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Accepted Paper:

Contemporary transformations of Maori salvage ethnography  
Frederico Rosa (CRIA NOVA FCSH - IN2PAST)

Paper short abstract:

The present paper proposes a reflection on the power/knowledge dimensions of "Indigenous Research" inside New Zealand's Maori movements, particularly on critical standpoints towards salvage ethnography records of late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Paper long abstract:

The present paper proposes an analysis of post-colonially informed critiques of Maori salvage ethnography records of late 19th and early 20th centuries, namely by indigenous researchers of the Kaupapa Maori / Maoritanga / Mana Maori movements who propose to decolonize the field of Maori Studies as part of an empowerment goal. Published materials by contemporary representatives of the Maori community are compared with diverse reassessments of the archive by Pakeha (British-settlers descendants) researchers in New Zealand. The paper will address contemporary issues of power/knowledge as concerns, in particular, the reading of Elsdon Best's (1856-1931) ethnographical legacy on "pre-European" Maori culture. The analysis of this specific segment of the archive and of its transformations, involving other figures of the same period, gives way to a reflection on the historical antecedents of a subordinated anthropological tradition in its relations with mainstream anthropology: the paper implies an understanding of the way in which the work of Pakeha salvage ethnographers has always been attentively followed in New Zealand by important representatives of the Maori community – a literate one since the middle of the 19th century –, not just by direct collaborators, but also by politicians and researchers. More recently, namely after A. Hanson's 1989 article on "The Making of the Maori: Culture Invention and Its Logic" (American Anthropologist, 91: 890-902), the work of Elsdon Best has been submitted to heavy criticism by Maori researchers, particularly for its colonial setting, for the lack of acknowledgement of the native informants and for its pretention to be complete (e.g. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies. Reasearch and Indigenous Peoples. London, New York: Zed Books, 2012 [1999]). Non-Maori academics have also criticized Best's work in post-colonial terms (e.g. Jeffrey Sissons, Te Waimana, the Spring of Mana. Tuhoe History and the Colonial Encounter. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1991), but recent studies, namely by Jeffrey P. Holman (Best of Both Worlds. The Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau. North Shore: Penguin, Books, 2010), put the critiques into question and make a case for the implicit omnipresence, among today's Maori community, of Best's depictions of pre-European Maori culture. At the same time, other non-Maori academics (e.g. Elizabeth Rata) denounce the political dimensions of Maori research. These are some of the references of an on-going polemic at the heart of a tradition that is both subordinated and strongly connected to mainstream anthropology. Proposed by a historian of anthropology, not a field researcher, the paper explores from a deliberately distant point of view (the antipodes) diverse written stances that have a political dimension in contemporary New Zealand.

Panel P108
Traditions of anthropology, prospects for engagement: have 'World Anthropologies' tried to change the world? (WCAA-IUAES session)
  Session 1