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Cultural encounter, aesthetics, and the limits of anthropology: Captain Cook and the Maori.

Author: Stephen Francis Turner; Cornell University.
Dissertation: Ph. D. Cornell University 1995
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Microfiche : EnglishView all editions and formats
Publication:Dissertation Abstracts International, 55-11A.
Summary:
This thesis concerns an episode in cultural contact in the late eighteenth century, specifically the encounter between Captain Cook and the Maori of New Zealand. In New Zealand, the British found themselves in the "state of nature," and were unable to determine a common basis for negotiating the differences between the Maori and themselves. The encounter is bound up with the breakdown of the Enlightenment belief in
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Material Type: Thesis/dissertation
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Stephen Francis Turner; Cornell University.
OCLC Number: 224340472
Notes: (UnM)AAI9509451.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 55-11, Section: A, page: 3612.
Reproduction Notes: Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich : University Microfilms International.
Description: 242 pages

Abstract:

This thesis concerns an episode in cultural contact in the late eighteenth century, specifically the encounter between Captain Cook and the Maori of New Zealand. In New Zealand, the British found themselves in the "state of nature," and were unable to determine a common basis for negotiating the differences between the Maori and themselves. The encounter is bound up with the breakdown of the Enlightenment belief in the underlying uniformity of human nature, and the perception of a new kind of difference. The eighteenth-century narrative of the stadial advance of commerce and civilization had been informed by cultural contact, and helped to explain the differences between Europeans and other peoples. However, the condition of the New Zealand Maori contradicted the Enlightenment conception of man, and the rationality of progress. The perception of a specifically cultural difference thus entered into the self-conception of Europeans through contact with so-called primitive peoples.

The reciprocity of cultural exchange--the genealogy of "culture"--Complicates the uni-linear narrative of the advance of European civilization. The idea of cultural difference is a product of the expansion of Anglo-European capitalism. The construction of the British self-understanding as a high-culture among the peoples of the world followed the extension of Empire as a commercial enterprise. This development enabled both the emergence of aesthetic value, such that specifically British cultural characteristics came to be seen as universal virtues, and the emergence of ethnology as a field of intellectual inquiry. The condition for the split within the idea of "culture," which refers at once to the refinement of the "arts" and to the existence of distinct or plural worldviews, was provided by cultural contact.

The thesis offers an implicit critique of English literary culture as a form of cultural capital, and an explicit critique of anthropology as a master narrative of indigenous cultures. The genealogy of culture uncovers unrecognized differences within discursive fields constructed by the intersection of western capital and western knowledge. The specific genealogy inscribed by this thesis is that of the Pakeha--the descendants of Europeans in New Zealand.

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