Agents in the Archive.Ordinary People and Things in Maori-European Encounters: Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand circa 1769-1840
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines the interactions between the worlds of social classes and cultures for Maori and Europeans in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand). The very early Maori-European transactions are interpreted in the light of archival reports of what happened and how people behaved, what role objects had in these transactions, and why so many of the transactions culminated in violence. In the archival record, it is clear that ordinary sailors and Maori commoners obviously experienced, participated and reported their observations differently than captains and chiefs, thus enabling their subaltern perspective to shed a different light upon the transactions. Details of the cosmological, epistemological and philosophical understandings of the world and the place of others in it, that each of these peoples brought to the encounters, and which underpinned their actions are described and used to explain some resulting misunderstandings about trade and exchange. The agency and polyvocality of objects and their role as cultural mediators, which spoke for the human participants when language and cultural understanding were deficient is also considered. The thesis argues for a multiperspectival approach to history and anthropology, a methodology incorporating insights from indigenous and European discourse, and the concept of using additionally, insights from the present to look at the past because they may shed some light upon each other hermeneutically- the past informing the present and vice versa. Archival material is used to argue that the success or otherwise of the outcomes of these intercultural encounters, and their consequential adaptive cultural and identity changes and hybridity, were as much facilitated by the contingent actions of subalterns as by those of higher rank, and as much by the ‘things’ they made, collected and exchanged as by the people themselves. A possible schema for the development and nature of intercultural hybridity is also suggested.