Foreign bodies

Anderson, Warwick, Buschmann, Rainer F., McGregor, Russell, Douglas, Bronwen, and Ballard, Chris (2010) Foreign bodies. Journal of Pacific History, 45 (2). pp. 265-275.

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[Extract] The Image of Oceania:

Although not cited, Philip D. Curtin's The Image of Africa1 haunts this collection of essays on the impact of Oceanic encounters and perceptions on European racial thought. Like Curtin, the contributors to this book have sought to reveal a regional influence on scientific and anthropological arguments about human similarity and difference. They suggest that close encounters in particular places shaped European ideas about other peoples and themselves. In so doing, these authors situate racial thought from the 18th century through the middle of the 20th century in colonial processes, among scattered archipelagos and densely travelled waterways, far from Europe. Following the same Oceanic currents that Bernard Smith discerned in European art history,2 they observe the racial dimensions of the 'island laboratories' of the Pacific, tracing their influence across the globe. It is remarkable that it has taken so long to locate the Oceanic predicates of so much racial thought.

Introducing this collection, Bronwen Douglas laments the 'near-total absence of detailed work on the history of race in Oceania as a broadly conceived region' (p. 3). While one can point to national or local studies of racial thought in Australia, New Zealand, Hawai'i and a few other places boasting Pacific shores, the regional focus is novel and illuminating. Douglas claims that historians generally have lacked the territorial overview — the Oceanic sense — that so many scientists and anthropologists possessed in the 19th century. She meticulously traces the emergence of 'Oceania' in the 1830s and 1840s, and its subsequent role as an organising framework for peoples and places. Douglas takes an expansive view of the region, including Australasia along with the Pacific, though drawing the line at the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines. The essays in this collection feed on this geographical generosity, alternating between Australia and the Pacific Islands, providing ample grounds for comparison within the region, though sometimes at the cost of analytic coherence. Had the collection focused solely on Pacific Islanders, it would allow neater arguments, if more modest conclusions.

Item ID: 12059
Item Type: Article (Commentary)
ISSN: 0022-3344
Keywords: race, history, anthropology, history, Pacific history
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2010 22:55
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 25%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210313 Pacific History (excl New Zealand and Maori) @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210309 Maori History @ 25%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 25%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950505 Understanding New Zealands Past @ 25%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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