An Aboriginal Caucasian: some uses for racial kinship in early twentieth century Australia

McGregor, Russell (1996) An Aboriginal Caucasian: some uses for racial kinship in early twentieth century Australia. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1996 (1). pp. 11-20.

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Abstract

[Extract]While some historical attention has recently been given to the role of racial ideas in the dispossession and marginalisation of the indigenous Australians, the specifics of racial classification have received little scholarly notice.2 Yet, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, racial classification and affinities were matters of great interest and significance. They were also matters of disputation, while those beliefs which have latterly attracted the academic spotlight - the primitivity of the Aborigines, their inferiority and their need for authoritarian guidance - were very much taken for granted. This paper offers an exploratory foray into one strand of theorising about Aboriginal racial affinities: that they were related to the Caucasians. From the 1890s to the 1940s, this idea held widespread credibility and scientific respectability. However, there was no single agreed upon theory of the manner in which Aborigines and Caucasians were related; the relationship was variously depicted as close or distant, as exclusive or mixed; and, depending on context, relatedness could be emphasised or down played. Some commentators, both scientists and lay, completely rejected the notion of Aboriginal-Caucasian relatedness. But while this lack of unanimity must be acknowledged, little consideration can here be given to alternative theories of Aboriginal origins and affinities. Rather, the paper will trace the broad development of scientific theories of Aboriginal-Caucasian relatedness from the 1890s to 1940, before turning to examine the social and political implications that were extracted from the postulated relationship. Fundamentally, the implications were inclusive. If white and black Australians were racially akin, then perhaps a White Australia could afford an enhanced position for its indigenous inhabitants. But while inclusiveness was the implication, inclusion was seldom envisaged as straightforward.

Item ID: 11564
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Australian Aborigines; anthropology; Australia; race; racial science
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ISSN: 0729-4352
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2010 23:53
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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