Presenters, papers and abstracts: The Atlantic World in a Pacific Field

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  • Alison Bashford, Professor of Modern History at the University of Sydney
  • Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University
  • Joyce Chaplin, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History and Director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University
  • Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Ann Curthoys, ARC Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Sydney
  • Sheila Fitzpatrick, Bernadette E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor of Russian History at the University of Chicago
  • Elena Govor, Research Fellow in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University
  • Anita Herle, Deputy Director of and Curator for World Anthropology in the Museum for Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University
  • Julia Horne, University Historian of the University of Sydney and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Sydney
  • Iain McCalman, Research Professor in the Department of History at the University of Sydney
  • Michael McDonnell, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Sydney
  • Joseph Meisel, Program Officer in Research Universities & Humanistic Scholarship at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Damon Salesa, Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Michigan
  • Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University
  • Katerina Teaiwa, Pacific Studies Convenor in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University


Alison Bashford, 'Karl Haushofer's Geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean'
At a moment when the idea of Lebensraum was poised to make a terrible comeback, political geographer Karl Haushofer (1869-1946) was writing about a Pacific as well as German “living space.” His Geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean (1924, further editions in 1927 and 1938) is a strange book, investigating what Haushofer called “political oceanography” – the seas as political living spaces, not merely domains for inorganic or bio-geographical investigations. Intellectually deriving from late nineteenth-century anthropo-geography – itself a product of Atlantic investigation in the Pacific field – Haushofer’s book was a political text deeply shaped by postwar European politics in a global context. The loss of the Pacific German colonies (especially painful because of German’s “love of the South Seas”), the identification between Germany and Japan, the dream-alliance between disenfranchised Germany and Pacific Island colonies kept dependent by British imperial rule, were all part of the immediate geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean. Folding political science, human sciences, and natural sciences together, Haushofer argued for the significance of the Pacific in twentieth-century world civilization. Just as blood as soil created the German nation and people, Pacific peoples were produced from and by the sea. The marine “sub-strata,” he argued, shaped the biological states of the Pacific, and their destinies. This paper analyses Haushofer’s book, his vision of Pacific Lebensraum, as well as his curious ideas about Australia.

Janet Browne, 'Corresponding Naturalists'
Recent work on the processes involved in globalization have encouraged historians to look again at the role of correspondence. Naturalists relied extensively on the layers of connection and meaning that were embedded in this form of contact. At one level, Banks, Darwin, Humboldt , and others found that letters about the natural productions of a new land served as surrogates for specimens and maps that might not arrive at their intended destination. These letters were meant to be circulated among the academic community almost as publications. Less tangibly, and especially in the case of less well known individuals, the process of becoming a valued correspondent reveals a great deal about the social structures of knowledge during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Latour and Livingstone have differently argued, recording and ‘witnessing’ were significant elements in the production of information. This paper suggests that correspondence between naturalists was a major element in generating a community of experts who agreed on what comprised valid knowledge about strange or new lands.

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, 'From Lima to Australia: Biblical Knowledge and the Antipodes in the Viceroyalty of Peru, ca 1600'
Circa late 1600, Lima witnessed the publication of titles such as Miscelánea Antártica (1586),Miscelánea Austral (1602), Parnaso Antártico (1608), Armas Antárticas (1608), all devoted to celebrate the “Antarctic” character of Peru. This exaltation of Peru’s austral vocation was partly connected to the efforts undertaken since the mid sixteenth century to explore the South Sea. Several expeditions set sail from Callao, Lima’s port, into the “pacific”, seeking to find new continents and convert new populations. I explore the Biblical, religious inspiration of these little known early modern “austral” efforts.

Joyce Chaplin, 'Atlantic Antislavery and Pacific Navigation'
When did the history of go-betweens change? Although studies of cultural intermediaries have grown apace since the 1980s, and now include examinations of the scientific significance of go-betweens, the overall phenomenon of European dependence on indigenous informants has not been historicized. Did the practice change over time? If so, why? It is clear that kidnapping of pilots and guides in the Pacific – standard practice, from Francis Drake to William Dampier – declined over the eighteenth century and was replaced by recruitment of volunteers, most famously, the Tahitian priest-navigator Tupaia. This shift did not take place because of developments specific to the Pacific region. Rather, the Europeans who entered the eighteenth-century Pacific were influenced by criticisms of slavery in the eighteenth-century Atlantic.

Ann Curthoys, 'Comparative indigenous politics in Australia'
The move to transnational, imperial, and comparative histories which has gathered speed in recent years has emphasised connection, influence, and similarity. In doing so it runs somewhat counter to another significant aspect of modern historical practice, and that is the emphasis on the Indigenous and the local, which tends to emphasise difference, separation, and incommensurability. For historians, attending to both the global and the local, though laudable, is extremely difficult. And yet we must find a way to do so.
In this paper I explore these tensions by reflecting on research I am engaged in which involves comparing Indigenous political activism across the six Australian colonies. The larger project, being conducted with Jessie Mitchell, seeks to explore the ways in which the granting of self-government to the Australian colonies was related, both as cause and effect, to the ongoing processes of Indigenous dispossession and displacement. Our research considers British colonial policy and thinking, settler land-taking, politics, and identity, and Indigenous forms of negotiation with and resistance to settler assertion of political, economic, and cultural hegemony. It involves placing the six Australian colonies in close analytical relation to British colonies elsewhere, in New Zealand, British North America, and Cape Colony.
Thus my key question in this paper is “how does a comparative and imperial approach affect the ways in which we understand specific Indigenous communities and actions?” I shall use Australian Indigenous people's petitioning of local and imperial authorities from the 1840s to the 1880s as my example.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 'Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay: In His Own Words'
The Russian explorer and scientist landed up in Australia in the 1880s, after his pioneering ethnographic studies in New Guinea, and didn't care for its democratic spirit, though he married Sir John Robertson's daughter. A literally self-invented man (the rest of the family modestly called itself Mikhlouho), he has fascinated generations of Russians. Russian liberals for his progressive views on colonialism, even though he also offered his services to the Tsar to establish a Russian beachhead in the Pacific. The paper explores these contradictions through a careful reading of his letters.

Elena Govor, 'Nicholas Maclay: Old and new myths'
In response to Sheila Fitzpatrick's paper Elena Govor will share her changing attitudes to Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay, a hero of her childhood in the Soviet Union. She will track the move from this mythologisation to a real knowledge found through published and archival records and finally to a deep understanding and appreciation that came about from discussions with indigenous people when a Macleay-Miklouho-Maclay Fellowship at the University of Sydney enabled her to take Miklouho-Maclay's drawings back to the descendents of his original subjects.

Anita Herle, ‘Creating the Anthropological Field in the Pacific’
The early history of British anthropology has been characterised as its ‘Oceanic phase’ (Urry 1993). The ground-breaking work of Alfred Haddon and the 1898 Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait had a significant impact on the development of anthropology as an academic discipline in the UK, Australia and beyond. Expedition members taught the first generation of professionally trained students, who undertook intensive fieldwork in the Pacific in the 1910s, intended to complement and extend the ethnological survey work of their mentors. The 1914 meeting in Australia of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS, the pre-eminent international scholarly event in the English-speaking world, marked a pivotal moment in theoretical and methodological shifts within anthropology, with the Pacific seen as an ideal testing ground for new ideas regarding the migration of peoples and the diffusion of cultural traits. Drawing on the work of anthropologists such as Alfred Haddon, William Rivers, John Layard and Bronislaw Malinowski, this paper will focus on cross-cultural encounters involved in the creation of the anthropological field, the interactions between researchers and local assistants, academic and indigenous knowledge systems. Recent examples from Australia and Vanuatu will highlight different ways that the knowledge and objects of early anthropological research are mobilised by communities of origin in the present.

Julia Horne, 'Atlantic challenges in the antipodes'
When the Carnegie Corporation came to Australia between the wars, they admired its democratic spirit, but puzzled over the curiously deferential relationship its citizens had with Britain and the Empire. The continued belief in British distinctiveness was nowhere greater, these Americans argued, than in Australian universities. The Carnegie visitors speculated that Australian universities would become increasingly irrelevant when the Australian nation-state entered a new geopolitical world as an independent force in the south Pacific, even though to meet the challenges of these changed circumstances would require a university system more robust than ever before. The cure, they believed, was for Australian academics to cultivate relationships with American institutions in order to assist Australian universities broaden their outlook from a narrow Oxbridge focus that relied on imperial connections: the Carnegie cure would provide a fast track into the modern world; to continue under the old structures would not. This paper explores some of the tensions in this new world, and the hope of the emerging American Atlantic empire to supplant the retreating British Atlantic empire. In this context, we can see Australian universities as one of the battlegrounds of these two Atlantic empires, and themselves beginning to express a new-found independence.

Iain McCalman, 'White Savages? British and French ethnographic encounters with two nineteenth-century North Australian castaways'
When the castaways Barbara Thomson and Narcisse Pelletier were 'rescued' - in 1849 and 1875 respectively - from the north Australian Indigenous communities with whom they had been living, they offered exciting opportunities for local and metropolitan Europeans interested in the burgeoning new field of ethnography (or ethnology). Each was subsequently interrogated by at least one relatively sympathetic investigator, yet the differences in the shape and contents of the resulting narratives and in the ways the castaways were treated on returning to their home towns and countries seems to reflect a shift in the climate of European racial theorizing between the 1840s and 1870s, a shift in which the 'humanness' of Indigenous Australian peoples was coming under new 'scientific' question. In this short paper I will compare these castaway interrogations, as well as the relative success of Thompson and Pelletier in reintegrating with their original 'civilizations'.

Michael McDonnell, 'Facing Empire: Indigenous Histories in Comparative Perspective'
Between 1760 and 1820, European empires expanded dramatically and encounters with indigenous peoples multiplied exponentially. As Susan Thorne recently noted, by 1820 the British Empire alone had already “absorbed” almost a quarter of the world’s population. It is this expansion, of course, that led Christopher Bayly to conclude that this period “was a critical one in the epistemological and economic creation of ‘indigenous peoples’ as a series of comparable categories across the globe.” Yet despite Bayly's assertion, and despite the recent trends toward transnational and ‘new’ imperial histories, very little work has been done on comparing and contrasting indigenous experiences within and across expanding imperial borders.
This paper will explore some of the literature that does exist, and also the problems, pitfalls and possibilities inherent in putting indigenous histories in comparative perspective, particularly during the crucial ‘imperial meridian.’ Given the recent concurrent move toward writing indigenous-centred histories, what do we lose if we think about indigenous experiences across borders? Can we write indigenous-centred histories within a comparative framework of European imperialism? What kind of new insights might such a project yield? Looking especially at the links between the histories of indigenous peoples in North America, the Cape Colony and Australasia, the paper will raise questions about the utility of “facing empire” during this critical period.

Joseph Meisel, ‘The Representation of Learning in Parliament: Britain, North America, and Australasia’
The parliamentary representation of universities – where universities are electoral constituencies represented by their own members in the legislature – originated with Oxford and Cambridge in the seventeenth century and by 1918 included all universities throughout the United Kingdom. Over the same period, the conception and practice of university representation was transmitted to other places along with the spread of English constitutional ideas through colonial settlement and imperial control. Forms of university representation were established or considered throughout the British Empire. While it failed to take root in the Australasian colonies, university representation was seriously debated in nineteenth-century New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and New Zealand as efforts to create higher education institutions of stature coincided with the establishment of responsible self-government. Although the University of Sydney briefly obtained a parliamentary seat, university representation ultimately proved to be incompatible with the advanced democratic movement of the colonies' constitutional development. As the Australasian cases demonstrate, contestation over university representation was not simply a debate over one feature in the repertoire of British constitutional arrangements, but rather a deeper working out of ideas and identifications at the intersection of the settler societies' political and cultural ambitions.

Damon Salesa, 'Medical Spaces and Imperial Encounters in Samoa and the Pacific'
In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century Samoa was an intersection of empires, subject to the competing aspirations and interventions of Britain, Germany, New Zealand and the U.S.A. During these years some of the most intense loci of imperial encounters were medical, a set of spaces and discourses that each empire commonly thought powerful, and yet which each practiced differently. Samoa was an eerily comparative imperial and colonial subject, a theatre of engagement where different empires and medicines met and connections and differences could be performed and articulated. Such articulations, from scientific expeditions, the Rockefeller Foundation, U.S. ‘naval medicine’, population studies to ‘Native Medicine’, became increasingly important to the practices of both medicine and empire even as medicine became more established, localized and ‘invasive’. The spatial dimensions of medicine reveal both the expansiveness, and the partiality of colonial and medical developments. Space also offers a vantage point to explore how Samoa and Samoans were more than just subjects: these medical spaces provide occasions for turning to Samoan experiences and engagements, not just with medicine and its architecture, nor only with colonialism and empire more broadly, but with each other.

Simon Schaffer, 'In transit: European cosmologies in the Pacific'
Astronomical interests prompted a series of entries by European travellers into the Pacific. In studies of the complex motives and effects of these expeditions, it has been common to treat astronomical interests either as rationales for more profound political and economic enterprise, or as of a strictly utilitarian character. Here the aim is to understand the cosmologies on which certain forms of European astronomy depended, and how the Pacific encounters changed and reoriented their meanings. These cosmologies embraced models of the globe and of its populations, and were very much in question in the patterns of interaction between Pacific
peoples and other experts.

Katerina Teaiwa, 'Between Oceans: Popular Kinship and the ACP'
In 2004 the East West Centre and Pacific Islands Studies program at the University of Hawai’i launched the Islands of Globalization project. IOG explored the ways in which the Caribbean and Pacific had been forged through colonialism and globalization while recognising the divergent material and discursive dimensions of the Atlantic slave trade and indigeneity in Oceania. It also focused on popular, pedagogical and policy exchanges with partners at UH, the University of the West Indies and University of the South Pacific. This paper takes lessons learned from that project to reflect on a recent push within the European Commission to support cultural exchanges and collaborations in the "ACP countries" of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. I use an ethnographic and "popular kinship" approach to discuss a number of such exchanges, both face to face and through popular culture, between the three regions and in the Pacific and African diasporas in Australia. Inter-regional groupings, such as the ACP, while reinscribing notions of the developing or “third world”, suggest the possibility of knowledge exchange, alliance building, and new axes of theory, between oceans.