Call for Papers
New Perspectives on James Cowan
A One-Day Symposium
Centre for Research on Colonial Culture and the Alexander Turnbull Library
National Library, Wellington, 21 February 2014
James Cowan is best known for his official history of the New Zealand Wars, but his significance for the production and circulation of knowledge about Māori in the late colonial era covered a broad range of subjects. Alan Mulgan wrote after Cowan’s death in 1943 that more than anyone else, he had ‘shown us how to think as New Zealanders’. Mulgan signaled here not only Cowan’s prolific writing, but also his cross-cultural engagement from the 1890s to the 1940s. He was himself a figure of the type he so admired: the cultural go-between. Although his work often purveys the racial ideologies of his time, Cowan’s early use of oral historical methods, and familiarity with a wide range of Māori informants, effected the transition to print of much that would not otherwise have been circulated in Pākehā contexts, or recorded in print.
Cowan’s reputation has fluctuated in response to shifts in cultural politics, writing and historiography. His work began to attract contemporary scholarly attention with an article by Chris Hilliard in NZJH in 1997. Stories of the New Zealand Bush has been republished recently with a critical introduction by Alex Calder. The Adventures of Kimble Bent was read on National Radio in 2011, and re-written as a graphic novel, and film-makers have drawn on his work over decades. Some dimensions of Cowan’s work invite closer study: his significance for iwi history, his photographic collection, and the personal life of this particularly colonial figure, for example, would repay investigation.
For this one-day event, we invite papers which evaluate Cowan’s contribution to colonial encounter and colonial memory from a wide range of perspectives.
Please send abstracts (up to 250 words) and a bio (up to 100 words) in a Word attachment, by 30 September 2013.
Abstracts and enquiries should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information about the symposium will be forthcoming.
Associate Professor Chris Hilliard, University of Sydney, will give a concluding commentary.
Annabel Cooper (Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, U of Otago)
Ariana Tikao (Research Librarian, Māori, Alexander Turnbull Library),