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Knowing Savagery: Australia and the Anatomy of Race
Griffith University, Australia.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences. (Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9288-0954
2019 (English)In: History of the Human Sciences, ISSN 0952-6951, E-ISSN 1461-720X, Vol. 32, no 4, p. 115-134Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

When Australia was circumnavigated by Europeans in 1801–02, French and British natural historians were unsure how to describe the Indigenous peoples who inhabited the land they charted and catalogued. Ideas of race and of savagery were freely deployed by both British and French, but a discursive shift was underway. While the concept of savagery had long been understood to apply to categories of human populations deemed to be in want of more historically advanced ‘civilisation’, the application of this term in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was increasingly being correlated with the emerging terminology of racial characteristics. The terminology of race was still remarkably fluid, and did not always imply fixed physical or mental endowments or racial hierarchies. Nonetheless, by means of this concept, natural historians began to conceptualise humanity as subject not only to historical gradations, but also to the environmental and climatic variations thought to determine race. This in turn meant that the degree of savagery or civilisation of different peoples could be understood through new criteria that enabled physical classification, in particular by reference to skin colour, hair, facial characteristics, skull morphology, or physical stature: the archetypal criteria of race. While race did not replace the language of savagery, in the early years of the 19th century savagery was re-inscribed by race.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2019. Vol. 32, no 4, p. 115-134
Keywords [en]
humanity, natural history, race, savagery, Scottish Enlightenment
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-82051DOI: 10.1177/0952695119836587ISI: 000479415900001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-82051DiVA, id: diva2:1307061
Available from: 2019-04-25 Created: 2019-04-25 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved

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