Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes, by Michael Jackson
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Internationally-acclaimed anthropologist and poet Michael Jackson hires a car and travels the length of his natal New Zealand, reflecting on the idea of origins. Visiting old haunts and old friends, he ponders the hold our histories have over us, and the enduring power of our first experiences in life.
Walking a deserted beach or chatting in a warm kitchen, Jackson is led to reflect on the ways we tell our life stories, write our national histories, assign value, allocate blame, and determine cause. His recurring theme is the tension between the forces that shape us and our freedom to take our destiny into our own hands.
Jackson addresses Māori invoking toi whenua in their claims for recognition and social justice; the search of adopted children for their birth parents; the notion of childhood as ‘the formative years’; and our preoccupation with genealogical, geographical or genetic backgrounds. Skillfully blending ethnography, history, philosophy, literature and personal reflection, he asks what it means to call a place or a time one’s own.
“Although our lives may not transcend our origins, we seem to need to believe that this is possible, as in the myth of Maui who sought to return to the womb and be born again.”