In Touch with Things: Tourist Arts and the Mediation of Maori/European Relationships

Cory-Pearce, Elizabeth. 2005. In Touch with Things: Tourist Arts and the Mediation of Maori/European Relationships. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study re-evaluates theoretical approaches to the study of art forms and the mediation of social relationships in anthropology, through exploration of the emergence of tourist art forms in the Rotorua region of New Zealand, ancestral lands of the Arawa Maori people. Tourism began in Rotorua in the mid-nineteenth century, when Europeans visited to experience geothermal scenery, witness Maori social life and collect cultural artefacts as souvenirs. Returning to the scene of encounter to consider Maori/European negotiations surrounding the creation and acquisition of cultural artefacts, the research reconsiders items in museums and private collections in Britain and New Zealand as 'artefacts of encounter', to reveal ways in which acquisition was locally enabled and constrained. A case study of gifts presented to imperial authorities by Maori groups as a means of political negotiation points out the incommensurability of cross-cultural understandings of property, and the inequitable power relations that rendered such negotiations ineffectual. Throughout the twentieth century, the effects of European patronage relations upon Maori art forms are considered through comparative analyses of carved, woven and other souvenir forms and tour guiding services, concluding that whilst European patrons were frequently mean and belittling, their commissions opened up a space for a degree of innovation and experimentation not possible under customary Maori patronage. Engagements with new forms and technologies are explored through consideration of Maori adoption of photographic portraiture, popularised through the circulation of postcards since the late nineteenth century. Portraiture is compared to fibre arts, explored as a collective oeuvre formed between weavers linked through the transmission of skills passed down from the ancestral past into the present, a network which incorporates museum collections and non-Maori weavers. The concept of network is then deployed to query conventional approaches to art and material culture in anthropological thinking and museological practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Maori/European relationships, Rotorua region, photographic portraiture, anthropological thinking, museological practice

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2020 10:14

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:17


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