Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body
Tony Ballantyne is Professor of History at the University of Otago. He is the author or editor of many books, including Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World and Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History, both also published by Duke University Press.
The Politics of the “Enfeebled” Body
This chapter explores one key narrative form which was used by missionaries to make sense of the impact of empire on Māori: humanitarian narratives. Thomas Laqueur has suggested that these were narratives that focused upon the suffering of another’s body in order to engender compassion for their subject and to urge ameliorative action. This chapter shows that humanitarian narratives were increasingly deployed as a way of representing Māori during the 1820s and 1830s and that the circulation of images of the physical suffering inflicted by Europeans upon Māori produced a broad consensus amongst British observers that Māori communities were enfeebled and powerless. The chapter also examines the development of the competing discourses of protection that drew upon both humanitarian narratives and debates over depopulation as their evidentiary basis. In examining the elaboration of a sequence of plans for the extension of British sovereignty and colonial governance over New Zealand from 1837, the chapter ends by highlighting the role of the discourses on “protection” in convincing the Colonial Office of the need for intervention and ultimately providing the legitimating basis for the formal colonization of New Zealand in 1840.