Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thomas Moynihan - conscientious objector, Wanganui Detention Barracks 1918

AD1 Box 738/ 10/566 Part 2, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office
Originally on Flickr. On 21 September 1918, Magistrate J.G.Hewitt released the report of his Magisterial Inquiry into the treatment of conscientious objectors imprisoned at Wanganui Detention Barracks. Believing strict discipline would 'reform' those who objected to military service on socialist or religious grounds, the detention barracks were set up in March 1918. Less than two months later, however, 'NZ Truth' published allegations of mistreatment by guards and the camp's commandant, Lieutenant J.L.Crampton.

As the authority on conscription, Paul Baker, notes, "Prisoners who would not wear the uniform were forcibly dressed… [and] pushed, pulled, kicked, and punched around what Crampton called the 'slaughter yard.' Some were pulled with a rope round the neck, and repeatedly pushed into walls until their faces resembled 'raw steak'.

Concerned about the allegations, Defence Minister James Allen launched a Magisterial enquiry in June. The enquiry collected large amounts of statements from objectors and guards, and found the allegations in the main to be true. "Although it was too carefully administered to leave much evidence" notes Baker, "Hewitt concluded that 'severe punishment' had been used." Yet due the hysteria of the day, in some quarters Crampton's actions were celebrated. The Egmont County Council congratulated him on methods 'no Britisher would object to." Encouraged, Crampton demanded a military court martial, and with the RSA as his council, he was found not guilty of 11 charges of ill-treatment.

Archives New Zealand holds the evidence collected by the Magisterial Inquiry, including full statements, drawings of the location of blood stains, and remarkably, these two photographs of Wanganui inmate and Irish-born objector, Thomas Moynihan, undergoing punishment. Moynihan had refused to drill, so according to his statement, he was stripped, beaten, forcibly put in uniform, and taken to the 'slaughter yard'. A rifle was then tied to his wrist, but as Moynihan refused to hold it, the gun kept slipping down. Guards allegedly smashed it several times against the side of his face "till the blood was streaming down." It was finally attached to his shoulder, and he was pushed, punched and forced around the yard for close to an hour, only stopping to have these photographs taken. In them you can see the string around his wrist, the wall inmates were allegedly pushed into, and shading on the concrete pavement that could possibly be blood. Despite his treatment, Moynihan still refused to co-operate, and apparently had no further trouble from the camp guards after this incident.

Archives Reference: AD1 Box 738/ 10/566 Part 2

One account of the court martial of Crampton can be found at

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kropotkin’s ideas and the international anarchist movement in the 1920s and 1930s - Vadim Damier

industrialism or rural utopia

From After the bitter experience of World War I and the Russian Revolution, the global anarchist movement had to rethink its approach to revolutionary change. The application of science and technology to warfare, the "rationalization" of production, the rise of fascism, etc., created conditions not envisaged in Kropotkin's anarchist communist teachings, which were subjected to a thoroughgoing revision. But Kropotkin also had his defenders, who not only insisted on the relevance of his ideas, but also extended his critique of industrial society. Using a wide variety of sources, Vadim Damier examines these debates, which found their culmination in the CNT's 1936 resolution on libertarian communism.

Attachment (PDF)
The Ideas of Kropotkin and the International Anarchist Movement in the 1920s and 1930s.pdf

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Forced dressing of First World War Conscientious Objectors into uniform

AD1 10/407/3, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office
This image from Archives New Zealand shows the moment when some of the 14 conscientious objectors aboard the troopship Waitemata were taken up on deck to have their hair cut, and forced into uniforms. In July 1917 the objectors, including Mark Briggs and Archibald Baxter, had been smuggled out of Terrace Gaol in Wellington under secrecy, placed into a bare 22- by 10-foot (6.7- by 3-metre) cabin, and shipped to the Western Front. Briggs, a socialist, resisted the cutting of his hair and had to be dragged ‘his heels rattling and bumping on the stairs first going up, then coming down.’ He managed to jerk his head around to resist the hair-cutting, so his cropped hair became covered with red marks from his own blood.

More about Briggs and the 14 can be found at

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Towards an anti-colonial anarchism - Vanessa Morgan

Reposted from Despite some of the difficult language this is a nice wee post.
Unnamed anarchist from Europe [interviewer]: Particularly in Canada, the term “First Nations” is frequently used to describe Indigenous societies. This tends to confuse radical Europeans who consider all references to “nations” as necessarily conservative. Can you shed some light on the Indigenous usage of the term?

Taiaike Alfred from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawá:ke [interviewee]: Europeans should not transpose their experience with nationhood on others. I myself do not think the term accurately describes our people – only our own languages and words can do that – but it is useful in a sense; it conveys an equality of status in theory between our societies and that of the colonizer. And it reiterates the fact of our prior occupancy of this continent (Alfred, 2010).
The languages that we speak build walls. The English language, for instance, is noun-based, territorial and possessive by nature. Behind this language, however, is a distinct way of relating – one that is exemplified by the interview excerpt above. Sharing a language does not imply consensus or commonality. In this case, although Taiake Alfred does not agree in full with the term ‘First Nations’, he does differentiate First Nation and Indigenous Nationhood from European, Westphalia conceptions of nation-state. He dually describes why, from his perspective as a member of the Mohawk Nation from Kahnawá:ke, this terminology resists Eurocentric impositions of governance but also responds to colonial power-imbalances. Social movements, especially in North America, often fall carelessly into colonial traps of Eurocentric thought and colonial universalism, as exampled above[1]. On the surface, though, it is clear why anarchist movements and anarchic theory may be attracted to anti-colonial struggles.

Opposition to the state and to capitalism, to domination and to oppression, are at the core of anarchist and autonomous movements; they are also at the core of anti-colonial struggles that see the state, and by mutual extension the capitalist system, as de-legitimate institutions of authority that ‘Other’ and colonize by way of white supremacist notions of cultural hegemony (see Fanon, 1967; Smith, 2006). Anarchist movements, however, often fail to account for the multiple layers of power that are at play, both contemporarily and historically. As Barker (2012) critically contends, many of the Occupy sites, for example, recolonized by uncritically occupying already occupied lands. The settler privilege of autonomous organizers within these movements upheld hegemonic/colonial territoriality. Romanticized for stewardship and place-based relations to land, Indigenous peoples have even been idolized as the ‘original’ anarchist societies (Barker & Pickerill, 2012). Indigenous Nationhood Movements actively seek to rebuild nation-to-nation relations with settlers by re-empowering Indigenous self-determination and traditional governments (Indigenous Nationhood Movement, 2015). Nation-to-nation, though, cannot be taken in its settler colonial form; indeed, this assumption concerning a homogenous form of government was, and is, at the core of colonialism: “modern government…the European believed, was based upon principles true in every country. Its strengths lay in its universalism” (Mitchell, 2002: 54). Respecting Indigenous Nationhood as a culturally, politically, and spiritually distinct movement propelled by and for Indigenous peoples is integral. Reasons for and tactics in support of these movements may vary, however they inevitably overlap in many offensives with anarchist anti-authoritarian agendas.

With Eurocentric understandings of an anti-colonial anarchism at the core of many activist oriented renditions of such thinking, activists and scholars alike have heeded words of advice to those amidst struggles against colonial forces in settler colonial contexts. As stated by Harsha Walia in discussing autonomy and cross-cultural, colonial-based struggle:

“Non-natives must recognize our own role in perpetuating colonialism within our solidarity efforts. We can actively counter this by… discussing the nuanced issues of solidarity, leadership, strategy and analysis – not in abstraction, but within our real and informed and sustained relationships with Indigenous peoples.” (2012)

By respecting difference, even spatializing autonomy, settler peoples would do well to not transplant – to settle – their perceptions of autonomy, of solidarity, of leadership, and of strategy onto Indigenous movements. Alternatively in settler colonial contexts, anarchist struggles against colonial authority, and thus capitalistic systems, invariably require respectful engagement with Indigenous movements. This is integral if re-colonizing tendencies of anarchist movements–oftentimes primarily driven by European settlers–are to be prevented. Anarchist actors, especially when operating in settler colonial spaces, must understand the nuances of place specific histories and colonial processes. As Lasky suggests, there is “potential for directly relating to each other and changing our relationships with each other in ways that withdraw consent from ‘the system’ and re-creates alternatives that empower our collective personhoods now” (2011: np). As Alfred mentions however, Eurocentric tendencies have oftentimes perpetuated colonial relations of power. As a result, the very structures of oppression that anarchic thought starkly opposes, but also stemmed from, creep into relational geographies.

By , Intercontinental Cry 

Alfred, T. (2010). Interview with Gerald Taiaiake Alfred about Anarchism and Indigenism in North America. Retrieved from
Barker, A. (2012). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3-4), 327–334. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.708922
Barker, A. J., & Pickerill, J. (2012). Radicalizing Relationships To and Through Shared Geographies: Why Anarchists Need to Understand Indigenous Connections to Land and Place. Antipode, 44(5), 1705–1725. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.01031.x
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove Press.
Indigenous Nationhood Movement. (2015). About. Retrieved from
Lewis, A. (2012). Decolonizing anarchism: Expanding Anarcha-Indigenism in theory and practice (Masters thesis). Queen’s University, Kingston, ON. Retrieved from
Mitchell, T. (2002). Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, modernity. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
Smith, A. (2006). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy. In Incite! (Ed.), The colour of violence: The INCITE! anthology (pp. 66–73). Cambridge, UK: South End Press.
Walia, H. (2012). Decolonizing together: Moving beyond a politics of solidarity toward a practice of decolonization. Briar Patch, January/February. Retrieved from
[1] Adam (Lewis, 2012) explores this topic in depth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Out of sight, out of mind? Non-user understandings of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand

Here is my research paper on non-user understandings of archives, submitted to the School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Information Studies (February 2014). Enjoy!

Download the paper:
Research problem: Despite a significant amount of research on archival users, only a small number of studies have focused solely on the non-user. This study investigated non-user understandings of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand to learn about their awareness of archives, perceptions of accessibility and use, and views on an archives’ purpose and societal role. This included whether non-users valued archives and what this said about the democratic archival contract.

Methodology: A qualitative research design influenced by critical theory was employed. Eight non-user samples of individuals over the age of 18 were purposively selected within the population of Aotearoa New Zealand, covering variables of geographical location, socio-economic status, education, gender, age, and ethnicity. Three activist samples were also included. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and analysed thematically.

Results: While their image of an archive was generally accurate and positive, participants had little knowledge of how they were organised. Archives were highly valued and viewed as accessible places for those who needed it, but with clear differences to other institutions. These differences prevented half of the sample with a need to use an archive from doing so. The archival contract was generally accepted, but was problematized in terms of access and cultural bias.

Implications: The findings support the view that understandings of archives greatly influence use. Although limited to a small and geographically specific sample, this study enables archives to know more about potential users, and design, target and implement outreach in order to raise awareness and increase use.

Keywords: Archives - Non-users - User Studies - Outreach - Awareness - Power

User studies in archival research have become a major topic over the last six decades (Chowdhury & Chowdhury, 2011, p.25). Despite one definition of user studies as ‘investigations of the use and users (including non-users and potential users and users) of documents, information, communication channels, information systems and information services’ (Hjorland, 2000), only a small number of studies have focused solely on the non-user. As a result, there is a distinct lack of information and research-based studies on archival non-users, including in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is simply not known how non-users perceive the accessibility and purpose of the country’s numerous archives.

The same can be said of the relationship between non-use and the often-cited societal outcomes of formal archives. How effective are objectives such as ‘efficient and effective government’, ‘trusted and accountable government’, and ‘nationhood and social cohesion’ (Archives New Zealand, 2010) if the archive is not used, or even valued? Such questions also problematise the democratic archival contract: the assumed ‘agreement between archivists and society’ (Hamilton, Harris & Reid, 2002, p.16). Is this agreement reciprocal?

‘If we accept the premise that archives play a public role in modern society,’ note Blais & Enns, ‘we must consider the perceptions people have of archives’ (1990, p.104). This study focuses on the non-user of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand, in order to contribute to the present knowledge gap around archival non-users and their understandings of archives.