Ballantyne, Tony, Lachy Paterson, and Angela Wanhalla, eds. Indigenous Textual Cultures: Reading and Writing in the Age of Global Empire. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2020. Paperback, 368 p. $28.95 (978-1-4780-1081-4); cloth, $104.95 (978-1-4780-0976-4).

Julie K. Tanaka


Indigenous Textual Cultures is a cohesive, well-edited collection of twelve articles written by an international community of experts in indigenous cultures and colonialism. Its geographic scope includes indigenous cultures from Australasia, North America, and the Pacific and is further enhanced with the inclusion of Africa, which has not received the same attention as recent work on indigenous studies in these other areas. The editors, Tony Ballantyne, Lachy Paterson, and Angela Wanhalla, all three respected scholars of the Māori and colonialism, bring together work that emerged from the symposium “Indigenous Textual Cultures”, held at the University of Otago in June 2014, and supplement the volume’s scope with three additional chapters. Together, the authors challenge existing assumptions that indigenous cultures are marked by primitiveness, cling to orality, and do not have the ability to change. They employ a broad range of archival sources in their original indigenous languages that include epic poems, newspapers, letters, and even oral history interviews to challenge and refute western assumptions and show that indigenous peoples did adapt and innovate, combining aspects of their oral traditions with written literary practices as a powerful tool against colonial rule. These scholars bring a fresh approach that focuses on using original-language indigenous sources and interpreting this array of materials within their proper cultural contexts.

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