Representing the South Pacific

Representing the South Pacific : Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin

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This book examines how the South Pacific was represented by explorers, missionaries, travellers, writers, and artists between 1767 and 1914 by drawing on history, literature, art history, and anthropology. Edmond engages with colonial texts and postcolonial theory, criticising both for their failure to acknowledge the historical specificity of colonial discourses and cultural encounters, and for continuing to see indigenous cultures in essentially passive or reactive terms. The book offers a detailed and grounded 'reading back' of these colonial discourses into the metropolitan centres which gave rise to them, while resisting the idea that all representations of other cultures are merely self-representations. Among its themes are the persistent myth-making around the figure of Cook, the western obsession with Polynesian sexuality, tattooing, cannibalism, and leprosy, and the Pacific as a theatre for adventure and as a setting for Europe's displaced fears of its own cultural extinction.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 150 x 224 x 22mm | 439.99g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 12 b/w illus.
  • 0521021138
  • 9780521021135
  • 1,187,917

Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. Killing the god: the afterlife of Cook's death; 3. Mutineers and beachcombers; 4. Missionary endeavours; 5. Trade and adventure; 6. 'Taking up with kanakas': Robert Louis Stevenson and the Pacific; 7. Skin and Bones: Jack London's diseased Pacific; 8. The French Pacific; 9. Epilogue.
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Review quote

'It is extremely refreshing to encounter work that displays all the lucid, interdisciplinary bounce of cultural theory and is also carefully attentive to historical, geographical and social reality ... a lively discursive account ... in scientific literature, theatre, painting, poetry, history and the novel, in Britain, across to the US and back to the emerging nations of the Pacific ... It is a method that sustains the whole of this marvellous book ... a rich and fascinating index of Pacific images and narratives.' David Hansen, The Australian's Review of Books 'A finely attuned account of the way Europeans represented the Pacific world from Cook to Gauguin ... A masterly survey ... A fascinating account.' Bernard Smith, Australian Book Review
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Rating details

4 ratings
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