Conference Report: Across Cultures and Species
In late June, the Centre co-sponsored a two-day pre-read workshop at Honolulu on new histories of pacific whaling. Participants were invited to think about animal-human interactions, as well as the intersection between environmental and cross-cultural histories. The workshop was led by Ryan Tucker Jones (University of Oregon) with support from Centre member, Angela Wanhalla, and generously supported by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.
The workshop opened with a paper by Susan Lebo (State Historic Preservation Office, Hawaii) that made a case for newspapers as integral, but overlooked, sources for revealing Hawaii’s whaling history, particularly Hawaiian-language newspapers, which feature Indigenous narratives. Lissa Wadewitz (Linfield College) examined the paradox of the violence involved in hunting and processing whales and their sometimes professed sentimentality for the animals, which she set within a context of a growing animal welfare movement in the United States. Vicki Luker (ANU) narrated the story of whaling in Fiji through the experiences of a chief and chiefly politics, while Adam Paterson (South Australia Maritime Museum) discussed a collaborative project on whalers and cross-cultural history at Encounter Bay, South Australia, emphasising Ngarrinderjeri perspectives about whales. Kate Stevens and Angela Wanhalla (University of Otago) took us to southern New Zealand where they used kinship as a framework of analysis to explore Kāi Tahu women’s participation in the shore whaling industry and their association with the sea. We concluded the first day with Nancy Shoemaker‘s (University of Connecticut) paper on the global trade in whale products and Akamine Jun‘s (Hitotsubashi University) interrogation of coastal whaling in Japan and how this shaped particular food cultures.
Day two opened with a session on Japan. Jakobina Arch (Whitman College) discussed the role of pelagic whaling in advancing Japan’s territorial expansion in the Pacific, while Noell Wilson (University of Mississippi) considered whaling cultures in the 19th century Hokkaido maritime region, focusing on the Ainu. In the second set of papers, Bathseba Demuth (Brown University) addressed capitalism in the early north pacific through the perspective of bowhead whales, inserting whale agency into human history. Jason Colby (Victoria) turned to the capture of grey whales for Seaworld in California, how this shaped scientific research and influenced human understanding of whales during an international movement focused on conservation and protection. The workshop closed with two papers that considered whaling and whales within contemporary Indigenous contexts. Jonathan Clapperton’s (Independent historian) paper addressed Puget Sound Salish Culture and legal claims to being whaling people, while Billie Lythberg (Auckland University) and Wayne Ngata (former Chair of the Māori Language Commission) told the story of Paikea, a whale and human ancestor, embodied by a tekoteko (carved human form) held by the American Natural History Museum in New York, who they hope to return home to his people. The workshop closed with a keynote address from Joshua L. Reid (University of Washington) at the Bishop Museum that centred Indigenous experience and perspectives at the heart of new histories of Pacific whaling.
CfP: New Histories of Pacific Whaling
Call for Papers
New Histories of Pacific Whaling
An International Symposium co-sponsored by the Rachel Carson Center, the University of Oregon and the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, University of Otago, New Zealand
University of Hawai’i – Mānoa, June 29 – 30, 2018
Emerging historical scholarship is upending older work on whaling and showcasing it as an ideal medium with which to investigate human relationships with the oceans and with each other. Whales offer investigative bridgeheads into the cultural histories of non-human species, the hidden histories of energy economies, and the complicated histories of cross-cultural contact. Whale histories are demonstrating to environmental historians the various scales, including oceanic scales, with which they can work and are challenging them to consider new forms of evidence and new tools of interpretation. This international symposium aims to bring together the excellent, scholarship integrating the history of Pacific whaling with environmental and cross-cultural history. We seek participants from around the world to convene next year at Honolulu, the center of the Pacific whaling industry. We especially welcome scholarship that engages Pacific and environmental history and examines the crucial linkages between whaling, animal histories, indigenous histories, capitalism, diplomacy, environmental change, and globalization.
Participants will be expected to pre-circulate drafts of works in progress in advance of the symposium. Selected papers will be published as a special issue of Rachel Carson Center’s Perspectives. Travel and lodging costs will be covered by the seminar sponsors.
For those interested, please email 250-word paper proposals along with a short cv to the symposium conveners by September 1, 2017
Ryan Tucker Jones, University of Oregon firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Wanhalla, University of Otago, email@example.com
Scholars in Pacific history and culture met to share their knowledge on the use and economies of the coconut in a symposium on Monday and Tuesday this week in Dunedin, the first event in what looks like a busy year for the Centre. Professor Judy Bennett organised and hosted the Valued Coconuts: Hear Our Voices symposium and workshop as part of her Marsden project, Constant Coconuts: A History of a Versatile Commodity in the Pacific, and with support from CROCC.
Valued Coconuts was a pre-read workshop featuring six papers. April Henderson and Toaga Alefosio’s (Victoria University of Wellington), On Skin and Bone: Samoan Coconut Oil in Indigenous Practice discussed how coconut oil is used in the continuing Samoan practices of fofō (healing massage), samaga (tattooing) and liutofaga (cleaning of ancestors’ bones) and the meaning for people today. This paper comes of out of summer scholarship for Toanga (who will be an Honours student this year) and April’s current research on virgin coconut oil use, “Kernals of Hope: Following Coconut Commodities from the Pacific to the West” supported by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant. In the second paper, Wasting coconuts? Consumption versus commerce in Wallis and Futuna, Kate Stevens discussed how French colonisers’ desire for scientific production of copra clashed with the Indigenous people’s views on the value of coconuts. Kate is a postdoc in Otago’s Department of History and Art History, working with Judy on their Marsden project.
Josh Levy is a PhD student at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who is researching the successive colonial regimes on Pohnpei through food history. His paper, Ideal coconut country: Persuasive coconuts and the scientific plantation in Pohnpei, Micronesia, looked at the German colonial period and the effects of copra production on the Pohnpeian population. Steve Talley, an Otago PhD student’s paper set to Defining indigenous entrepreneurship in the New Hebrides copra trade, and how the opportunities and constraints of the French and British rule moderated the Indigenous peoples’ engagement in the coconut trade.
Holger Droessler‘s Coconuts in Samoa explored how the cultivation of coconuts and production of copra mediated the German colonisers’ attitudes to Samoans, and how Samoans were able to maintain a subsistence economy despite the German desire for greater productivity. Holger is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Bard College in New York state. In the last paper, Judy Bennett’s Voices of Rotuma: Enduring Refrain examined the copra trade of Rotuma both in the colonial and post-colonial eras and tensions brought about through the necessity of having to ship its copra through Fiji.
Centre members, Angela Wanhalla and Lachy Paterson, acted as commentators for these papers alongside Adrian Muckle from Victoria University of Wellington. The format of the symposium allowed for extensive discussion of the papers; the plan at this stage is for all the papers to be incorporated into a special journal issue. Thanks to the Hocken Collections for providing the venue for the event, and for the tour of some of their Pacific material. Thanks also to the Otago Museum for a tour of some of its coconut-related holdings.
Stimulating symposium on Indigenous Photographic Histories
Practitioners, curators, archivists, scholars and others flocked to the Indigenous Photographic Histories Symposium held at the National Library in Wellington on 5 November, an immensely successful one-day event co-organized by Paul Diamond (Alexander Turnbull Library), Angela Wanhalla (CROCC/University of Otago) and Jane Lydon (University of Western Australia, Perth).
The symposium kicked off with two keynotes. The first, Professor Sherry Farrell Racette (Manitoba) on “Enclosing some Snapshots”: James P. Brady, Photography and Political Activism, showed how photography was such an integral part of the work of this well-known Métis activist. A self-taught community-based photographer, Brady used it record Metis life at a time when these communities were impoverished and its people lacked rights.
Professor Jane Lydon then gave Aboriginal Transformations of the Photographic Archive on how Aboriginal communities are now using historic photographs. She traced the emotional and healing properties of photographs, and echoing Sherry Farrell Racette’s keynote, pointed to the link between photography, rights and political activism. Drawing upon her Australian Research Council-funded project that identifies and returns Aboriginal photographs held in European collections, Jane noted that while photographs carry the burden of the colonial past, Aboriginal families see them as ways to connect with family and place. To read more about that ARC project have a look at the website: Returning Photographs: Australian Aboriginal Photographs from European Collections
After morning tea, a panel of shorter talks ensued, first from three practitioners/artists: Edith Amituanai (Unitec), on the ethics of taking photographs in terms of her own work. Edith spoke about her community-based photography, recording Samoan people and their everyday lives in New Zealand and beyond. She gave us one of the most evocative sentences of the day when she described a photograph as an ‘incomplete utterance of a sentence’; Brook Andrew of Wiradjuri (Monash) discussed the complexities of representation, and his own obsession with the colonial archives, which he uses in his artwork; and Yuki Kihara gave a tour-de-force presentation on the intellectual work underpinning her recent “A Study of a Samoan Savage”, which was inspired by early “scientific” photographs of Samoans in the archive. These were followed by reflections from three people who deal with collections: Paul McNamara on how photographers had utilized the archives in various exhibitions at the McNamara Gallery in Whanganui; Nina Tonga, Te Papa’s Curator Pacific Cultures, on the photography of George Crummer, a trader in the Cook Islands from 1890; and Jeanette Wikaira, Kaituitui Ratonga Māori on how Kai Tahu families interact with the photographic archives of the Hocken Library.
The suite of papers reflected on community, place and family. Natalie Robertson of AUT was unable to be at the symposium, but her Siting Mauri through Living Film and Photography using material relating to Ngāti Porou and the Waiapu River was wonderfully and elegantly presented for her by AUT doctoral candidate and photographer Ngahuia Harrison. Helen Brown of Ngai Tahu Archives presented on Wiremu Teira and his Māori Friends where she discussed the Pākehā writer and photographer William A. Taylor and his relationships with Ngāi Tahu communities.
New Zealanders are probably unaware that Aboriginal families, not allowed to live alongside white Australians were relegated to “fringe camps” on the outskirts of outback towns. Karen Hughes (Swinburne University) and renowned Ngarrindjeri weaver Aunty Ellen Trevorrow (Camp Coorong Race Relations Cultural Education Centre) showed life in Ngarrindgeri camps through the intimate and familial portraits made by Aboriginal women photographers.
Chanel Clarke, Māori Curator, Auckland Museum, rounded off the after-lunch session with Dressing the Part: Queen Victoria’s Māori Subjects, on the intersections of dress, photography and colonialism during a visit of Māori to England in the early 1860s. The symposium was lucky to have three “keynote listeners” who all gave their impressions and reflections on the earlier sessions: Damon Salesa (Auckland), Jo Smith (Victoria), and Tina Makereti (novelist, Curator Māori, Museums Wellington). All three touched upon several important themes that united all the presentations: the affective power of photography, the ethics of photography, the rich and varied methodologies being deployed, and the ongoing power of colonial images in the present day.
It was wonderful to be exposed to insights from so many indigenous scholars and practitioners. It was also gratifying to hear how indigenous communities are now using the photographic archives, even those heavily underlain with the violence of colonialism, for their own purposes, as art, for rediscovering histories, and reconnecting communities.
The Centre for Research on Colonial Culture is very pleased to be hosting Dr. Patricia O’Brien, an ARC Future Fellow based at the Australian National University. In 2012 she was the JD Stout Fellow in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2011 she was the Jay I. Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Centre at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. From 2001-2013 she was visiting Associate Professor in the Centre for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. She is the author of The Pacific Muse: Exotic Femininity and the Colonial Pacific (Seattle, 2006) and is currently working on a biography of Samoan nationalist leader Ta’isi O. F. Nelson.
Dr. O’Brien is visiting the Centre until March 24th and while in Dunedin will be giving two research talks. Her first talk is on Wednesday March 18th in the Department of History and Art History (Burns 5, from 3.30) on ‘Ta’isi O. F. Nelson and the Mau: Australian Dimensions to New Zealand and Samoan History’. On March 23rd she will present a paper to Te Tumu: School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies called ‘The Trials of Mr Nelson: Ta’isi O. F. Nelson and Indigenous Resistance in Interwar Samoa’. This talk will take in Cen3 (Central Library) from 2.30.
We hope to see you at both talks!
Marsden Success for Centre Member
Congratulations to CROCC member, Professor Judy Bennett, who was awarded $710,000 in the recent Marsden Fund round. Her research will explore ‘Constant coconuts: a history of a versatile commodity in the Pacific world’. Judy was also the lead investigator in the the Marsden Fund project ‘Mothers’ Darlings: children of indigenous women and World War Two American servicemen in New Zealand and South Pacific societies’ awarded in 2009.
‘Constant coconuts: a history of a versatile commodity in the Pacific world’.
Within the humid tropics, along the shorelines of atolls and high islands, the coconut palm flourishes, providing food, medicines, cosmetics, and household items for myriad Pacific societies. Yet no commodity history of the coconut exists. As a pathway to understanding globalisation, this research will analyse how from c.1840 onwards, products from the “nut” became commodities, how their production and consumption affected individual communities, power relations, mobility, culture, economies, and environment within the Pacific world and beyond. It will consider why, for most Island societies, the coconut became often the sole export staple, and the consequences of such dependency. A key focus is the fluctuating relationship between production and natural conditions, such as rainfall, as well as external challenges, such as declining markets, which tested indigenous agency. Recently, the coconut’s value as a source of biofuel and health and beauty products has significantly revived production. While the distant past is mainly recorded in archives, this network of producers, marketers, governments, and consumers is accessible to ethnographic methods, such as extended observation. The planned book will combine two perspectives: a) commodity chain analysis to trace economic and social linkages; b) ethnographic investigation. Archival and other documentary research will provide evidence for both.