Writing the Colony: Walter Edward Gudgeon in the Cook Islands, 1898-1909
Recent decades have witnessed a number of challenges from a variety of perspectives to long-standing depictions of the processes and relationships of colonisation. In particular, questions have been raised about its supposedly binary nature, the internal coherence of the elements of coloniser and colonised, and the stability of both its institutions and its ideology. Framed as an exercise in an interdisciplinary Pacific Studies, this thesis draws on those perspectives to provide insights into one particular colonial experience and to examine the extent to which they are borne out by the representations appearing in the writings of a New Zealand colonial administrator, Walter Edward Gudgeon, in the Cook Islands. To that end I have assembled a text comprising his major personal and official documents; provided some background on Gudgeon himself, the intellectual currents of the time, and the Cook Islands; represented as accurately as I could the representations appearing in his writing; read that writing as far as possible in terms of the text itself; and arrived at a number of conclusions from that reading. I have also considered the contribution such a text-based approach may offer to a Pacific Studies which aspires to be interdisciplinary. I conclude that my reading of the text supports the more recent perspectives on the colonial project by revealing in Gudgeon a number of contradictions, ambiguities, anxieties, uncertainties, and fears that do not appear in existing accounts of the Cook Islands colonial experience and justify a re-examination of that whole experience. Finally, I suggest that the validity of my approach is supported by those results and that such approaches provide one vehicle for the pursuit of an interdisciplinary Pacific Studies.