Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

Synopsis

"Why has 'national identity' preoccupied so many writers and artists on both sides of the Tasman? Why have the stories of the first settler societies in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand exercised such a hold over our collective consciousness? And why is this history once again part of contemporary political and cultural debate?" "This innovative trans-Tasman collaboration explores how the founding of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have been remembered and reimagined over more than two centuries. At the dawn of a new century, when the facts of these cultural encounters are increasingly under challenge, the writers of Quicksands argue for a new 'Australasian' consciousness and imagine new ways to negotiate the quicksands of our national histories." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Greg Dening

'Where you find quicksands, quags, and such like, there must you not work much of the foundation at once,' warned Paul Ive in 1589 in The Practice of Fortification, 'lest the quags waister you.' Foundations in quicksands, he suggested, have to be paved--mortared together--into a floating platform. That is a nice thought for foundational histories in the cross-cultural mode. When the sands of time run freely, when even the firmest looking surface turns to water, foundational histories need to float--bound together.

There was a stage in the discourse of cross-cultural histories when the moment of the first cultural encounter was seen as a 'zero point', an event that divided all of time into a Before and an After. But BC/AD syndromes only work in a unicultural world, or worlds under the façade of unicultural imperialism. When different times conjoin, 'zero points' disappear. Each side of the encounter transforms and absorbs the time of the other. in the successive presents, sometimes following the first encounter for centuries, it is the discontinuities that fade in significance. the sense of continuity merges the Befores and Afters. the Afters sink in the quicksands of all the other plagiarisms of the cultural mind.

'Zero point' is not the only concept to disappear from the discourse of cross-cultural histories. in the forty years of my engagement with cross-cultural histories there has been a whole procession of names for what we do. 'Prehistory' and 'protohistory' did not last long. There is too much of a suggestion in 'prehistory' that history itself has a Before and an After. and 'protohistory' gives the suspicion that a historical methodology that is generous in what it . . .

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