Who are the biggest cannibals?: Colonial literary reckonings with the dark European Other in the Pacific region

Ackland, Michael (2016) Who are the biggest cannibals?: Colonial literary reckonings with the dark European Other in the Pacific region. Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies, 4 (1). pp. 43-52.

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In the late nineteenth century European powers jockeyed for global prestige and lucrative colonies. Long-unclaimed tracts of Africa become imperial dependencies, Asian empires ceded ever more privileges and ports to foreigners who clamoured for free trade and special legal status, and German rule spread as far as the antipodes. But while the Kaiser harangued listeners about the threat posed by the 'gelbe Gefahr' (yellow peril), colonists in the far Pacific soon came to see the Germans themselves, and a motley cast of would-be European exploiters, as a far greater and more immediate danger to white settler dreams. Testimony to concerns raised by the European Other exists in the pages of neglected colonial newspapers, as well as in popular contemporary tales, like those published by the Sydney Bulletin. Two of these, 'Castro's Last Sacrament' and 'Dr Ludwig Schwalbe, South Sea Savant', are the focus of this study and they afford, in miniature, veritable voyages to a heart of darkness on the colonists' doorstep, and one decidedly generated by fertile European imaginations. A century before Edward Said, Albert Dorrington reveals through the antics of Castro and his peers the local operation of Orientalism, and the ways it masks and camouflages a peculiarly European heritage of imperial carnage and unbridled vengefulness. In the figure of Schwalbe, author Louis Becke provides a complementary dissection of the 'white man's burden' and the much-vaunted trappings of scientific knowledge. The allegedly philanthropic white man is shown to be deeply self-interested and insatiable. He not only abets the horrors he claims to abhor, but he arguably surpasses them. Together these tales afford a damning revelation of unpalatable European motives as well as a bleak vision of humankind, irrespective of race or clime, as scarcely removed from a cannibalistic, and thoroughly barbaric state.

Item ID: 52687
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2050-4047
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2018 02:22
FoR Codes: 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470502 Australian literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing @ 100%
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