with the reconstruction of the revival of the Maori family instead of the highly abstract discussion of postfordist regimes of production and regulation. In addition, I would contend that the author could have strengthened her argument by situating - 221 her analysis of the Maori Renaissance over the past 25 years in a historical perspective. The argument in its current form is based on the assumption that contemporary hierarchies and capitalist enterprises in Maori society are fundamentally different from the tribal hierarchy and the commercial ventures of Maori communities in the 19th century, but this is not substantiated with historical evidence. Questions regarding the possible continuity of hierarchical practices throughout Maori history therefore remain unaddressed.
Another issue that could be raised concerns the author's negative definition of ideology, which is understood as an arrangement of illusory beliefs and concealing thoughts, as false consciousness. This evokes the question how the class exploitative relations of domination are reproduced in a positive manner, and, as a corollary, to what extent the revival of tribal hierarchies may be resisted by certain groups. In view of the controversy in contemporary Maori society about the role of tribal organisations in the settlement of historic Maori grievances—an issue contested both by tribal affiliates, who on grounds of democracy refuse to accept tribal authority, and by urban people, who no longer identify in terms of tribal descent, a discussion of these questions would have broadened the scope of this book. These comments, however, do not in any way detract from the significance of this book, which will no doubt become a landmark in the field of contemporary Maori studies.
KANAHELE, George S.: Emma: Hawai'i's Remarkable Queen. Honolulu: The Queen Emma Foundation, 1999. xxiv + 441 pp. bib., glossary, index, notes, photos, tables, n.p. (paper).
HUGH LARACY University of Auckland
A celebratory, hagiographic and nostalgic note runs through much of the writing about the Hawaiian monarchy. It tends to romanticise both the institution and the individuals associated with it. Whereas from the 1980s the haole impact on Hawai'i has been increasingly deplored as the rhetoric of the native sovereignty movement corrodes scholarly stringency (witness the “depopulation” debate). The faults, follies and self-interest of the indigenous leaders, which also helped significantly to undermine the traditional order or things, have—by contrast—been regarded far less critically. In fact, the monarchy has become idealised as an emblem of Hawaiian nationalism.
The book under review is not free of this admiration virus either. Indeed, it would be surprising if it were, for it was commissioned as part of a “heritage building” programme by a charitable trust named after its eponymous subject. Even so, by producing a detailed narrative of Emma's life, George Kanahele has accomplished two useful things. He has not only told a tale of considerable human interest, but has illuminated a sizable chunk of Hawaiian history, for although Emma was not herself a monarch, but only the consort and widow of one, she participated in and observed some notable events.- 222
Emma (1836-1885), a great-grandniece of King Kamehameha I, was the adopted daughter of Thomas Rooke, an English-born doctor, and his aristocratic wife, Grace, herself the daughter of a haole, a beachcomber-made-good named John Young. She acquired a basic New England education in the English language at the short-lived (1839-1850) Chief's Children's School, and in 1856 married Alexander Liholiho who in 1854 had become King Kamehameha IV. They had much in common. He had attended the same school and was inclined to Anglophilia, including Anglicanism in religion (as opposed to the prevailing Congregationalism), and they shared a large measure of social concern besides. He also had a somewhat unstable personality, and in 1859, well fortified with liquor, he shot and mortally wounded his private secretary whom he suspected, quite unjustifiably, of having an affaire with Emma. More beneficently, Liholiho worked with Emma to improve public health services, a project which began with the opening of Queen's Hospital in 1859; and also to plant the Church of England in Hawai'i, which occurred in 1862 with the arrival of Bishop Thomas Staley. The royal pair's appeal for funds for the hospital raised $13,500, an amount that has seeded the growth in the value of the assets of the Queen's Health Services, which developed from that venture, to $800 million.
Following Liholiho's death in 1863, and despite the amorous blandishments of his brother and successor, Lot, Emma made a well-publicised expedition to England to collect funds for the building of a cathedral. She also persuaded Reverend Mother Lydia Sellon of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity, a sisterhood founded by the Tractarian theologian Edward Pusey, to send nuns to Honolulu to open a school for girls. St Andrew's Cathedral and St Andrew's Priory both date (1867) from this initiative. A less functional, but more adulatory, monument to her memory is her Summer Palace at Nu'uanu in the cool hills above Honolulu. She inherited it from an uncle and it is now a museum run by the gracious dames of the Daughters of Hawai'i sodality.
Yet Emma was not just a philanthropic socialite. She enjoyed the prerogatives of an ali'i and the privileges of class. In 1874, the Kamehameha succession having ended, she challenged David Kalakaua for the monarchy but lost resoundingly, by 39 votes to six, in an election held by the legislature. At that her followers rioted, and she remained a focus for political dissent for the next decade. She was also mischievous. In explicit defiance of the penal code, she twice attempted to arrange the escape of her cousin, Peter Kaeo, from the leper colony on Moloka'i. When that failed, she used her influence in high places to have him released in 1876, with only token regard to official procedures. A somewhat blunter account of that dishonourable episode than the one given by Kanahele is presented in Richard Stewart's Leper Priest of Moloka'i: The Father Damien Story (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000).
In telling Emma's story, Kanahele has drawn many threads together in a constructive and illuminating way. Accordingly, despite the consistently admiring tone and the fulsome encomium with which he concludes the book, it should find an appreciative audience among both the academically detached and the affectionately predisposed. Readers may also find it stimulating to consider the - 223 career and cult of Emma Rooke, the Queen Dowager of Hawai'i, in the light of their similarities to those of the more recently deceased Diana Spencer,Princess of Wales.
SISSONS, Jeffrey: Nation and Destination: Creating Cook Islands Identity. Rarotonga: Institute of Pacific Studies and the University of the South Pacific Centre in the Cook Islands, 1999. 139 pp. bib., figs, glossary, index, maps, photos, tables. Price: F$12 (paper).
KAREN STEVENSON University of Canterbury
It is not an easy task to write a history of “recent” events. The brilliance of hindsight is not yet afforded, as those who created the story are still prominent in the lives of one's informants. Yet, in Nation and Destination: Creating Cook Islands Identity, Sissons does just this. He recounts the creation of a Cook Island identity over the past 30 years. Nation and Destination highlights a political agenda without becoming embroiled in it. Intrigue, animosity and political strong-arming are alluded to, but overall there is a gloss, a reflective investigation of a romanticised era. As such, this book will be a great complement to the current scholarship on Pacific political/cultural development and is an essential text in these studies.
Nation and Destination is a very readable account of the ways in which Cook Island leaders created a national identity by reinforcing their cultural traditions. The process reveals the politics of culture and its importance in Pacific nation building. Aside from unveiling the intricacies of political policy, Sissons offers an interesting glimpse of the personalities who created the Cook Islands: Sir Albert Henry, Sir Tom Davis and Sir Geoffrey Henry.
Some 20 years ago, Roger Keesing and others looked at the ways in which Melanesian governments used notions of tradition to create national identities. The problems of creating a unified nation comprised of people with different cultures and languages presented unique obstacles for the nation-building process. The Cook Islands are, like many Melanesian nations, a fictive polity created by the colonial powers of the 18th century. The 15 islands that comprise the nation today were not united in the past. Albert Henry noted (p.37): “My first task is to make fifteen islands one country… at the moment we're fifteen different islands, we've got to make these the Cook Islands, unless we get everybody together we've got nothing.”
Sissons recounts this unifying process by offering us a glimpse of the personalities and the ideologies they professed, and in so doing we observe how these men nurtured a small colonial protectorate into a globally recognised entity. It is clear that in the Cook Islands the nation was firmly associated with its leaders and their personal vision that, according to Sissons, was dogmatically driven home. But what is fascinating is the role that “culture”, specifically dance, has played in this process of identity and nation building.- 224
The “Papa Albert” era demonstrates that he was a man of the people. He created the infrastructure, which supported a number of organisations that would enable the mobilisation of the Cook Island polity. His success was seen particularly in the teaching and encouragement of cultural knowledge, especially dance and ritual. This created a culture of pageantry (protocol and performance) that provided the Cook Islanders with a positive self image as hard working and culturally savvy. Sissons notes (p.22): “Cook Islanders glimpsed their reflections in royal smiles and gazes; viewed through royal eyes, the nation became visible to itself as a youthful and loyal member of the Commonwealth.” The Cook Islands were united by tradition.
Sissons describes how, under Sir Albert Henry, the Cook Island Party (CIP) vigorously promoted the teaching of dance in state-funded youth clubs. Within five years, it had established a national dance company and instituted national dance competitions. The Cook Island National Arts Theatre (CINAT) represented the Cook Islands on an international stage. The company included performers from every island in the group and performed every island's dances or chants. “We had to perform them better than they could themselves because they were our greatest critics” (p.52). This led to an attempt to institutionalise dance as was done in Tahiti. Dance became the embodiment of Cook Island nationhood. Through dance, the CIP encouraged a unique cultural identity based both on the past and its global marketability.
Reinforcing the traditional was both Henry's success and downfall. With the encouragement of ritual, the mana of traditional titleholders was reinforced. This resulted in the creation of the House of Ariki. Allies suggest Henry used this forum to equate a Cook Island polity with that of Britain; critics believe it was a means to control these titled personages. In either case, the “Ariki did not passively accept their elevation to the status of toothless national figureheads” (p.37), and collectively voted against Henry in the 1978 election.
One gets the sense that politics since 1978 have been played out for or against this model set up by “Papa Albert”; that the personal visions of Sir Tom Davis and Sir Geoff Henry only tweaked the notion of Cook Island identity that was so firmly established. Sissons addresses the unravelling and reinstatement of institutionalised culture as the Cook Island story continues. He concludes with the Pacific Arts Festival, hosted by the Cook Islands in 1992. This is the rightful stopping place as the global, national and local significance of hosting this Festival brought together the various political agendas of the previous 30 years. It also dramatically reinforced the importance of dance for Cook Island identity. Focusing again on protocol and performance, the Cook Island nation saw itself reflected through the smiling gaze of others.
As Pacific nations create post-colonial lives for themselves, the process and success of these endeavours becomes an interesting area of study. Sissons does an excellent job of positioning this history as an important example of the nation building dilemma. There is, however, an overriding gloss to this book. Political and economic scandals are not mentioned, and clearly many details are sidestepped in these 139 pages. This, however, should not deter but encourage the reader. The audience for this text is within the classroom, and here it will function to intrigue and inspire further investigation.- 225
THOMAS, Nicholas and Oliver Berghof (eds): A Voyage Round the World: George Forster. 2 vols, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000. xvii + 860 pp. apps, bib., illus, index, maps, notes. Price: US$115.00 (cloth).
ROGER NEICH Auckland Museum / University of Auckland
If your heart quails at the thought of yet another “Cook” book, you can relax at the prospect of this magnificent new publication of the young George Forster's account of his voyage around the world with his naturalist father Johann Reinhold Forster. Sailing on the Resolution commanded by Captain James Cook, they left England on 13 July 1772, returning on 30 July 1775, after visiting New Zealand, Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Tonga, Easter Island, the Marquesas, Niue, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. In New Zealand, this included 46 days in Dusky Sound and three extended periods in Queen Charlotte Sound. George was only 17 years old at the start of the voyage and he entered into all the activities with enthusiasm, observing and experiencing with a fresh but remarkably mature mind.
After their return to England, Johann Reinhold Forster was barred from publishing an independent narrative of the voyage. But George, unrestrained by any agreement, began writing this book in July 1776, using his father's journal and with some collaboration from Johann Reinhold. The editors here suggest that the text was essentially George's composition. It was published in London in March 1777, three months before Cook's official account, which sold for the same price but had the advantage of a famous hero as author and the attraction of numerous plates. Consequently, in the English-speaking world, George's text was confined to relative obscurity. However, as the editors point out in their valuable Introduction, George's narrative, both in English and in its German translation of 1778, had sustained and wide influences in European anthropology, aesthetic theory, literature, and natural, social and political philosophy.
It is in these fields that George's book still has the greatest value and future potential. Readers should not expect to find technical scientific reporting or detailed geographical information, nor will they find much direct description of ethnographic “facts”. Instead, George's narrative is rich with intimate accounts of a young man's close-contact encounters with the peoples of Oceania, paying lively attention to the aesthetic effects of their dress, their living customs, their habitations, and their place in the landscapes. With his own eye for female attractions, George wrote honestly about the sexual interaction between European sailors and local women, and sometimes moralised passionately about the effects of prostitution and the ethics of general European intrusion into these cultures. He reveals the peculiar role and power of indigenous and introduced cloth in the Pacific in the establishment of social relations. The prominence of “Tahiti cloth” in these early contact transactions emerges in a wider context of European transport and trade in indigenous products, especially New Zealand nephrite, tortoise shell, red feathers and other artefacts. He philosophised on the causes of unequal power, on the determining role of the natural environment, and the distinctions between true religion and manipulated superstition. - 226 George's views on the differences between Polynesians, Melanesians and Tierra del Fuegans influenced European racial classifications. Consciously distancing himself from narrow-minded recorders of scientific minutiae, George presented himself as the “ideal naturalist with sufficient penetration to combine different facts in order to form general views and new discoveries”. George recognised that this imparted a subjective element to his narrative, reaching far beyond the scientific rationale of the journey. However, this was tempered by his insightful anticipation of present concerns with hermeneutic and reflexive anthropology when he wrote that it was necessary for the reader “to know the colour of the glass through which I looked”.
This book could be regarded as the first sustained popular Pacific travel narrative. Although so young, George wrote from a background of reading and translating earlier Pacific travelogues, including Bougainville, Cook, Dalrymple and Hawkesworth. George's narrative contributes to a long-term view of the cultural significance of travel in European history, and, very importantly, illuminates the role of Polynesians and Melanesians in this literature. His narrative initiated a stage in the evolution of travel writing as a literary genre, representing an insightful empiricism and empathy showing that the “Noble Savage” was not a complete description. George clearly demonstrated, especially for the Society Islanders and New Zealand Maori, that these people had a history, were interested in hierarchical power and exploitation, and indulged in military expansion. Many of George's comments about wealth, power and hierarchy also foreshadow his later revolutionary sympathies.
Both editors have done an exemplary job, providing all the necessary editorial information to make this complex publication readily accessible. Concentrating on its ethnographic value, the editors have attempted to recontextualise the incidents of intercultural contact in the light of modern anthropological understandings. This is generally sufficient to explain obscure points without getting lost in detailed historical ethnology, but sometimes the explanatory quality of footnotes is disappointing. Only very rarely do the editors actually go astray, as in their confusion about nephrite in New Zealand. In Dusky Bay (Vol. 1, p.97) George correctly identified a nephrite adze blade as “jadde”, but the editors comment (note 23, p.438) that this was “greenstone or nephrite, not jade”. However, New Zealand nephrite is jade. It is the other jade mineral, jadeite, that does not occur in New Zealand. Later, in Queen Charlotte Sound (Vol. 1, p.117), George is mistaken in assuming that nephrite jade occurs there geologically. In their comment (note 6, p.440), the editors repeat their mistake about nephrite not being jade, but omit to point out that nephrite does not occur naturally in Queen Charlotte Sound. In another confusion, the editors (note 22, p.438) perpetuate the oft-repeated fallacy that New Zealand was too cold for the paper mulberry tree used to make barkcloth. On the contrary, as evidenced by Maori oral traditions and at least 14 Maori barkcloth beaters recovered from archaeological sites, paper mulberry, which was originally a temperate climate native anyway, was cultivated successfully throughout most of the northern half of the North Island. After growing in New Zealand for at least 700 years, the plant only became extinct in the 1840s, owing to neglect of the plantations and depredations - 227 of introduced cattle. This evidence also throws doubt on the popular argument repeated by the editors that woven flax garments were invented by New Zealand Maori simply because they needed warmer clothing.
The first volume covers their time in Polynesia, while the second covers Melanesia and the last visit to Queen Charlotte Sound. Clearly by the time George reached Melanesia, his enthusiasm and concentrated observation were flagging, exacerbated by fatigue, illness and disappointment at Melanesian responses. Therefore, the second volume lacks the sparkle and excitement of the first. Almost one half of the second volume is devoted to appendices reproducing the controversies between William Wales and George Forster, concluding with a concordance list of George's Pacific Island names. The book has been produced in the elegant format and fine quality expected of University of Hawai'i Press.
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