Oliver Harrison: 'The Paradise of the Southern Hemisphere'. German and Austrian Visitors to New Zealand 1876-1889. Auckland (Germanica Pacifica Studies 3. Research Centre for Germanic Connections with New Zealand and the Pacific) 2008. 160 S.

The book contains extracts from OLIVER HARRISON's PhD thesis (University of Auckland) which was concerned with the appraisal of, until now, relatively unknown German-language writings on New Zealand and the Maori with respect to the period of colonisation between 1839 and 1889. It concentrates on the period after 1876 - that was the period following the Maori Land Wars - which despite an economic depression was noted for a rise in settler numbers, in particular from the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires.

The author reveals how the country in general and the Maori people especially are represented in the works of notable German and Austrian explorers and travellers of the nineteenth century (Ernst Dieffenbach, Friedrich August Krull, Ferdinand von Hochstetter, Julius von Haast, Andreas Reischek, Max Buchner, Franz Reuleaux, Otto Finsch, Alexander von Huebner and Robert von Lendenfeld). He is concerned with the following issues: 1) In what way did the stereotypes and images that predominated in the European psyche of the eighteenth and nineteenth century in relation to largely unexplored countries in the process of colonisation, like New Zealand, influence the works of the authors under investigation? How is the propaganda of the British colonial power towards the colonisation of the country represented in these works? How does this propaganda portray New Zealand as a paradise for immigrants? 2) What elements and perspectives can be observed in the depiction of New Zealand and the Maori in these works that are specific to German-speaking explorers, in this case, German and Austrian authors?
The subject which HARRISON deals with has until now been neglected, even though Germans and Austrians provided a considerable contribution to the exploration of New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Their publications thus provide a valuable addition to the British literature, as their countries held no colonial interests in New Zealand and in this respect their reports were free from colonial ties. Moreover, in their encounters with the Maori, Germans and Austrians were not burdened with the tensions that could arise between the representatives of the colonial power and the subjugated indigenous population. HARRISON is rightly not concerned with portraying the rights and wrongs and, for example, comparing the German-language literature with the British, but rather focuses more on how the visible stereotypes and images are perceived, how they are formed and what function they have. Thus, HARRISON analyses the publications within their socio-historical and literary contexts, taking into account the authors' living conditions, the target audience and the degree to which the needs and expectations of the readership have been met. Accordingly, the author also describes how their perspectives and appraisals change over time, that is to say, over the course of the nineteenth century.
The sources of the analysis include reports, diaries, articles and substantive works. The publications studied more closely in the book fall into three groups: 1. Publications from nature lovers, who were predisposed towards the dominant popular science of the times and collected for the most part ornithological, botanical and ethnographical items for museums, namely Andreas Reischek (1845-1902) and Otto Finsch (1839-1917). 2. Publications from explorers who primarily held ethnographical interests, namely Max Buchner (1846-1921) and Franz Reuleaux (1829-1905). 3. Publications by travellers who were more concerned with the social character of the colony and stressed the tensions between the colonial powers and the Maori, namely Alexander von Huebner (1811-1892) and Robert von Lendenfeld (1858-1913). On the one hand, these authors were influenced by social Darwinian thought, on the other hand, Lendenfeld in particular also criticised the patriotic and almost racist exaggerations and selfassessments of the European New Zealanders. Like the British, the German-language publications on the whole also afirmed the so-called civilising achievements of colonisation. These achievements in their view would have justified the (partial) extinction of the less civilised Maori. The German-language publications were, however, less strongly affected than the British by social Darwinism. Often they even lamented the fact that the Maori could not stand up to the European invaders. A specifically German perspective in the works examined is uncovered through the preoccupation of the authors with the settlements, industry and lifestyle of German immigrants in New Zealand. Their portrayal of the country as a type of paradise for those immigrants in New Zealand who procured wealth through hard labour, does not differ dramatically from reports of British origin.
HARRISON has succeeded well in presenting a thorough introduction to and sound interpretation of the contributions made by the various writers cited to the body of knowledge surrounding nineteenth-century New Zealand history. He rightly puts straight the prejudices of some explorers derived from previous scientific literature and discovers erroneous interpretations. All in all, HARRISON has conducted a remarkable and extensive search of both published and unpublished primary and secondary sources and provided meticulous documentation. The book makes for gripping reading in many parts. The author cites many distinctive passages from the original sources and in so doing creates an evocative and vivid account. One particular highlight is the author's analysis of what have thus far remained little known sources, such as letters, and has thereby rendered specialist knowledge more accessible for the general reader. His book represents a valuable treasure trove for those wishing to engage in further research into nineteenth-century New Zealand history.
Wilfried Heller


Quelle: Erdkunde, 63. Jahrgang, 2009, Heft 2, S. 201-202

Kommentar schreiben