Indigenous Textual Cultures

Reading and Writing in the Age of Global Empire

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 15 illustrations Published: September 2020

History > World History, Native and Indigenous Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

As modern European empires expanded, written language was critical to articulations of imperial authority and justifications of conquest. For imperial administrators and thinkers, the non-literacy of “native” societies demonstrated their primitiveness and inability to change. Yet as the contributors to Indigenous Textual Cultures make clear through cases from the Pacific Islands, Australasia, North America, and Africa, indigenous communities were highly adaptive and created novel, dynamic literary practices that preserved indigenous knowledge traditions. The contributors illustrate how modern literacy operated alongside orality rather than replacing it. Reconstructing multiple traditions of indigenous literacy and textual production, the contributors focus attention on the often hidden, forgotten, neglected, and marginalized cultural innovators who read, wrote, and used texts in endlessly creative ways. This volume demonstrates how the work of these innovators played pivotal roles in reimagining indigenous epistemologies, challenging colonial domination, and envisioning radical new futures.

Contributors. Noelani Arista, Tony Ballantyne, Alban Bensa, Keith Thor Carlson, Evelyn Ellerman, Isabel Hofmeyr, Emma Hunter, Arini Loader, Adrian Muckle, Lachy Paterson, Laura Rademaker, Michael P. J. Reilly, Bruno Saura, Ivy T. Schweitzer, Angela Wanhalla


“This volume brings together an exciting range of scholars whose cutting-edge work critiques contemporary and historiographical assumptions about the primacy of orality in indigenous cultures by reconsidering the ways in which local writing and ways of knowing have been deployed as powerful tools against colonial rule. This collection is an extremely valuable resource.” — Fiona Paisley, coauthor of Writing Transnational History

“The written word may have come as cargo of colonialism and modernity, but it soon became a vehicle of indigeneity, critique, and resistance as indigenous peoples underwent their own textual and literate revolutions and participated in those of others. Bringing together a rich group of scholars who span a vast part of the indigenous world, this remarkable volume critiques, renarrates, and presents indigenous encounters with texts, literacy, and literary practices that have been too often overlooked or minimized. A landmark collection.” — Damon Ieremia Salesa, Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific, University of Auckland


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tony Ballantyne is Pro-Vice-Chancellor in the Division of Humanities at the University of Otago in New Zealand. His many books include Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body, also published by Duke University Press.

Lachy Paterson is Professor at the University of Otago's Te Tumu: School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies.

Angela Wanhalla is Associate Professor of History at the University of Otago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgements  ix
Introduction. Indigenous Textual Cultures, the Politics of Difference, and the Dynamism of Practice / Tony Ballantyne and Lachy Paterson  1
Part I. Archives and Debates
1. Ka Waihona Palapala Maneleo: Research in a Time of Plenty. Colonialism and the Hawaiian-Language Archives / Noelani Arista  31
2. Kanak Writings and Written Tradition in the Archive of New Caledonia's 1917 War / Alban Bensa and Adrian Muckle  60
3. Maori Lteracy Practices in Colonial New Zealand / Lachy Paterson  80
Part II. Orality and Texts
4. "Don't Destroy the Writing": Time-and Space-Based Communication and the Colonial Strategy of Mimicry in Nineteenth-Century Salish-Missionary Relations on Canada's Pacific Coast / Keith Thor Carlson
5. Talking Traditions: Orality, Ecology, and Spirituality in Mangaia's Textual Culture / Michael P. J. Reilly  131
6. Polynesian Family Manuscripts (Puta Tuana) from the Society and Austral Islands: Interior History, Formal Logic, and Social Uses / Bruno Saura  154
Part III. Readers
7. Print Media, the Swahili Language, and Textual Cultures in Twentieth-Century Tanzania, ca. 1923–1939 / Emma Hunter  175
8. Going Off Script: Aboriginal Rejection and Repurposing of English Literacies / Laura Radmaker  195
9. "Read It, Don't Smoke It!": Developing and Maintaining Literacy in Papua New Guinea / Evelyn Ellerman  216
Part IV. Writers
10. Colonial Copyright, Customs, and Indigenous Textualities: Literary Authority and Textual Citizenship / Isabel Hofmeyr  245
11. He Pukapuka Tataku i nga Mahi a Te Rauparaha Nui: Reading Te Rauparaha through Time / Arini Loader  263
12. Writing and Beyond in Indigenous North America: The Occom Network / Ivy Schweitzer  289
Bibliography  315
Contributors  345
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1081-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0976-4