Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unity Books and Otago University Press invite you to join them in celebrating the publication of

Rauru: Tene Waitere, Maori Carving, Colonial History
Editor: Nicholas Thomas, Photographer: Mark Adams, Interviews: James Schuster & Lyonel Grant
at 6.00 pm on Tuesday the 19th of May.

Nicholas Thomas will be present and will talk about Rauru and his recent book with John Pule
Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth

The event will be held at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington.

Nicholas Thomas was born in Sydney in 1960. His books include Entangled Objects (1991), Oceanic Art (1995), Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture (1999) and Discoveries: the voyages of Captain Cook (2003). He has collaborated on several projects with Mark Adams, and curated many exhibitions, in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. He is Professor of Historical Anthropology, and Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

Nicholas Thomas writes:
I grew up in Sydney in the 1960s and 70s, became interested in Aboriginal history and archaeology, and studied anthropology and Pacific history at the Australian National University. I researched indigenous political systems and colonial histories in the Marquesas Islands for a PhD that I finished in 1986, and then explored contemporary culture and politics in Fiji, on the basis of a period of fieldwork in the interior of the main island of Viti Levu, conducted shortly after the first two military coups, which took place in 1987.

Over the same period I became increasingly interested not only in the classic topics of gift and exchange, but also in theories of material culture and the art of Oceania. While continuing to work on the politics of culture in the present, I had also become fascinated with early cultural contacts, and particularly the very rich range of encounters that took place during Captain Cook's second voyage of 1772-75. These interested were reflected in several books - Entangled Objects (1991), Colonialism's Culture (1994), and Oceanic Art (1995).
I also became interested in critically reflecting on early colonial texts, and began interpreting and editing various works for scholarly republication, beginning with Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World (originally 1776), the great synthetic work by the senior naturalist on Cook's second voyage, Johann Reinhold Forster. This was, like many other projects, cross-disciplinary and collaborative, a joint effort with Harriet Guest (now in English at York), and Michael Dettelbach, a historian of science now based at Boston University.

In the mid to late 1990s I researched art in Australia and New Zealand, and began collaborating with the New Zealand photographer Mark Adams and the Niuean artist John Pule. With Iain McCalman, David MacDougall and others, I established the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at the Australian National University in 1996, and helped initiate a range of projects there in history, art history and visual anthropology. In 1999 I moved to Goldsmiths College in London, and remained there until becoming director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 2006. Over this period, I became worked on various historical and art-related projects in museum collections, and as curated a number of exhibitions for museums and art institutions in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

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