Six centuries ago Polynesian explorers, who inhabited a cosmos in which islands sailed across the sea and stars across the sky, arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand where they rapidly adapted to new plants, animals, landscapes and climatic conditions. Four centuries later, European explorers arrived with maps and clocks, grids and fences, and they too adapted to a new island home. In this remote, beautiful archipelago, settlers from Polynesia and Europe (and elsewhere) have clashed and forged alliances, they have fiercely debated what is real and what is common sense, what is good and what is right.
In this, her most ambitious book to date, Dame Anne Salmond looks at New Zealand as a site of cosmo-diversity, a place where multiple worlds engage and collide. Beginning with a fine-grained inquiry into the early period of encounters between Māori and Europeans in New Zealand (1769–1840), Salmond then investigates such clashes and exchanges in key areas of contemporary life – waterways, land, the sea and people.
We live in a world of gridded maps, Outlook calendars and balance sheets – making it seem that this is the nature of reality itself. But in New Zealand, concepts of whakapapa and hau, complex networks and reciprocal exchange, may point to new ways of understanding interactions between peoples, and between people and the natural world. Like our ancestors, Anne Salmond suggests, we too may have a chance to experiment across worlds.