Islanders, European Voyagers, and the Production of Race in Oceania
This chapter combines an ethnohistory of encounters between Pacific Islanders and European voyagers with the history of the unstable idea of “race” by correlating voyagers' racial terminology with their experience of particular indigenous people. It focuses on contacts, from the time of Duperrey's expedition of 1823, between French seamen and the Pacific Islanders of Tahiti and New Ireland. It considers local initiatives, actions, and demeanors—condensed as agency—as refracted through varied genres, modes, or media of travelers' representations. It interprets encounters situationally, not as a general clash of reified cultures but as ambiguous intersections of multiple indigenous and foreign agencies that were usually at cross-purposes but not necessarily opposed. It suggests that behavioral changes among the Pacific Islanders resulted from old codes and norms having to come to terms with new possibilities arising in a context of change.
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