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Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies: Oceania and the Science of Race 1750-1940 OPEN ACCESS

Bronwen Douglas
Chris Ballard
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h8th
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  • Book Info
    Foreign Bodies
    Book Description:

    From the 18th century, Oceania became the principal laboratory of raciology for scholars, voyagers, and colonisers alike. By juxtaposing encounters and theory, this magisterial book explores the semantics of human difference in all its emotional, intellectual, religious, and practical dimensions. The argument developed is subtle, engrossing, and gives the paradigm of 'race' its full use value. Foreign Bodies is a model of analysis and erudition from which historians of science and everyone interested in intercultural relations will greatly profit. Claude Blanckaert, CNRS (Centre Alexandre Koyré), Paris, and Honorary President, French Society for the History of the Science of Man

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-00-7
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Bronwen Douglas

    In the five decades after World War II, a critical historical conjuncture — the defeat of Nazism, the Cold War, decolonization, the civil rights movements in North America and Australasia, and the anti-apartheid movement — authorized antiracism to the extent that the word ‘race’ itself, in its naturalized scientific sense of a broad, hereditary human grouping, became all but unsayable in public and academic discourses in both the West and the Soviet bloc. Biologists and anthropologists denied the physical or cultural reality of races and predicted the demise of the concept. Postcolonial scholars made hybridity a privileged metaphor and censored race from...

  2. Part One Emergence:: Thinking the Science of Race, 1750-1880
    • Bronwen Douglas

      In letters written to a friend in 1790 and 1791, the young, German-trained French comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) took vigorous humanist exception to recent ‘stupid’ German claims about the supposedly innate deficiencies of ‘the negro’.¹ It was ‘ridiculous’, he expostulated, to explain the ‘intellectual faculties’ in terms of differences in the anatomy of the brain and the nerves; and it was immoral to justify slavery on the grounds that Negroes were ‘less intelligent’ when their ‘imbecility’ was likely to be due to ‘lack of civilization and we have given them our vices’. Cuvier's judgment drew heavily on personal experience:...

  3. Part Two Experience:: the Science of Race and Oceania, 1750-1869
    • Bronwen Douglas

      In December 1828, the leading comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) made a triumphalist presidential address (1829) to the annual general assembly of the Société de Géographie in Paris. He reminded his audience of the recent ‘conquests of geography’ which had revealed to the world the ‘greatly varied tribes and countless islands’ that the Ocean had thus far ‘rendered unknown to the rest of humanity’. Cuvier’s ‘conquests’ were not merely topographical: ‘our voyagers’ in Oceania were ‘philosophers and naturalists, no less than astronomers and surveyors’. They collected the ‘products’ of lands visited, studied the ‘languages and customs’ of the inhabitants, and...

    • Chris Ballard

      Captain James Cook (1728-1779) failed to see much of New Guinea or its inhabitants the Papuans. By late 1770, when the battered Endeavour reached the southern shores of New Guinea, Cook and his crew were on their way home and little disposed to attempt contact with the island’s reportedly hostile people. But on Monday, 3 September, Cook (1955:408), ‘having a mind to land once in this Country before we quit it altogether’, went ashore in the pinnace in a party of twelve, accompanied by the naturalists Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and Daniel Solander (1733-1782). The first moment of encounter was pure...

  4. Part Three Consolidation:: the Science of Race and Aboriginal Australians, 1860-1885
    • Paul Turnbull

      Within Australian historiography, the procurement of indigenous Australian ancestral remains by European scientists has generally been explained as resulting from the desire to produce evidence refining the core assumptions of Darwinian theory. I have argued elsewhere (1998, 1999) that the procurement of anatomical specimens through desecration of indigenous burial places in fact began shortly after the establishment of the penal settlement of New South Wales in 1788. It also seems clear that from the early 1880s indigenous burial places were plundered with a view to producing knowledge that would answer various questions about the origins and nature of racial difference...

    • Stephanie Anderson

      To search through nineteenth-century French anthropological writings about Indigenous Australians means ingesting a great deal of material that is highly offensive and injurious to Aboriginal people. In this discourse, Australian Aborigines were almost invariably assigned to the dernier échelon, the bottom rung, of the human racial ladder. This was their epistemological ‘slot’.¹ The prevailing view about Aborigines that had become established in travel accounts and periodicals such as the Journal des Voyages was of a people barely human who at worst showed many simian characteristics and at best were living fossils, contemporary manifestations of Stone Age people. The scientific view...

  5. Part Four Complicity and Challenge:: the Science of Race and Evangelical Humanism, 1800-1930
  6. Part Five Zenith:: Colonial Contradictions and the Chimera of Racial Purity, 1920-1940
  7. Chris Ballard

    This volume marks the first attempt to assemble the writings of a group of scholars with a common interest in the history of racial thought in Oceania. If some of the contributors refuse to be definitive, the collection nevertheless yields some unanticipated results. As a group, we were led to the topic by a preliminary sense — now largely confirmed — of the scarcity of original scholarship on race in Oceania, as distinct from the uncritical repetition of a small litany of received truths. What we failed to anticipate was the degree of significance of Oceanic materials in the development of metropolitan...