Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body

Article excerpt

Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body. By Tony Ballantyne. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2014. Pp. xiv, 360. $26.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-5826-8.)

In December 2014, New Zealand celebrated the bicentenary of the first Christian (Protestant) mission, also the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand. Established at Hohi in northern New Zealand by three missionary families, this was the inspiration of Samuel Marsden, chaplain to the penal colony of New South Wales, who had formed close ties with several Maori chiefs of high mana (prestige) in the early years of the nineteenth century. As Ballantyne points out, Marsden was heir to a "set of imperial discourses" that envisioned New Zealand as valuable to the British Empire and a potential "future colony"; Marsden brought with him a "tightly bound cultural package" (p. 64) that wrapped Christianity, commerce, and colonization together, suggesting that colonization was always an implicit part of missionization. So began the "entanglements of empire," linking New Zealand to Britain, Maori to European, that eminent New Zealand historian Tony Ballantyne skillfully unravels in this book. These entanglements led to British annexation in 1840-and to cultural misunderstandings, some of which still persist. Ballantyne's analysis gives a secular discussion of the exchange between Maori and missionary, focusing in particular on the evangelical Church Missionary Society missions in the Bay of Islands, northern New Zealand.

The mission, only tolerated due to the support of influential chiefs, was "entirely dependent on Maori patronage, material support, and protection" (p. 57), even after mission numbers expanded. This immersion in the Maori world was significant to the development of the mission, but also provided obstacles to its growth. Ballantyne uses the trope of the body to analyze the cultural transformations-or exchanges-that took place in early-nineteenth-century New Zealand. Missionaries began the process, or perhaps the attempt, to transform the Maori "body" into the likeness of the evangelical Christian ideal. Ballantyne analyzes this through a number of lenses: evangelical preconceptions; concepts of time and space, work and labor, and sexuality and marriage; and death customs.

By the 1830s, missionary observations of traditional Maori practices formed a body of literature, a "print culture" (p. …

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