Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body by Michelle Keown

By Michelle Keown

This significant new interdisciplinary research specializes in the illustration of the physique within the paintings of 8 of Polynesia's most vital modern writers. Drawing on anthropology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, heritage and drugs, Postcolonial Pacific Writing develops an cutting edge postcolonial framework particular to the literatures and cultures of this area.

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The protagonist interprets the man’s behaviour as a manifestation of a white inferiority complex about penis size: It was all so familiar. . The type of New Zealand man he’d always disliked, attempting to prove his masculinity in public; the rugby player and surfie who, suffering from fear of his own inadequacies as a male, believed the racist myth of black virility. . The whole history of the Pakeha had been cursed with this fear, and the Maoris and other minority groups had to pay for it. All pakeha women who went out with Polynesians and blacks were considered nymphomaniacs after the super-sized whang.

The process of tattooing itself ‘narrativizes’ the body by inscribing it with a culturally specific graphic code, documenting the tattooed individual’s commitment to his or her culture. In addition, as Albert Wendt has pointed out, the survival and perpetuation of traditional tattooing practices in contemporary Oceania serve as a visual record of indigenous resistance to cultural imperialism, given that European missionaries across Polynesia attempted to eradicate the practice. As Wendt notes, the Samoan tattoo, the tatau, has survived ‘over a century’ of attempts to ‘erase it’ (1996: 23), while within New Zealand, the recent resurgence of the moko (Maori tattoo) represents one aspect of the cultural efflorescence which has developed out of the Maori Renaissance of the 1970s.

While Aeto’s bulimia serves a similar allegorical function, his denial is also a survival mechanism which links his situation with that of his Maori compatriots: like the Maori and the livestock cultivated on Maori land, he is being ‘fattened up’ for consumption by predatory Pakeha. Aeto’s narrative is an apt demonstration of the intersection of postmodernist and postcolonial codes in Wendt’s writing. The tale is flagrantly metafictional and ‘magic realist’ – ending with Aeto’s spectacular escape from his room, which has been transformed into a Hansel-andGretel-style oven – and yet it also serves as a pointed allegory of New Zealand race relations since the early colonial period.

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