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Colonising the mind – print and possession

Colonising the mind – print and possession

Books, brochures and newspapers in the early 20th century played a key role in colonising New Zealand by encouraging Pâkehâ to believe they own the nation's landscape – from the foreshore to the mountain tops.

That is the argument that Dr Peter Gibbons will make in this year's McKenzie Lecture, Print and Possession: the imaginative occupation of New Zealand, to be held at Victoria University next week.

"Initially seeking to define for prospective European tourists what was distinctive and praiseworthy about New Zealand, Pâkehâ writers and photographers learned to characterise certain natural landscapes as attractive and appealing. The descriptions and images they generated were widely disseminated in New Zealand through books, brochures, newspapers, and magazines, even when, as was sometimes the case, the publications were designed for overseas circulation."

Dr Gibbons' lecture provides a strong pointer to why Pâkehâ New Zealanders have reacted so strongly to suggestions that Mâori might gain ownership of the foreshore.

"Such depictions established particular scenes as iconic, and acquainted Pâkehâ New Zealanders with places which were often relatively inaccessible. They also encouraged Pâkehâ New Zealanders to develop a proprietorial attitude towards the natural landscape, all the way from the foreshore to the tops of the mountains.

"My lecture surveys the range of locally printed matter on landscape subjects issued in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, and argues that these materials were significant components in an on-going process of colonisation."

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Dr Gibbons is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Waikato and teaches courses in cultural encounters in America and New Zealand and in world history. He has research interests in New Zealand's cultural and intellectual history, particularly the period from 1890 to the 1940s.

The McKenzie Lecture is funded by the D.F. McKenzie Fund through the Victoria University Foundation in recognition of the life and work of the late Emeritus Professor Don McKenzie who died in 1999. Professor McKenzie taught at Victoria, Cambridge and Oxford universities.

The McKenzie Lecture will be held on Tuesday November 18 at 5.30pm in the Hunter Council Chamber, Hunter Building, Victoria University, Kelburn Parade.

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