Vera Keller: "Undisciplined Empires: Hints as a Colonial Genre"

Instructing Colonial Natural History Seminar Series

Forskningspresentation av Vera Keller, University of Oregon.

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Seminariet hålls på engelska. 


Recent literature on early modern colonialism tends to emphasize the agency of individuals located far from the metropole. It also stresses the role played by contingency and the frequent failure of centralized colonial planning on the ground around the world. Somewhat at odds with these views, an established literature on discipline and empire continues to flourish. In particular, the latter highlights the role that natural knowledge played in organizing and controlling colonial bodies, both human and non-human. This paper offers an alternative view to both these trends by looking at the hint as a key genre of colonialism over the longue durée (17th-19th centuries). Hints were often authored in the metropole and figured prominently in early experimental philosophy and in natural history. They were technologies of extension and extrapolation that allowed individuals to advise travelers about places where they themselves had never been. They were "thrown out" towards the future and across space as a means of soaring beyond prescribed rules. This wildness evolved over time in seemingly more pragmatic 19th-century guidebooks to travelling and collecting. Yet what remained unchanged was the way that the hint embodied ideas of European boldness and genius and their seemingly inevitable advance around the world. 

The Instructing Colonial Natural History Seminar Series is organised by the Instructing Natural History Research Group, Uppsala University

Bild: Johann David Welcker, Allegorie auf dieErerbung von Surinam durch den Grafen Friefdrich Kasimir von Hanau, 1669 (1676). Wikimedia Commons.