The construction of Maori, Melanesian and Aboriginal peoples in the writings of Jean Devanny : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University
Historical constructions of racial otherness have legacies which endure to the present. The analysis of the discursive practices of the past helps to understand the present tenacious investment in notions of racial difference. This thesis examines the construction of Maori, Melanesian and Aboriginal peoples in the writings of Jean Devanny. Western texts which are informed by the [impossible] need to become indigenous, attempt to incorporate the indigenous character as an "other-within". Where no conflict regarding indigenisation exists, such tension is minimised and the indigene remains a more distant other. In Devanny's New Zealand novels, the attempt to incorporate Maori as "one of us" is subverted by essentialist constructions which assign to them a fixed, irreducible otherness. In the Australian text, racial difference is acknowledged and deployed to challenge the prejudice which such difference generates. Additionally, this text offers an exploration of the colonial processes which assign a group identity on the basis of racial difference.