5-1 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.periph.5-1.5 | Carter PDF

I pro­vide empir­i­cal evi­dence from a lon­gi­tu­di­nal cross-cul­tur­al read­er recep­tion sur­vey show­ing that cul­tur­al out­sider (French) and insid­er (New Zealand) read­ers are dif­fer­ent­ly influ­enced by the geo­graph­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed ele­ments in Utu (French 2004, Eng­lish trans­la­tion 2011), a crime nov­el set in con­tem­po­rary New Zealand by French writer Caryl Férey. After read­ing the nov­el, both cul­tur­al out­sider and insid­er read­ers changed their opin­ions towards the image por­trayed by Férey, even when his cul­tur­al claims were incor­rect. Fur­ther­more, for French read­ers, this influ­ence extend­ed beyond Utu’s final page to opin­ions about New Zealand and its inhabitants.

Cet arti­cle veut offrir la preuve empirique que les lecteurs provenant respec­tive­ment d’une cul­ture extérieure (France), et intérieure (Nou­velle-Zélande), sont influ­encés dif­férem­ment par les élé­ments géo­graphique­ment et cul­turelle­ment situés dans Utu (France 2004; tra­duc­tion anglaise 2011), un roman polici­er de l’auteur français Caryl Férey se déroulant dans la Nou­velle-Zélande d’aujourd’hui. L’étude s’appuie sur une enquête lon­gi­tu­di­nale inter­cul­turelle de la récep­tion au sein du lec­torat. Après lec­ture du roman, les lecteurs cul­turelle­ment externes et internes ont cha­cun changé leur opin­ion quant à l’image véhiculée par Férey, même lorsque ses représen­ta­tions cul­turelles s’avèrent incor­rectes. Qui plus est, aux yeux des lecteurs français, cette influ­ence s’étend au-delà du roman lui-même, et sem­ble se porter sur la Nou­velle-Zélande elle-même, avec ses habitants.

Ellen Carter | Uni­ver­si­ty of Auckland

Imagining Place:
An Empirical Study of How Cultural Outsiders and Insiders Receive Fictional Representations of Place in Caryl Férey’s Utu

French crime writer Caryl Férey (b. 1967) spent only five months in New Zealand before pub­lish­ing a nov­el set there: Utu (2004, Eng­lish trans­la­tion 2011), in which Pake­ha (New Zealan­der of Euro­pean ori­gin) police­man Paul Osborne inves­ti­gates a can­ni­bal­is­tic Māori sep­a­ratist sect. He dis­cov­ers that his half-Māori child­hood sweet­heart has joined the sep­a­ratists but that the real crim­i­nals are cor­rupt Pake­ha politi­cians and busi­ness­men who are dyna­mit­ing an ancient Māori vil­lage site to make way for a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar beach resort and who try to throw Osborne off their scent by fram­ing him for the rape and mur­der of a high-pro­file, mixed-race model.

My study applies social sci­ence approach­es to human­i­ties data in order to iden­ti­fy dif­fer­ences between the recep­tion of this cul­ture-spe­cif­ic text by cul­tur­al insid­ers (New Zealan­ders) and cul­tur­al out­siders (French read­ers). I am not inter­est­ed in whether read­ers give the ‘cor­rect’ answer to cul­tur­al ques­tions (if such a thing exists) but how and why the opin­ions they hold are, or are not, influ­enced by their read­ing of this nov­el. Utu is use­ful for cross-cul­tur­al read­er recep­tion because it embod­ies extremes: (1) Férey spent only months in New Zealand before pub­lish­ing Utu; (2) France and New Zealand––united by rug­by but sep­a­rat­ed by nuclear testing––have few con­tem­po­rary or his­tor­i­cal touch points in com­mon thus their dis­tance, psy­cho­log­i­cal and geo­graph­i­cal, makes dif­fer­ence eas­i­er to iden­ti­fy and then explain; (3) Māori have a dis­tinct and dis­tinc­tive cul­ture with a glob­al­ly recog­nised iconog­ra­phy; and (4) Utu was trans­lat­ed by an Eng­lish­man for an Amer­i­can pub­lish­ing house. While it can be dan­ger­ous to extrap­o­late from extremes––risking Manichean gen­er­al­i­sa­tions that deny an issue’s fine structure––they do help to make dif­fer­ence visible.

Cross-cul­tur­al empir­i­cal recep­tion stud­ies loom largest in film and tele­vi­sion stud­ies (for exam­ple, Bark­er and Math­i­js; Crofts). Equiv­a­lent tex­tu­al stud­ies are less com­mon, per­haps due to “the anti-empir­i­cal cli­mate of the Anglo-Amer­i­can lit­er­ary acad­e­my at large” (Richard­son 11). How­ev­er, there are excep­tions, such as Car­roll et al.’s study of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry British nov­els, which sur­veyes “fac­ul­ty in Eng­lish depart­ments world-wide” (3) but does not report results by respon­dent loca­tion. Chil­dress and Friedkin’s empir­i­cal soci­o­log­i­cal study (55), while not cross-cul­tur­al, exam­ines lon­gi­tu­di­nal changes in read­ers’ atti­tudes to a nov­el before and after a book-club meet­ing to test the influ­ence of the dis­cus­sion process on recep­tion. Halász, Short, and Var­ga com­pare respons­es from Ger­man, British, and Hun­gar­i­an school stu­dents to three short texts but do not explore their respon­dents’ cul­tur­al insider/outsider posi­tions rel­a­tive to these texts. Thus my paper reports the first empir­i­cal, lon­gi­tu­di­nal, cross-cul­tur­al inves­ti­ga­tion of the influ­ence of a nov­el on its read­ers’ opinions.

1. Method

I start­ed with four hypothe­ses about the rela­tion­ship between a reader’s geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tur­al back­ground and their response to Utu, or how the place of read­ing influ­ences the read­ing of place:

Hypoth­e­sis 1.  That cul­tur­al-out­sider (French) read­ers are more influ­enced than cul­tur­al-insid­er (New Zealan­der) read­ers by Utu’s geo­graph­i­cal­ly- and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed ele­ments, such as polit­i­cal, anthro­po­log­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, and social depictions;

Hypoth­e­sis 2.  That cul­tur­al out­sider (French) read­ers are more influ­enced by depic­tions of cer­tain aspects of New Zealand and/or Māori cul­ture than by oth­er aspects;

Hypoth­e­sis 3.  That the per­ceived source of the geo­graph­i­cal­ly- and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed infor­ma­tion influ­ences read­ers’ recep­tion; and

Hypoth­e­sis 4.  That French read­ers change their atti­tudes to New Zealand and New Zealan­ders based on their read­ing of a nov­el set in that country.

To test these hypothe­ses, I devel­oped two sets of depen­dent vari­ables: (1) twen­ty-sev­en state­ments about New Zealand and Māori cul­ture (see Table 1), which I used with both the French and New Zealand par­tic­i­pants; and (2) eight atti­tude state­ments about New Zealand and New Zealan­ders (see Table 2), which I used only with French par­tic­i­pants. I asked par­tic­i­pants to indi­cate their lev­el of agree­ment with each state­ment on a sev­en-point Lik­ert-type rat­ing scale from 1 = ‘com­plete­ly dis­agree’ to 7 = ‘com­plete­ly agree.’

All twen­ty-sev­en state­ments in Table 1 appear in Utu, but this does not mean that this infor­ma­tion is nec­es­sar­i­ly accu­rate (for a dis­cus­sion of Utu’s cul­tur­al errors, see Carter and Walk­er-Mor­ri­son). Nine­teen state­ments are made by the nar­ra­to­r­i­al voice, one by a pro­tag­o­nist, Osborne, and sev­en by an antag­o­nist, Mel­rose. These last sev­en are inflam­ma­to­ry; I includ­ed them to test my third hypoth­e­sis about whether read­er response is affect­ed by the information’s per­ceived source.

Table 1: Twen­ty-sev­en state­ments about New Zealand and Māori cul­ture used as depen­dent vari­ables with both French and New Zealand participants

State­ment and page in French (2008) and Eng­lish (2011) edi­tions of Utu by Caryl Férey
S1 There are squir­rels in New Zealand (French 191; Eng­lish 160)
S2 Each Māori gang has its own dis­tin­guish­ing facial tat­too pat­tern (360; 299)
S3 South Auck­land streets are very dan­ger­ous at night (318; 264)
S4 Kohanga reo are Māori lan­guage sec­ondary schools  (49; 43)
S5 Any Māori can make a claim to the Wai­t­an­gi Tri­bunal (53; 47)
S6 Māori are worse off eco­nom­i­cal­ly than Pake­ha (54; 47)
S7 Nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Māori were can­ni­bals (160; 133)
S8 Unem­ploy­ment is high­er for Māori than Pake­ha (54; 47)
S9 In the 1980s, a Labour gov­ern­ment attacked the wel­fare state (72; 62)
S10 Pos­sums are a nation­al plague in New Zealand (112; 95)
S11 The British tricked Māori by inten­tion­al­ly mis­trans­lat­ing the Treaty of Wai­t­an­gi from Eng­lish into Māori (149; 125)
S12 When they signed the Treaty of Wai­t­an­gi, Māori thought they were only rent­ing land to the British (149; 125)
S13 Māori lands were con­fis­cat­ed to give to Pake­ha set­tlers (149; 125)
S14 Māori com­mit­ted more atroc­i­ties dur­ing the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Land Wars than did the British (159; 133)
S15 Māori exter­mi­nat­ed then ate all the Mori­ori (159; 133)
S16 Māori are war­riors, inca­pable of inte­grat­ing into con­tem­po­rary Pake­ha soci­ety (159; 133)
S17 Some nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Māori tribes allied them­selves with the British in order to wipe out neigh­bour­ing tribes (160; 133)
S18 Māori pre­fer to get drunk rather than work (160; 134)
S19 Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, Māori chil­dren are mal­nour­ished (160; 134)
S20 Some Māori are still can­ni­bals today (94; 80)
S21 In remote parts of New Zealand, peo­ple still trav­el on horse­back today (243; 202)
S22 Only a blood link can make some­one Māori (282; 235)
S23 Māori are pro­por­tion­al­ly over-rep­re­sent­ed in pris­ons (54; 48)
S24 A Māori’s facial tat­too indi­cates the wearer’s mer­it (363; 301)
S25 Māori wor­ship mul­ti­ple gods (396; 329)
S26 Nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Māori sold shrunk­en heads to sailors (421; 348)
S27 Māori are the indige­nous peo­ple of New Zealand

Of the eight atti­tu­di­nal state­ments (see Table 2), I adapt­ed five (A1, A2, A4, A5, A7) from George’s (812) South African study of vis­i­tor per­cep­tion of crime-safe­ty and atti­tudes to risk, and two (A6, A8) from a study inves­ti­gat­ing chang­ing atti­tudes and coun­try image (Auruske­vi­ciene et al. 55). I added A3 because ‘friend­li­ness’ is an attribute often men­tioned by over­seas vis­i­tors to New Zealand but it bare­ly fea­tures in Férey’s novel.

Table 2: Eight atti­tu­di­nal state­ments about New Zealand and New Zealan­ders used as depen­dent vari­ables only with French participants

Atti­tu­di­nal statement
A1 J’ai l’intention de vis­iter la NZ au cours des trois prochaines années.
A2 En NZ, les vis­i­teurs se sen­tent en sécurité.
A3 Les néo-zélandais sont amicaux.
A4 En NZ, je pour­rais être vic­time d’un crime.
A5 On m’a dit que la NZ est un pays dangereux.
A6 Les néo-zélandais sont dignes de confiance.
A7 Je con­seillerais aux amis de faire atten­tion à la crim­i­nal­ité en NZ.
A8 Les néo-zélandais sont sympathiques.

Since I was inter­est­ed in if and how par­tic­i­pants’ opin­ions were changed by read­ing Utu, I used a repeat­ed mea­sures design. I gave pre-read­ing ques­tion­naires and num­bered copies of Utu in French to 119 stu­dents enrolled in Eng­lish cours­es at Uni­ver­sité Paris-Sor­bonne, as well as pre-read­ing ques­tion­naires and num­bered copies of Utu’s Eng­lish trans­la­tion to 114 stu­dents enrolled in French or Māori Stud­ies cours­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Auck­land, New Zealand. As well as demo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion, these pre-read­ing sur­veys asked for par­tic­i­pants’ opin­ions about twen­ty-sev­en state­ments (see Table 1) on con­tem­po­rary New Zealand and/or Māori cul­ture and soci­ety. Par­tic­i­pants were invit­ed to read the nov­el then com­plete an on-line post-read­ing ques­tion­naire that asked for their opin­ions about the same twen­ty-sev­en state­ments, pre­sent­ed in a ran­dom order. They also had to report their novel’s num­ber so I could match pre- and post-read­ing respons­es. I received twen­ty-six (21.8%) post-read­ing respons­es from French and twen­ty-four (21.1%) from New Zealand par­tic­i­pants.[1]

My research design is qua­si-exper­i­men­tal (Black 69-70), using pre- and post-test obser­va­tions but with a non-equiv­a­lent con­trol group, i.e. New Zealand par­tic­i­pants. Giv­en the key con­straint to my study––that par­tic­i­pants had to read a crime fic­tion nov­el in their own time before respond­ing to an online post-read­ing questionnaire––I could not rely on exper­i­men­tal rigour con­trol­ling for some vari­ables. Nonethe­less, my repeat­ed mea­sures design helps con­trol for between-read­ers dif­fer­ences in tex­tu­al recep­tion (Halász, Short and Var­ga 195). Using the sur­vey research method allowed me to quan­ti­fy how respon­dents felt about issues to do with New Zealand and Māori cul­ture, and how this knowl­edge and opin­ions were (or were not) influ­enced by the participant’s read­ing of Utu.

2. Results and Discussion[2]

Hypothesis One: That cultural outsider (French) readers are more influenced than cultural insider (New Zealander) readers by Utu’s geographically- and culturally-situated elements

My null hypothesis––H01––is that cul­tur­al out­sider and insid­er read­ers were sim­i­lar­ly influ­enced by Utu’s geo­graph­i­cal­ly- and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed ele­ments, such as polit­i­cal, anthro­po­log­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, and social depic­tions. I test­ed this in two ways: by look­ing at the degree of cor­re­la­tion between pre- and post-read­ing respons­es for each cohort, then by com­par­ing pre- and post-read­ing respons­es at the indi­vid­ual read­er level.

Degree of cor­re­la­tion between pre- and post-read­ing responses

My research design involved non-inde­pen­dent obser­va­tions since I mea­sured par­tic­i­pant respons­es to the same ques­tions on two dif­fer­ent occa­sions. How­ev­er, the degree of cor­re­la­tion between these pre- and post-read­ing respons­es dif­fered between the two cohorts; while a paired sam­ple t-test showed that the pre- and post-read­ing respons­es to only two (S3, S20) of the twen­ty-sev­en ques­tions were sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant­ly pos­i­tive­ly cor­re­lat­ed for French read­ers, this was true of six­teen ques­tions asked of New Zealan­ders. This pro­vides evi­dence to reject H01 since it shows that New Zealan­ders were more like­ly than French read­ers to give sim­i­lar pre- and post-read­ing respons­es, indi­cat­ing that read­ing Utu had not changed their opinions.

Change in pre- and post-read­ing responses

I ran Wilcox­on signed ranks test for relat­ed sam­ples to com­pare respons­es before and after read­ing Utu for French and New Zealand respon­dents. Table 3 shows the num­ber of state­ments for which the pre- and post-read­ing results showed a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for each cohort, as well as whether this dif­fer­ence was a change towards the opin­ion depict­ed by Férey in Utu. Giv­en that the pre- and post-read­ing opin­ions of French respon­dents was sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent for twen­ty statements––compared to only sev­en for New Zealand respon­dents – this pro­vides fur­ther sup­port to reject H01 and accept H1, that cul­tur­al out­sider (French) read­ers were more influ­enced than cul­tur­al insid­er (New Zealand) read­ers by Utu’s geo­graph­i­cal­ly- and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed content.

Table 3: Sum­ma­ry of results from Wilcox­on signed ranks tests on pre- and post-read­ing respons­es to twen­ty-sev­en state­ments by French and New Zealand readers

French New Zealand
Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence and mean impinged on scale’s mid‑point 1: ‘dis­agree’ to ‘agree’
3: ‘dis­agree’ to ‘don’t know’
6: ‘don’t know’ to ‘agree’
3: ‘dis­agree’ to ‘don’t know’
Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence but mean did not cross scale’s mid-point 10 4
No sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant difference 7 20

Yet even New Zealan­ders were not left entire­ly unmoved by read­ing Utu. Their opin­ions about three state­ments changed from ‘dis­agree’ to ‘don’t know,’ a change in the appro­pri­ate direc­tion in two cas­es: S5 prop­er­ly recog­nis­es that “any Māori per­son may sub­mit a claim to the Wai­t­an­gi tri­bunal” (“Mak­ing a Claim”) and S7 reflects cur­rent thought about nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Māori can­ni­bal­ism (at least pre-1815, Bar­ber 242), although schol­ars dis­agree over the rea­sons, from meet­ing spir­i­tu­al (Bar­ber 280) to phys­i­cal needs (Salmond 142). How­ev­er, New Zealan­ders were wrong to change from ‘dis­agree’ to ‘don’t know’ for S4 since kohanga reo are Māori lan­guage preschools, not sec­ondary schools. Férey has his half-Māori hero­ine, Hana Witkaire, attend one through­out high school as a way of show­ing her embrac­ing her Māori her­itage; his depic­tion was suf­fi­cient­ly force­ful to over­come New Zealan­ders’ pri­or knowledge.

Table 3 also shows that Férey’s influ­ence is not mono­lith­ic: French (and New Zealand) read­ers changed their opin­ions about some ele­ments but not oth­ers, lead­ing to my next hypoth­e­sis, exam­in­ing which aspects are more persuasive.

Hypothesis Two: That cultural outsider (French) readers are differently influenced by certain aspects of New Zealand and/or Māori culture

From the results in Table 3, I can imme­di­ate­ly reject my null hypoth­e­sis: H02––that cul­tur­al out­sider read­ers are sim­i­lar­ly influ­enced by all the dif­fer­ent aspects of New Zealand and/or Māori cul­ture por­trayed by Férey in Utu. The more inter­est­ing ques­tion is whether there are com­mon­al­i­ties between the cul­tur­al aspects of Utu that are (not) per­sua­sive, because this might shed light on which cul­tur­al ele­ments are (not) influ­en­tial. To inves­ti­gate this I looked at French respons­es and com­pared the sev­en state­ments grouped in Table 3’s top row––statistically sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence and a change from ‘dis­agree’ to ‘agree’: S3, S4, S7, S15, S17, S23, and S16––with the sev­en in the table’s bot­tom row––no sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence: S1, S14, S18, S19, S20, S21, and S27––to try to iden­ti­fy fac­tors that could account for these differences.

I clas­si­fied each state­ment by whether it deals with a con­tem­po­rary or his­tor­i­cal issue; with a specif­i­cal­ly Māori or gen­er­al­ly New Zealand top­ic; whether Férey men­tions it once or sev­er­al times; as well as whether it is voiced by the nar­ra­tor, by a pro­tag­o­nist or by an antag­o­nist. How­ev­er, none of these group­ings ful­ly and com­plete­ly accounts for the changes in French respons­es. I found only one fea­ture that par­tial­ly cor­re­lates with French respons­es: for all sev­en of the state­ments for which their respons­es showed no sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence before and after read­ing, New Zealand respon­dents also showed no sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in their opin­ions, sug­gest­ing an absence, rather than source, of influ­ence. There­fore, although I accept H2, I am unable to extrap­o­late from my results to pre­dict the type of cul­tur­al infor­ma­tion that will or will not influ­ence cul­tur­al out­sider read­ers’ opinions.

Although I can­not claim an over­all schema for what type of infor­ma­tion is cul­tur­al­ly per­sua­sive, it is infor­ma­tive to look at the sev­en state­ments that swayed French read­ers. While for three of them––S4, S15, and S17––it was unlike­ly that French par­tic­i­pants would pos­sess rel­e­vant pri­or knowl­edge before read­ing Utu, for the remain­ing four––S3, S7, S23, and S26––they could have ‘guessed’ that they should agree by either draw­ing analo­gies with France or from gen­er­al knowl­edge. First, S3, in which Férey depicts South Auck­land as the ban­lieue, a con­cept famil­iar to French peo­ple, mean­ing the low socio-eco­nom­ic, high crime area on a city’s out­skirts, but one French par­tic­i­pants reject­ed before read­ing Utu, per­haps believ­ing New Zealand too qui­et a coun­try or Auck­land too small a city to have such areas. The sec­ond, S7, treats nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Māori can­ni­bal­ism, depict­ed by Jules Verne in Les Enfants du Cap­i­taine Grant (1868), which Férey claims as a for­ma­tive child­hood text (Ange­li­er). The third, S23, is about Māori in prison. Giv­en that indige­nous peo­ples are over-rep­re­sent­ed in many coun­tries’ prison pop­u­la­tions, French par­tic­i­pants could have guessed the answer by asso­ci­a­tion. That they did not may sig­nal a French excep­tion due to repub­li­can ideals of equal­i­ty, which for­bid the col­lect­ing and/or report­ing of sta­tis­tics based on racial or eth­nic ori­gin (Schnap­per 133). Final­ly, S26, shrunk­en heads. The New Zealand Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing a con­cert­ed effort to have all kōi­wi tan­ga­ta (ances­tral remains) held by muse­ums out­side New Zealand returned to Māori care (Hole 5). In Jan­u­ary 2012, the French gov­ern­ment held a cer­e­mo­ny at Quai Bran­ly, the ethno­graph­ic muse­um in Paris, to return twen­ty such heads (Mor­taigne), which was report­ed in French news­pa­pers and on television.

Hypothesis Three: That the perceived source of the geographically- and culturally-situated information influences reception

Despite the mixed out­come of H2, I want­ed to fur­ther explore one fac­tor by test­ing a third null hypoth­e­sis: H03––that read­ers are equal­ly influ­enced by geo­graph­i­cal­ly- and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed infor­ma­tion regard­less of per­ceived source. In this I was aid­ed by Férey’s cre­ation of an antag­o­nist called Mel­rose, whom Férey intends the read­er to detest. Even before we meet Mel­rose, he is described as an extreme­ly right-wing, racist, mul­ti-mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man who writes self-pub­lished his­to­ry books about New Zealand that have become best­sellers (French 59-60; Eng­lish 51-52). A lengthy anti-Māori, neolib­er­al dia­tribe by Mel­rose (159-60; 133-34) is the source of sev­en of my twen­ty-sev­en state­ments. Look­ing at pre- and post-read­ing respons­es to these sev­en ‘Mel­rose’ state­ments shows that French par­tic­i­pants changed their opin­ion from dis­agree (pre-read­ing) to agree (post-read­ing) for three of them (S7, S15, S17), dis­agreed less strong­ly with one of them (S16), and did not change their opin­ion for anoth­er three (S14, S18, S19). There­fore, I could not reject H03 but instead looked with­in these sev­en state­ments to devel­op two null sub-hypothe­ses (H03a-b) for two sub­groups of information:

H03a Read­ers are equal­ly influ­enced by his­tor­i­cal or con­tem­po­rary infor­ma­tion con­veyed via Melrose.

Look­ing at data for the first null hypothesis––H03a––shows that French read­ers were less will­ing to change their opin­ions about con­tem­po­rary society––about whether Māori today are drunk­ards (S18), war­riors (S16) or poor par­ents (S19)––than about his­tor­i­cal issues such as nine­teenth cen­tu­ry can­ni­bal­ism (S7) or exter­mi­nat­ing nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry ene­mies (S15, S17). There­fore I reject­ed the null hypoth­e­sis H03a and accept­ed hypoth­e­sis H3a “that read­ers are more influ­enced by his­tor­i­cal than con­tem­po­rary infor­ma­tion con­veyed via Mel­rose.“ Turn­ing to the sec­ond null hypothesis––H03b––shows that French par­tic­i­pants were more will­ing to change their opin­ion about state­ments treat­ing ‘facts’ (S7, S15, S17) rather than ‘atti­tudes’ (S14, S16, S18, S19), thus I reject­ed the null hypoth­e­sis for H03b and accept­ed hypoth­e­sis H3b “that read­ers are more influ­enced by facts than atti­tudes con­veyed via Melrose.”

Giv­en Férey’s left-wing pol­i­tics, he might be dis­mayed that his read­ers accept­ed any­thing from Mel­rose. How­ev­er, I have three pos­si­ble expla­na­tions for why French read­ers are sus­cep­ti­ble to fac­tu­al and his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion despite the per­ceived source. First­ly, by the time read­ers came across these state­ments Férey seems to have con­vinced them of his exper­tise in all mat­ters Māori and New Zealand, mean­ing that infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed as ‘facts’––even from Melrose––seemed cred­i­ble. Sec­ond­ly, it may be due to increas­ing mem­o­ry exter­nal­i­sa­tion. Search engines pro­vide access to a uni­ver­sal archive so why should these stu­dent par­tic­i­pants mem­o­rise dates of the Kings and Queens of France, or details of the Land Wars, when the answer is only a search away and men­tal effort can instead be direct­ed towards fol­low­ing the lat­est celebri­ty gos­sip? This is per­haps espe­cial­ly true for ‘facts’ that read­ers feel they will nev­er be required to regur­gi­tate, such as those offered dur­ing leisure read­ing of crime fic­tion. Final­ly, in estab­lish­ing Mel­rose, Férey may have done him­self a dis­ser­vice by labour­ing the point that Mel­rose self-pub­lished his best­selling his­to­ry books, since the world has moved on to pub­lish­ing phe­nom­e­na such as Fifty Shades of Grey (James), which began as a self-pub­lished e-book before being picked up by Ran­dom House (Knox 54). While this might be anath­e­ma for estab­lished authors, pop­u­lar fic­tion read­ers now seem not to regard ‘self-pub­lish­ing’ as auto­mat­i­cal­ly equat­ing to ‘low­er qual­i­ty’ (Fay). Thus (stu­dent) read­ers today may equate ‘(fic­tion­al) author of his­to­ry books’ with ‘cred­i­ble source of his­tor­i­cal facts.’

Hypothesis Four: That French readers change their attitudes to New Zealand and New Zealanders based on their reading of a novel set in that country

Hav­ing looked at the micro-effects––how read­ers react­ed to the world por­trayed with­in Férey’s novel––I turn now to the macro-pic­ture: did Utu influ­ence French read­ers’ atti­tudes towards New Zealand and New Zealan­ders in gen­er­al? Both before and after read­ing Utu I asked French par­tic­i­pants to respond to eight atti­tu­di­nal state­ments (see Table 2) that explore their gen­er­al atti­tudes to the coun­try and its cit­i­zens rather than about the spe­cif­ic issues raised in Utu about geog­ra­phy, pol­i­tics, anthro­pol­o­gy, his­to­ry or soci­ety. My null hypothesis––H04––is “that French read­ers’ atti­tudes to New Zealand and New Zealan­ders are unaf­fect­ed by read­ing Utu.” I found a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant change in mean response to A2, A4 and A7 (at the 0.05 lev­el) as well as A3 and A8 (0.1 lev­el) so I reject­ed H04 and accept­ed H4: “that French read­ers change their atti­tudes to New Zealand and New Zealan­ders based on their read­ing of a nov­el set in that coun­try.” How­ev­er, in all five cas­es the mean respons­es moved in the oppo­site direc­tion to that which might be desired by Tourism New Zealand: after read­ing Utu, French par­tic­i­pants thought New Zealand less safe to vis­it (A2), that vis­i­tors would be more like­ly to be vic­tims of crime (A4, A7), and that New Zealan­ders are less friend­ly and like­able (A3, A8).[3]

I did not find a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant change for A1: “I will vis­it New Zealand with­in the next three years,” with par­tic­i­pants dis­agree­ing slight­ly both before and after read­ing. Just as Bayard argues that it is unnec­es­sary to expe­ri­ence places first-hand in order to write about them, read­ers can also be con­tent with lit­er­ary, rather than phys­i­cal, voy­ag­ing. To Bayard’s phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal incon­ve­niences of trav­el (13), one can add the high cost in time and mon­ey a trip to New Zealand involves, mak­ing it unimag­in­able for most uni­ver­si­ty students.

3. Conclusion

I have pro­vid­ed empir­i­cal evi­dence that a novel’s geo­graph­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly-sit­u­at­ed ele­ments dif­fer­ent­ly influ­ence cul­tur­al insid­er and out­sider read­ers, with the lat­ter more like­ly to change their opin­ions than the for­mer. More­over, for every state­ment that showed a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between pre- and post-read­ing means, read­ers’ opin­ions moved towards the image por­trayed by Férey in Utu, not only for out­sider French read­ers but also for New Zealan­ders, even when Férey’s cul­tur­al claim was incorrect.

Fur­ther­more, for cul­tur­al out­siders this influ­ence extends beyond Utu’s final page to opin­ions about the coun­try depict­ed. At first sight, read­ers’ neg­a­tive atti­tudes to Férey’s dark depic­tions might seem bad news for New Zealand giv­en that tourism rep­re­sents 8.5% of its GDP (Sta­tis­tics New Zealand 9). How­ev­er, there are two rea­sons why Utu may in fact be ben­e­fi­cial. First, New Zealand mar­kets itself to thrill seek­ers through inter­na­tion­al adver­tis­ing cam­paigns with images of adven­tur­ous activ­i­ties such as bungy-jump­ing and white-water raft­ing set amid its rugged land­scape; such poten­tial tourists are unlike­ly to be deterred by (fic­tion­al) can­ni­bal­ism. Sec­ond, most of Férey’s French read­ers nev­er intend­ed trav­el­ling beyond the novel’s cov­ers but nonethe­less closed it with a new per­spec­tive on the coun­try and its peo­ple. Per­verse­ly, it mat­ters not that this per­spec­tive is neg­a­tive; the sim­ple fact of hav­ing read a nov­el about lit­tle-known New Zealand boosts the country’s intan­gi­ble rep­u­ta­tion with­in the French imag­i­nary. To sup­port this claim, I turn to Berg­er, Sorensen and Ras­mussen, who show that “Where­as a neg­a­tive review [in the New York Times] decreased pur­chase like­li­hood of a book that was already well known, it increased pur­chase like­li­hood for a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown book” (824). By anal­o­gy, Utu’s neg­a­tive ‘review’ of pre­vi­ous­ly unknown New Zealand helps the country’s name recog­ni­tion; any pub­lic­i­ty is good publicity.


I would like to thank Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Ian Carter for enrolling study par­tic­i­pants at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Auck­land as well as two anony­mous review­ers for their insight­ful com­ments. This research was sup­port­ed finan­cial­ly by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Auck­land Fac­ul­ty of Arts Doc­tor­al Research Fund. Approval for this study was giv­en by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Auck­land Human Par­tic­i­pants Ethics Com­mit­tee (2011/417).


[1] I refer to the ‘French’ and ‘New Zealand’ cohorts in this arti­cle although both con­tain mem­bers who were nei­ther born in nor cit­i­zens of those coun­tries. I received too few post-read­ing ques­tion­naires to find sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between sub-groups with­in each cohort, for exam­ple between the nine­teen New Zealand-born ver­sus five non-New Zealand born post-read­ing respon­dents com­pris­ing the ‘New Zealand’ cohort.

I aimed to enrol 120 in each group, a num­ber arrived at from a pri­ori sam­ple sizes (G*Power v.3.1.3, Faul et al.) cal­cu­lat­ed from the results of a pilot study and allow­ing for pre­dict­ed response rates, (Scott et al. 6; Kaplowitz, Had­lock and Levine; Baruch and Holtom; Nair and Adams 295; Sax, Gilmartin and Bryant 417; Deutskens et al. 29), the estab­lish­ment of a gift/obligation rela­tion­ship (Smart 389), the require­ment to read a long, vio­lent noir nov­el and my repeat­ed mea­sures design (Gard­ner 107-09) as well as two logis­ti­cal issues: fund­ing and the num­ber of enrolled students.

[2] Kol­mogorov-Smirnov test results showed that pre- and post-read­ing respons­es to the twen­ty-sev­en state­ments for both French and New Zealand par­tic­i­pants and to the eight atti­tu­di­nal state­ments for the French par­tic­i­pants were not nor­mal­ly dis­trib­uted. There­fore I used non-para­met­ric sta­tis­ti­cal tests through­out this analy­sis (Black 550–551). Unless oth­er­wise stat­ed, sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is at the 0.05 level.

[3] A3 and A8, as well as hav­ing a low­er sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance, are prob­lem­at­ic because the results may have been influ­enced by my actions as a researcher. Par­tic­i­pants com­plet­ed the pre-read­ing sur­vey imme­di­ate­ly after I had spo­ken to them and had giv­en them a free copy of the nov­el, per­haps lead­ing them to believe that I, and by exten­sion, oth­er New Zealan­ders are friend­ly and like­able, and mov­ing the pre-read­ing mean to a more pos­i­tive val­ue. How­ev­er, after hav­ing read a vio­lent novel––and the effect of meet­ing me hav­ing worn off––participants report­ed low­er scores, per­haps rep­re­sent­ing a truer opinion.

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