Author defends Maori cannibalism book after complaint of racism

Historians in the News

The author of a book on cannibalism in Maori history is disappointed a racism complaint has been made about it to the Human Rights Commission.

Historian Paul Moon is defending his book This Horrid Practice and stands by his research.

"I spent several years researching this book, using an enormous body of documentation, and I'm not about to denounce it just because it upsets a few people," he told the New Zealand Herald.

An anonymous complaint said the book "describes the whole of Maori society as violent and dangerous. This is a clearly racist view claiming a whole ethnic group has these traits".

The commission has taken no action on the complaint yet but a spokesperson told the paper any mediation would occur in confidence and the complainant's name would not be released.

The book suggests that consuming vanquished enemies' mana had little to do with the underlying reason for Maori cannibalism. Instead cannibalism, in pre-colonial times, was simply about "rage and humiliation".

Dr Moon said he approached the topic "honestly" and applied standard methods of research to it.

"I think it's just very sad that it's come to this stage that when you write about certain topics in New Zealand history you get complaints and accusations of racism levelled at you."
Read entire article at Otago Daily Times (NZ)

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