Sunday, March 6, 2011

Subjective history

For a non-academic like me, subjective history is difficult to accept, I often miss the clues which should get me thinking more deeply.

One dictionary describes the meaning of the word subjective as; based on somebody's opinions or feelings rather than on facts or evidence.

There has been a move happening for some time to present Maori history in a better light. The wholesome clean, green, New Zealand image it seems, needs this enhancement and Maori, who are nearly always at the bottom of every statistic, have a need to enjoy their heritage more. For a bit more on that, you can read Ranginui Walker's changes at the Auckland War Memorial Museum over the past ten years.

Recently, I was challenged over the presentation of some of my own (non-academic) family history work which I've presented on the Internet for all to see. This was done is a very nice way and I do appreciate that anyone cares enough to try and correct it. The problem was about a conclusion I'd made based on the evidence presented. A common enough problem. I was surprised however, by the reason for the requested change - that a group were attempting to change the whole public perception of a person's life using a bit of judicious censorship. Of course, it can easily be done but should it be?  Jury is out on this one.

Paul Moon's book, "The Horrid Practice", is a good example as well. Not the book itself, but the reaction to it by a group of academics. I'm reading this at the moment and am about half way through. It is an easier read than I expected and no nodding off passages so far. But it is controversial in that cannibalism was so badly thought of by the colonial people who first arrived that it seemed Maori were demonised for it for years and the subject got dropped from public view after a time.  Paul has been attacked for bringing it back into focus explaining that yes, it was a part of Maori culture so why ignore it.

Many of you will have your own views on whether or not, history needs censorship. Whether its just forgetting to add that person's death information to your tree because of the nature of the death, or welcoming a revisionist slant on the history of a whole nation.

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