Geography, Raciology, and the Naming of Oceania

Bronwen Douglas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This paper revives the original, early nineteenth-century French usage of the term Oceania which encompasses New Holland, Van Diemen’s Land, and the Malay or Indian Archipelago together with the Pacific Islands, New Guinea, and New Zealand. The paper correlates the history of mapping with the history of ideas about human difference and alludes to the imprints on both of encounters with specific places and people during scientific voyages. Focussing on English and especially French materials, I investigate how Europeans’ exploration, mapping, and naming of Oceania and its regions eventually became entangled with racial classifications of the inhabitants as Malay, Papuan, Oceanic Negro, Melanesian, Polynesian, or Micronesian. I then consider cartographic manifestations of the ultimate subsumption of contests over geography and race within the politics of colonial rivalry. By decentring Europe, the approach adopted extends the production zone of geographical, cartographic, anthropological, and colonial knowledge beyond the metropoles and into Oceania itself.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-28
    JournalThe Globe: Journal of the Australian Map Circle
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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