bronwen douglas on the racial geographies of oceania
This paper is a synoptic history of racial geography in the ‘fifth part of the world’ or Oceania — an extended region embracing what are now Australia, Island Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The period in question stretches from classical antiquity to the Enlightenment, to focus on the consolidation of European racial thinking with the marriage of geography and raciology in the early 19th century. The paper investigates the naming of places by Europeans and its ultimate entanglement with their racial classifications of people. The formulation of geographical and anthropological knowledge is located at the interface of metropolitan discourses and local experience. This necessitates unpacking the relationships between, on the one hand, the deductive reasoning of metropolitan savants, and, on the other hand, the empirical logic of voyagers and settlers who had visited or lived in particular places, encountered their inhabitants, and been exposed, often unwittingly, to indigenous agency and knowledge.
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