Confronting "hybrids" in Oceania: Experience, materiality and the science of race in France

Bronwen Douglas*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Fierce debates about racial crossing recurred in mid-19th-century French anthropology. This paper addresses the nexus of theory, field experience, and human materialities in scientific disputes about "hybrids". Diverse global theoretical positions on interracial unions are calibrated with two empirical/material registers: The reports, anatomical collections and anthropological syntheses made by French naval naturalists following encounters with Indigenous people during scientific voyages in Oceania to 1840; and the more focussed ethnographies, collections and anthropological comparisons made by naval medical officers after tours of duty in new French colonies in eastern Polynesia and New Caledonia from 1842. I assess the relative significance attributed to two different orders of materiality-the subjective materiality of field encounters with Indigenous people; and the seemingly objective materiality of objects-human skulls, other bodily remains, and moulages (plaster busts).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-63
    Number of pages37
    JournalRevue d'Histoire des Sciences Humaines
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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