christopher hilliard on the land purchaser as ethnographer in new zealand
Many of the cross-cultural intermediaries who figure in the New Zealand historiography operated in ‘middle ground’ situations. However, in New Zealand as elsewhere in the Pacific, intermediaries also had roles to play in settings where the authority of the colonial state was more or less assured. Working from government records and the 1920 diary of the Pakeha interpreter Ben Keys, this article examines the sorts of cross-cultural expertise involved in negotiating sales and leases of Maori land and probes the relationship between such instrumental uses of knowledge of Maori culture and the ethnographic interests that this work nurtured. For some settlers, Keys included, amateur ethnographic inquiry constituted the active intellectual work of being a New Zealander. By examining the work of an intermediary and amateur ethnographer in an age of automobiles and cinemas, I seek to demonstrate — in a modest, textured way — how the colonization of New Zealand was an ongoing, twentieth-century process in the sphere of economics and law as well as culture and identity.
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