Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context: New Caledonia, 1917
272pp. May 2012
Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context: New Caledonia, 1917
Author: Muckle, Adrian;
During 1917–1918, war ravaged the hill country north of New Caledonia’s main island, the Grande terre. Occurring sixty-four years after France’s 1853 annexation of New Caledonia and in the midst of the Great War of 1914–1918, the conflict was known by the mid-twentieth century as “the last of the kanak revolts.” It represented to many—until the “events” of the 1980s—the final pacification of Kanak (the indigenous people of New Caledonia).

Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context is the first comprehensive history of the 1917–1918 war, which involved the French army, European settlers, and Kanak. In three parts, it addresses the events leading to the outbreak of war, how those involved explained their role in the fighting, and how the war has since been represented. It explores the dynamics of fear, violence, and warfare in a colonial setting that was both European and Melanesian in character. In the face of a colonial historiography and memory that has downplayed consistently the war’s significance, this history ultimately reevaluates the causes and scale of the war while explaining the local contexts in which decisions were taken by the various protagonists. The author draws on a rich and largely unexploited colonial archive that includes administrative dossiers detailing the repression, the correspondence of missionaries and indigenous Protestant teachers living in the region, the records of the judicial investigation that followed the war, and the reports on the post-war trial of seventy-eight “rebels.”

Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context will be warmly received by researchers and students of Pacific history and anthropology. Its broader audience will include those interested in the reverberations of World War I in the colonies and the nature of colonial/colonized interaction.

10 illus.
"Muckle's superb research into both written documents (including trial testimonies) and oral traditions (as well as interviews with descendants) patiently presents richly detailed contexts and follows with analysis of how inhabitants readjusted their agendas and power relations afterwards, including competing local memories over time of the significance of '1917.' He deploys insights from Michel Foucault and Ann Laura Stoler among others, as well as a solid familiarity with writings in French and English about New Caledonia. His study, based on his dissertation, reads at times like a detective novel, whose main characters are traceable in the index." —Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History (14:2, Summer 2013)
Author: Muckle, Adrian;
Adrian Muckle lectures in Pacific history at Victoria University of Wellington. He is a member of the Research Group on New Caledonia and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Pacific History.
Read the Introduction (PDF).
A Note on Names, Toponyms, and Translations 

Introduction: Violence, Power, and Representation  

Part I Specters of Violence 
1 Settler Specters of Kanak Revolt 
2 Specters of Colonial Violence 

Part II The War at Koné, Tipindjé, and Hienghène 
3 The War 
4 Of Allies and Enemies 
5 Containing and Mobilizing Colonial Violence 
6 End and Aftermath—Reshaping Power Relations 

Part III The Making of “1917” 
7 The Administrative and Judicial Framing of “1917” 
8 “The Last of the Kanak Revolts”?