Friday, October 23, 2015

pride and prejudice: comics as colonialism in aotearoa

[1] A map of Port Macquarie (Bluff Harbour) was drawn by Robert Williams in 1813, when exploring the southern coast for seals, timber and flax, the same year Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice. File Print: From Cartographic Collection
Description: Port Macquarie, Foveaux's Straits. Shows boats' tracks and land tracks from Robert Williams' survey of hemp fields in the Perseverance.
Physical Description: Map 53 x 73 cm
Date: [1813]
Reference Number: MapColl-835at/[1813]/Acc.425
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.
[2] I have dyscalculia.
[3] I was taught at school that the way my family spoke was not proper English. We were made to feel ashamed of both our accent and our dialect. These attitudes are pervasive and it is still a common misconception that RP and Standard English are “correct” English, when in fact they are merely one other variant.
[5] My feeling is that I can use my European heritage to dismantle the power structure of Comics as they are currently defined but that I must not present alternatives as that would be no better, it’s not my place; that would be disrespectful.
[6] “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1992, p4. See Endnote vi.
[7] The term Comics is a powerful one, which is why I’ve capitalised it here. Originating in Europe, it is a term that has been defined and re-defined by Westerners, predominantly white heterosexual middle-class men, and has been reproduced wholesale in Aotearoa with scant consideration of how this change of context affects the narratives used to talk about the genre.
[8] Adrian Kinnaird, From Earth’s End, 2013, p6; p12.
[9]; Sabin, 1996, p11.
[11]; McCloud, 1994, p12 - 13; Perry, 1971, p11; Sabin, ibid.
[12] 1813 novel about gender and class divisions.
[13] Cunningham, 1992, vi.
[14] Little has changed in two hundred years.
[15] Dr Tim Bollinger wrote the introduction to New Zealand Comics and Graphic Novels, Hicksville Press, 2012.
[16] Kinnaird, ibid.
[17] Bollinger, ibid, p2.
[18] Kinnaird, p9.
[19] An exception is Hilary Chute, who, although referencing Scott McCloud and others, works from Art Spiegelman’s Comics definition on representations of space and time. Graphic women: Life, Narrative and Contemporary Comics, Columbia, 2010, p7.
[20] Sabin, ibid.
[21] Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, Harper Collins, 1994.
[22] George Perry and Alan Aldridge wrote the earliest Comics history I was able to locate in time for this essay’s publication, published by Penguin in 1967 then revised in 1971.
[23] James Chapman, British Comics: A Cultural History, Reaktion Books, 2011, p14.
[24] “A good map tells a multitude of little white lies; it supresses truth to help the user see what needs to be seen.” Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, University of Chicago Press, 2nd Edition, 1996, p25.
[25] “A French term for a kind, a literary type or class.” J. A. Cuddon (Revised by C. E. Preston), Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, Penguin, 1998, p342.
[26] Chapman, ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Text, sequencing, and narrative.
[29] The artists’ statement read: “before them, Māori women had little or no presence in the contemporary NZ art world.”
[30] Robyn was born a decade earlier than Emily Karaka and Shona Rapiri Davies.
[31], last accessed 30/9/15.
[32], last accessed 30/9/15. 
[33] “Manga, referring specifically to a particular form of comics created in Japan […], is a genre born out of the synthesizing or union of the Japanese traditional folk arts and the Western visual arts. Japanese Manga has its generic roots in the historical art traditions in Japanese culture, which could be traced back as far as to the caricatures of people and animals carved on the planks of the Horyuji Temple, built originally in 607AD.” Huang, Minwen. “The Alchemical Imaginary of Homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist”, p49, published in Transitions and Dissolving Boundaries in the Fantastic, Edited by Christine Lötscher, Petra Schrackmann, Ingrid Tomkowiak, Aleta-Amirée von Holze.
[34] Tapa, made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree, was brought to Aotearoa with the first Māori settlers from other parts of Polynesia   and, earlier still, Taiwan. The indigenous Taiwanese were themselves migrants from Southern China, where paper, in the form of tapa, was probably invented.
Paper mulberry is what is known as a “pioneer species” due to its being one of the first plants to colonise damaged ecologies. Maggy Wassilieff. 'Forest succession and regeneration', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Nov-12; URL:
Roger Neich and Mick Pendergrast, Tapa of the Pacific, David Bateman in association with Te Papa Whakahiku/Auckland Museum, 2001, p3;
Therese Weber, The Language of Paper: a History of 2000 Years, Orchid Press, 2007, p17.
Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris, Bridget Williams Books, 2014.
Ewins, Rod. "Barkcloth and the Origins of Paper." Conference Papers of the First National Paper Conference. Hobart: Papermakers of Australia. 1987.
The invention of paper-making was, of course, a continuing process rather than a single event […] the discovery of the suitability of the paper mulberry (Brousonetia papyriJera) was certainly significant. It is a plant that is native to China, though it has been cultivated extensively in many other temperate and tropical zones throughout the world. Its bark, after being beaten into a cloth, was used for clothing in China as well as in other regions along the equator, and ancient Chinese literature provides evidence that it was manufactured and traded by native tribes in the southern part of China, as we shall see. The invention of paper-making with tree bark attributed to Tshai Lun in the early + 2nd century was possibly influenced by the acquaintance of the people in his area with the paper mulberry. Tshai Lun was a native of Lei-yang in what is now Hunan province, and it was here that the bark was made into cloth by beating and then into bark paper after maceration. Since, then, the maceration process of turning rags into pulp was already known in China, it was very likely that the people in the south of the country were the first to convert paper mulberry bark into a pulp for papermaking.
Neither paper mulberry nor bark cloth was, it seems, used in Europe, where its cultivation appears to have been unknown, even in the + 18th century; indeed among the numerous kinds of plant tested for paper-making by European scientists at this time, paper mulberry was not included. Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Cambridge University Press; Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin, PH. D. Part I: Paper and Printing, p4.
The Chinese used the bark of their native paper mulberry tree to make tha pu or ku pu, which may have some affinity with tapa […] it has been called bark cloth instead of paper. The Chinese terms tha pu which may mean ‘beaten cloth’, and ku pu, ‘paper-mulberry cloth’, very probably referred to a sort of bark cloth or tapa […] people South of the Yangtze River used the bark of ku (paper-mulberry) to make cloth and also pounded it to make paper, called ku phi ehih4 (paper-mulberry bark paper). Apparently, the inner bark of paper-mulberry can be prepared in different ways and used for different purposes. Since all these items for wearing and bedding are described in Chinese records as made of ehih (paper), we may assume that they were made of bark paper.” Ibid, p 110. Ewins, ibid.
[36] Errington, ibid.
[37] “The weight of antiquity continues to dominate cultural production in much of the post-colonial world”, The Empire Writes Back, 2005, p7.
[38] The consensus of definition within Aotearoa’s Comics literature adheres with “the fixing of texts in historical time and the perpetual search for the determinants of a single, unified, and agreed meaning” that Ashcroft et al, ibid, posit as features of a Western thought approach utilised in colonization.
[39] The Empire Writes Back, 2005, p3.
[40]  Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780 – 1914, Blackwell, 2004, p473.
[41] The Empire Writes Back, ibid.
[42] Bayly, Ibid.
[43] Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Can the subaltern speak?." (1988).
[44] “When it comes to the tricky question of colonial identities […] the fact that Europe and its colonized others were co-produced in and through their unequal interactions means that, through making these others the objects of its action, Europe constructed itself as subject. From the Enlightenment on, this subjectivity took the form of a universal taken-for-grantedness whereby the European norm was held to reflect the natural order, with the result that difference or divergence from that norm came to be stigmatized as defective, degraded or pathological. Backed up by the awesome power of Western military and technological achievements, this ethnocentric view was very persuasive – to the extent that it could infect the self-esteem of colonized people themselves. To resist this kind of power, and its continuing legacy of Western racism, it is necessary to denaturalise the Western world-view, to show how certain ideals that it holds out as universal are actually products of the West’s own particular historical and cultural experience.” Patrick Wolfe, “The World of History and the World-As-History: Twentieth-century Theories of Imperialism”, p112 – 113, Decolonization: Perspectives from Now and Then, Ed, Prasenjit Duara, Routledge, 2004.
[45] Spivak, ibid.
[46] Barringer and Flynn, Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum, 1998, p3.
[47] “Comics have not yet arrived in the way that films and television have, accepted as a rational amusement for adults and a proper subject for academic study. Comics are still liable to be dismissed wholesale as trash, appropriate for weak or underdeveloped minds, and probably detrimental. Curiously enough, much the same was said of the drama in Shakespeare’s day and of the novel in Jane Austen’s time.” Paul Dawson, “The Comics Come of Age”, The Times Higher Educational Supplement (23 December 1988), p14.
[48] Kinnaird, p7.
[49] Bollinger, 1993, p2.
[50] Overland, # 218, “Hackers, Gamers and Cyborgs”, Brendan Keogh, p21.
[51] And, in the case of Aotearoa Comics history, Māori.
[52] Ibid, p20.
[53] Ibid, p21.

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