Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not just a pretty map

Ferdinand von Hochstetter is best-known to Kiwis as the creator of a series of exquisite geological maps of various regions of their country. Back in June, I used a detail of Hochstetter's most famous creation, his geological map of the Auckland isthmus, to illustrate a post to this blog; an enlarged version of the whole map adorns a wall in the Auckland War Memorial Museum's popular permanent exhibition on volcanoes.

2008 marks the one hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of Hochstetter's arrival in Auckland, and the Auckland Central Public Library is celebrating the 'father of New Zealand geology' with an exhibition which is long on pretty maps and rather short on historical context.

Over at the Scoop Review of Books, I've questioned whether Hochstetter deserves to be celebrated, given his hostile attitude towards the tangata whenua of this country and the role that his work played in the Waikato war of 1863-64 and the subsequent confiscation of the much of the land of the Tainui peoples. I argue that Hochstetter and some of the other Austrian scientists who visited these shores in the late 1850s were not pious scholars, interested only in adding to the sum of human knowledge, but rather captives of a racist, pseudo-Darwinian ideology which foreshadows the creed of Nazism. Read the full argument here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps is a self-hating 'Pakeha'

2:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Define that please.

9:53 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

Maps is not attacking his own history. He is being truthful about it. That doesn’t make him a “self-hating Pakeha”. It also does not mean he is denying positive Pakeha history. He is saying, let’s just be honest about what that period in history was really like.

I feel that the anonymous commentator above is a confused and fearful person who probably doesn’t know much about our history.

10:19 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Maps is doing the kind of social - political-historical work more of us need to do - myself included - but I am locked in my own world - that said he hauls me back to reality as I shriek against being any definable thing; he reminds me of my passionate political self of the 60s/70s...

This general view by Hochstetter was prevalent throughout European philosophy especially in the 19th to early 20th Centuries and we have inherited a lot of the dust and muck of it.

Eliot Weinberger gives a brilliant and illuminating insight into how much of the this, mostly garbled and erroneous, theory of racial hierarchy, developed: in his great essay The Falls in his book of stories and criticsm called "Karmic Traces"...

He shows, how it lead, amongst other things, to Nazism.

10:45 pm  

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