Tag Archives: New Zealand

Dunedin and Edinburgh Urban Landscapes

We — the global we — are in the historical shadow of global colonial settlement and struggles, and I thought it interesting how Scottish settlers imposed their image of Edinburgh on the urban landscape of Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand. I’ve heard a few shop owners in the last couple days remark on this, so I pulled a couple maps off Google Earth and loaded them up here, right below. Note the similarity of the octagon, and also the common Moray Place street names. The Dunedin New Zealand colonial layer is on top of what was Maori layers of meaning. And, indeed, that is another blog post all together. The first map is of a segment of Edinburgh, Scotland. The second of Dunedin, New Zealand.

Moray Place in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Moray Place in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dunedin City Center

Moray Place in Dunedin, New Zealand.


New Zealand and Samoan World History

The University of Otago's Library.

The University of Otago’s Library.

Yesterday I was one of the 17 participants in a seminar-workshop hosted by the University of Otago’s Center for Research on Colonial Culture, this directed and led by Tony Ballantyne, with discussion also led by Maya Jasanoff. The day started with short introductions, and I found that I was only one of two from North America, the rest consisting of two highly trained squads of sharp New Zealand and Pacific Island historians. I assured one New Zealander/Kiwi that North Dakota and New Zealand are similar in that when someone visits either North Dakota or New Zealand, they aren’t just stopping in and on their way to a final destination. It makes a person living in either place feel important when distant company shows up. The Kiwis decided that was true, and we moved on to other topics.

One of those topics concerned different ways to write or consider writing history, and in a global historical context. I mentioned something about that yesterday, but it was even more important to hear what others thought and bounce around ideas. My research trajectory is concerned with how the US-Dakota wars have been officially and un-officially remembered for the last 151 years. I was particularly drawn toward scholars who look at how indigenes have acted and managed the 18th and 19th imperial struggles in in this neck of the world.

 

A section of the University of Otago campus.

A section of the University of Otago campus.

Louise Mataia, for example, is looking at how Samoans carved out an identity in the overlapping worlds of American and British “controlled” Samoa. This invariably brings up the issue of how European and Euro-American powers from the Atlantic World attempted to map and impose imperial interpretations on the Pacific islands. There are boots-on-the-ground Samoans, and then there are map-makers in some board room in London and Washington, DC who claim, with their maps, that they know what’s going on a half-world away. This conversation invariably leads to the name Benedict Anderson, and it’ll be great to keep up with Louise to see which directions her dissertation takes.

Memory, or what we have remembered, is often about politics and power, and figuring out why we have remembered stuff today requires us to chart why and how it was remembered yesterday, from one generation to the next. This in turn not only invites scholars to consider what historical maps might tell us about the past, but also how local museums and the history of theatre have informed, or attempted to inform, various audiences: before the invention of radio and television, ideas were often transmitted via theatre and live performance, this through plays and opera.

I better charge off to this morning’s conference, so before I end this blog post, I’ll have you know that Molly and Matthew are tracking down bungie jumping, and they mentioned something about a scenic jet boat tour. The photos below are from our scenic drive yesterday evening out to an albatross breeding sanctuary.

Albatross Sanctuary

An Albatross Sanctuary just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand.


Rough World Historical Thoughts on Castle Larnach

Castle Larnach, Dunedin, NZ.

Castle Larnach, Dunedin, NZ.

There are two items to blog about today. The first is the short record as to what we did yesterday, and the second is what is on the itinerary for today. They blend together, as life does, and I’ll try to make sense out of that below. Of the former:

Yesterday morning Matthew, Molly and I walked a couple blocks to the center of downtown Dunedin, to what I’ve been calling the undisputed octagon (because the city center was laid out like an octagon; not because it has any association with Ultimate Fighting). I learned quickly to watch for the little green man, an indicator that lets pedestrians know when it is a guarded time to cross the street. We also found a grand little breakfast shop. One contrast between NZ and ‘merica is that restaurants and cafes are, generally, a bit more spendy than the States. But this is offset by the reality that NZ servers are paid a greater wage than State-side servers, and this also means that when in NZ one is not expected to tip.

Also, the breakfast was delicious. Matt had French toast and Molly and I split a breakfast of egg, toast, bacon and sausage. It was a very traditional breakfast, at least if one grows up on the northern Great Plains of North America. In many ways NZ is like a parallel universe to the English-speaking Atlantic World, which in turn gives a person pause as to the influence the 18th– and 19th– century Great British world had on the globe. This is going to be a point of conversation for the second item today, which is the Writing Histories of Empire and Colonialism, this put on at St. Margaret’s College at the University of Otago, Dunedin.

Castle Larnach stairwell, from the top floor looking down.

Castle Larnach stairwell, from the top floor looking down.

One of the aims of this history workshop is to bat around and consider ideas about how to write solid global history. One of the potential problems with writing world history is that one is dealing with a large topic, and there is always a danger of saying nothing in an attempt to say everything. So this is why we don’t do that. Instead, a different way to go about it, at least as I’m sitting here and typing, is to 1) work in topics of 3s and 4s; 2) give the reader a personal element to fixate on; and 3) carry a theme/thesis that runs through the entire historical essay or monograph — this, arguably, can be a model for any writer’s workshop.

So to return to the first blogging topic for today: I’m thinking a bit about yesterday afternoon, when we all visited, had high tea, and took an afternoon stroll at and of Castle Larnach, a late-19th century industrial Victorian “home.” While wandering through this castle, I thought about simultaneously how great a view one had from the top of the castle tower and about the excessive absurdity of this kind of built la-la land. I say la-la land because castles, in their original utilitarian form, were built as defensive positions, often in an attempt to protect the feudal lord and local populace when mean outsiders wanted to be mean to the said lord, baron and locals.

In the case of Castle Larnach, this banker and politician made a ton of money off the New Zealand and Australian gold fields, and then decided to conceive of himself as some kind of varietal noble. It reminds me of super late-19th century castles in America, such as the James J. Hill home in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is these sorts of industrial wealth concentrations that, after the turn of the 19th century, Progressive Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt thundered against, or sought to break up. (Out of this period in world history, we get self-validating, hyper-dodgy theses that the über-rich came up with, such as Social Darwinism and the Social Gospel — we’re rich because either nature or God made us rich). The notion here, though, is to consider how or if a world historical theme is reflected on the local level. Then, in theory, readers might think of their own regional histories as being both local and global.

Fern, the exhausted and super friendly castle dog at Castle Larnach. Nothing gets by Fern. Not that she cares, though.

Fern, the exhausted and super friendly castle dog at Castle Larnach. Nothing gets by Fern. Not that she cares, though.

Another point to consider is that the James J. Hill home, and this Scottish castle in Dunedin, could not be sustained for any length of time, at least not by a singular family. Today they have turned into public historical enclaves, administered by private or public entities, and the public has access to them in ways that they wouldn’t have in their original historic context.

Anyhow, and moving along, I’m excited to get after this first day’s seminar/workshop. All of the world history workshop attendees are required to read three different essays which, of course, I did on the flight over. The readings include Linda Colley, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh (2007), Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: The Loss of America and the Remaking of the British Empire (2011), and Tony Ballantyne, “On Place, Space and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand” in the New Zealand Journal of History, 45, 1 (2011). But enough about all this. It’s almost 8:00AM Dunedin time, and we need to track down this thing in Australia and NZ called breakkie.


Waking Up in New Zealand

It’s the first morning in the Southern Hemisphere, this in Dunedin, New Zealand. One is quickly reoriented to the reality that November 18, 2013 is summer in this hemisphere, and this means the days are longer than the November 15 days on the northern Great Plains of North America. Obvious, right? But not so much until experienced.

Matt and Molly stand below a modest Lord of the Rings statue at the airport in Auckland, New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand.

Matt and Molly stand below a modest Lord of the Rings statue at the airport in Auckland, New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand.

We are a group of 5 from North Dakota. This includes Tom Isern (North Dakota State University) and Suzzanne Kelley (New Rivers Press, Minnesota State University Moorhead), who will be attending and presenting at the New Zealand Historical Association‘s biennial conference (I’ll be presenting at this conference, representing North Dakota State University too; much more on that in the coming days). It’s also great to have Molly (my girl) and her brother, Matthew, along, as they are going to drop in on some of the conference activity but direct most of their energies to take in the New Zealand south island senses of place.

Our group originated from Fargo (Matthew got a ride from his sister, Mira, over from Valley City that morning). Our friend Jay Krabbenhoft took us to Fargo’s Hector airport, and we boarded a flight to Chicago; then to Los Angeles; and then to Auckland, this in the northwestern north island of New Zealand; then one last flight to Christchurch in the northeastern part of the south island. From there the flights stopped, and we took to automobile. At the airport, Tom and Suzzanne’s friends Kevin and Margaret O’Connor met us, and we grabbed lunch and chatted with our welcoming party. Tom and Kevin have known one another for over two decades, and they had deep conversational backdrop to draw from.

Old collegiate souls Kevin and Tom catch up at lunch in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Common collegial souls Kevin O’Connor (l) and Tom Isern (r) catch up at lunch in Christchurch, New Zealand.

After that it was a drive from Christchurch to Dunedin where the University of Otago is located (the southern-most university in all the world). We stopped a couple places along the way, including the port town of Oamaru. The city itself has done a fantastic job of rehabilitating and restoring the port warehouse district into a place of bike shops, breweries, taverns, pubs and eateries.

At the beach in Oamaru, we also saw a penguin refuge (it was the first time I got to view a beachside penguin refuge — totally off my radar up until this point). The penguins were nowhere to be seen, but it’s really hit or miss when they are there. (Note: New Zealand has a great variety of flightless birds, as the island lacks predators that find them tasty). So from Oamaru, we drove down to Dunedin, checked into our lodging, caught a bit of late dinner, and then let our heads hit the pillows.

Molly and I on the penguin refuge beach in Oamaru, New Zealand.

Molly and I on the penguin refuge beach in Oamaru, New Zealand.


Bringing American Public History to New Zealand

Just moments ago, from the northern Great Plains of North America, I submitted a short paper proposal to the other side of the planet, this to the New Zealand Historical Association (NZHA) in Dunedin, New Zealand. It is for the NZHA 2013 Biennial Conference (click the blue link to the left for direct details) on November 20-22, 2013. My paper concerns the contested public memory of Whitestone Hill, and concludes with some World Historical considerations. It builds off landscape memory and history, and research from 2009 to the present. The intent is to join two additional landscape historians, Dr. Thomas D. Isern and Dr. Suzzanne Kelley, to make a complete panel. Tom and Suzzanne are considering the public memory of local New Zealand history specific to the Lindis. I am bringing some public memory from the northern Great Plains to the mix. I thought I would share my paper title and abstract here.

Photo of Whitestone Hill from April 2012.

Photo of Whitestone Hill from April 2012.

Title: Aaron L. Barth, “A Contested Site of Memory from the American Civil War: Whitestone Hill 150 Years Later”

Abstract: In early September of 1863, as the American Civil War raged in the eastern half of the continental United States, General Alfred Sully led a military column on a punitive campaign against the Dakota (aka, Sioux) on the northern Great Plains. The military goal was to punish the Dakota majority, en masse, for the atrocities committed by a small Dakota minority the previous year in the Minnesota River Valley. Sully’s 1863 campaign culminated in an action at Whitestone Hill, this in present-day North Dakota. In his official words, Sully said he engaged Dakota “warriors… squaws, [and] children” in a “melée” and “murderous slaughter” of a “promiscuous nature.” His command killed 150 to 300 Dakota, and if he had another hour or two of light, he said, “I could have annihilated the enemy,” giving “one of the most severe punishments that the Indians have ever received.” For 150 years, the public memory of Whitestone Hill has been contested, called a “battlefield” by a United States Congressman, and called a “mistake” by Sully and Episcopalian Reverend Aaron McGaffey Beede. This paper tracks the public tension in the remembrance of Whitestone Hill, and concludes with samples of how sites of memory from this period are contested in World History.


Notes from the WSSA Conference in Denver

Tom Isern at right listens to his student of history, Aaron Gutman, deliver his paper on the microhistory of three Prussian soldiers mustered into the US Army in 1862 to help with the defenses at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

Tom Isern at right listens to his student of history, Aaron Gutman, deliver his paper on the microhistory of three Prussian soldiers mustered into the US Army in 1862 to help with the defenses at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

It is now Saturday evening and I am finishing up another robust Western Social Science Association conference, this time in the Queen City of the Great Plains that is Denver, Colorado: a cosmopolitan cattle town and gold mining stop at the edge of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains (it was in this location that in the second half of the 19th century, south-north moving cowpunchers and cattle trails intersected with the east-west moving overland settlers, miners and pioneers). This morning Aaron Gutman (North Dakota State University) delivered his paper, “The Siege of Fort Abercrombie D.T. 1862 and its Global Connections,” emphasizing the ethnic make-up of three German-Prussians commanding the cannon battery for the US Army during the siege at the fort in late-August and through September of 1862. Gutman was apt to point out that the Prussian immigrants mustered into Civil War service were experienced with street fighting, having come from the renegade and liberal streets of the German revolutions of 1848. I also had a great time listening to Alex Steenstra (Northern Arizona University) and Christine Cheyne (Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand) talk about the Mighty River Power struggle between the Maori and the New Zealand Crown, and the fracking going on today in New Zealand.

Mexico City in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Mexico City in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Yet as historians, archaeologists, humanities folk and social scientists considered what happened and what is happening in great detail at these conferences, we also take account of our contemporary surroundings. This includes food, music and drink. So a quick run-down of some of the dining establishments visited during this professional conference include the spectacular Biker Jim’s hot dog joint (I had the delicious duck-cilantro dog), and the restaurant Mexico City, both in one of Denver’s historic districts. There was some Thai place that we visited too (the name escapes me, but I have found inspiration with the lemon grass coconut soup, and will be bringing the general recipe idea back to the northern Great Plains). Of music, I got to see the Tejon Street Corner Thieves belt out some street-level blue grass, and I purchased one of their DIY CDs for the street-level market price of $5.00. Of drink, there is an infinite amount of barley pop varieties to try, and I have taken to the stuff in the can — an archaeologist friend of mine in Missoula calls these “canned goods.” But I better wrap this up because the 55th Annual Western Social Science Association conference reception begins in less than 20 minutes.