Introduction: Indigenous Presence to the Science of Race
This book is a study of the linkages and hiatuses between metropolitan discourse and regional praxis.1 Specifically, it investigates the intersections of fluctuating European ideas about human similarity and differences over four centuries with the grounded experience of European voyagers during actual encounters with Indigenous people in the ‘fifth part of the world’, or ‘Oceania’, from 1511 to 1840. It is a systematic history of neither anthropology nor European seaborne exploration but a set of interconnected episodes that bring ethnohistory into play with the history of science through focus on the interactions of travellers and local inhabitants. Intellectual history and ethnohistory are bridged by lexico-semantic history — systematic attention to the contemporary meanings of the words used by savants or voyagers to describe, name, label, and eventually classify people or groups. I trace the long trajectory of one such term, ‘race’, from inconsequential genealogical origins to reconfiguration as a biological taxon.
KeywordsIndigenous People Local Agency Human Difference Interpretive Repertoire Human Similitude
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