Accepted paper:

Coding memory: Whose culture does it serve, anyway?


Jade Baker

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents memory as salient to object discourse as it defines culture-specific connections. In discussion with objects from Ngati Awa, it queries new object memory codes and posits where cosmopolitanism is located in respecting culture-object relations.

Paper long abstract:

In her book The Carpathians (1988) Janet Frame posits memory as "a naked link, a point, diamond-size, coded in a code of the world" (p. 171). Like memory, objects too emerge naked, then begins a cumulative process of linking to the code of a culture-specific world. Object memory is salient because it solidifies associations between people, as actors with memory, and in this discussion, taonga, objects created by Māori.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, colonial attitudes facilitated the relocation of taonga from tribal stewardship to public and private ownership, whilst re-coding object memory. Furthermore, colonizing practices circumvented relationships between objects, between cultures and between people, leaving a unique historical imprint upon object memory that is still of consequence today. In discussion with taonga from Ngāti Awa, what 'new' memories were cast, as other complexities were subsumed, and who did this 'new' code serve?

In considering Appiah's chapter 'Whose culture is it, anyway?' (2006), it is tempting to regard cosmopolitanism as another 'code of the world' thereby re-coding object memory as befitting the metropole gaze. However, to examine this idea further, do pan-human ownership of objects, presented as the connection "despite difference", address the disparities described above, and if so, how? Following on, do taonga then 'fit' in the matrix of cosmopolitanism or are they more receptive to other types of ideas and relationships? Accordingly then, who will be the stewards charged with respecting object memory, potentially multiple layers of memory, as who determines which culture these codes will serve?

panel P42
Cosmopolitanism and the appropriation of culture