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Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context

Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context: New Caledonia, 1917

Adrian Muckle
Copyright Date: 2012
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    Specters of Violence in a Colonial Context
    Book Description:

    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 Contextis 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 Contextwill 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6583-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Violence, Power, and Representation
    (pp. 1-16)

    THAT A HISTORY of “1917” is still long overdue is in part due to the shadow cast by the Great War and New Caledonia’s contributions to France’s war effort. The small antipodean colony, with a population of just over fifty thousand, sent overseas some 948 Kanak volunteers and as many as 756 French citizens. One-third of these men—382 Kanak and 193 French—would never return.² Today, in a country where the majority of the resident population still wishesto remain a part of France, it is little surprise that New Caledonia’s participation in the Great War—a symbol of the...

  7. Part I Specters of Violence

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      On 5 April 1917 some thirty men set out on foot from Pwanaki, a tiny settlement in the Goyeta-Pana reserve, overlooking the Koné valley. The group bore the trappings of a war party: the men had grown beards, their faces were blackened with bancoul nut, and they carried spears, clubs, slings, and possibly some rifles. Their intentions, however, belied their bellicose appearance. Later that afternoon, when halted at gunpoint outside the gendarmerie compound on the northern approach to Koné village, they told thechef de brigadeandsyndicof native affairs, Auguste-Albert Faure, that they had come to purchase supplies...

    • 1 Settler Specters of Kanak Revolt
      (pp. 21-35)

      SETTLER FEARS ABOUT the possibility of Kanak revolt were related to mobilization for the war in Europe, the legacy of earlier frontier violence, and the words and actions of Kanak. Mobilization modulated or regulated expressions of fear, as did censorship and lack of knowledge about Kanak. In this chapter I begin by examining how settler talk of the possibility of revolt re-emerged in 1915 and 1917 in the context of European mobilization and the recruitment of Kanak volunteers. I then consider the administration’s ineffectual attempt to silence or dismiss such talk. Finally, the consequences of its failure to contain rumors...

    • 2 Specters of Colonial Violence
      (pp. 36-58)

      THE WARRIORS WHO appeared outside Koné on 5 April said they had been threatened by men from Koniambo during the recruitment of volunteers for the war in Europe. In this chapter I argue that wartime demands heightened Kanak fears about the potential for violence by settlers, administrators, or their agents. Administrators saw the successful recruitment of Kanak as a means of minimizing European departures and demonstrating their zeal, but recruitment through the hierarchy of administrative chiefs intensified abusive practices commonplace in labor recruitment and the enforcement of other regulations. With particular reference to the Koné and Poindah districts, I show...

  8. Part II The War at Koné, Tipindjé, and Hienghène

    • 3 The War
      (pp. 61-88)

      THE WAR THAT unfolded after the skirmish at Tiamou had three distinct theaters. From late April until early June, the Koné and Pouembout valleys saw the initial mobilization of “rebel” warriors, the deployment of the French army, and the first major actions. From June to October, the center of attention was the Tipindjé valley, including the settlements of Oué-Hava and Ouen-Kout, as well as its principal tributary, the Pamalé. Finally, from November 1917 to February 1918, the focus shifted to the Hienghène valley and its tributaries, notably the valley of Tiendanite. The conflict described in this chapter is not, therefore,...

    • 4 Of Allies and Enemies
      (pp. 89-110)

      FOURCADE’S ADMISSION TO the Conseil général was indicative of a broader predicament the authorities had faced throughout the conflict: while contingency plans presumed that enemytribuscould be distinguished from friendlytribusand that effective action could therefore be taken, the authorities had difficulty in telling the two apart. As Leenhardt observed, they were “working in the unknown.”² Yet maintaining this distinction was critical to the administration’s attempts to re-establish power relations. Fear of widening the conflict by treating alltribusas hostile regulated the use of violence and at times created tension between the administration and advocates of a...

    • 5 Containing and Mobilizing Colonial Violence
      (pp. 111-127)

      AS IN THE study of many wars, official rhetoric about the contained, limited, and discriminate use of violent force against clearly identified enemies must be set against the ample evidence of often indiscriminate violence. In this chapter I examine the violence of the repression, rather than “rebel” violence, with reference to the tensions and debates surrounding the use of violence by soldiers, settlers, and Kanak auxiliaries. Recourse to violence raised awkward issues: against whom should it be used, when should it be withheld, and what would be the future consequences? Such questions are especially relevant to the discussion of the...

    • 6 End and Aftermath—Reshaping Power Relations
      (pp. 128-146)

      IN THE FINAL phase of the repression Kanak negotiated their submission, bringing the administration’s campaign to restore power relations full circle from its first attempts to command Noël’s submission at Tiamou. In this chapter I examine the politics of seeking and providing refuge, and the strategies and agendas of Kanak, settlers, and missionaries. The importance of acquiring authority over as many people as possible was evident in the competition between the chiefs who received refugees or captives and in the denunciations and counterdenunciations that prolonged the war. The missions—caught up in an analogous logic of recuperation, protection, or evangelization...

  9. Part III The Making of “1917”

    • 7 The Administrative and Judicial Framing of “1917”
      (pp. 149-166)

      AT THE WAR’S END, a review by the colonial inspectorate, a judicial investigation, and a criminal trial provided three arenas in which the actions of those involved in the war were judged.¹ The ensuing debates and the tensions structuring them—between the administration and its critics, between the Protestant and Catholic missions, and between Kanak who had joined the war and those who had not—had a lasting impact on public understandings of the war and its causes. By examining the findings of the judicial investigation and the arguments presented during the trial, this chapter identifies some of the parameters...

    • 8 “The last of the kanak revolts”?
      (pp. 167-192)

      BY THE 1940s, the war of 1917–1918 was known as “the last of the kanak revolts,” and in the 1980s it acquired a new significance in light of the violent conflicts between supporters and opponents of independence. As well as providing a critical review of the designation and explanation of this war in subsequent literature, this chapter considers the ways in which the conflict has been remembered by the descendants of those who fought on opposing sides. It explores, on the one hand, the factors contributing to the silence about the war and its impact. On the other hand,...

    (pp. 193-196)

    In this study I set out to provide an integrated account of “1917” and to describe what happened before, during, and immediately afterwards. I have done so, in part, by examining how those involved explained the events they took part in or witnessed and how the war has since been represented. The study ultimately re-evaluates the causes of the war while underlining the local context in which decisions were taken by the different protagonists—Kanak and European. It shows how the war can be understood in different ways: as a war between Kanak inhabitants of the Koné-Hienghène region and the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 197-226)
    (pp. 227-240)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 241-256)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-259)