Book here: “Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago and the Manufacture of Race Science” Seminar at ONCA event tickets from TicketSource

Dr Nazry Bahrawi from the Department of Asian Languages and Literature(University of Washington, USA ) is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (University of Brighton, UK).

Prompted by Angela Saini’s claim in her 2019 book Superior that race science is making a comeback, this presentation will clarify the confluence between taxonomy and racialisation by analysing Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago (1869), a classical work of natural history.  

In this “work in progress” seminar Nazry will extract and explain the means through which this book channels the taxonomic principles of Carl Linnaeus and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach to categorise not just animals but peoples too. To show the prevalence of race science in maritime Southeast Asia, he will also be drawing parallels between these naturalist writings and the creative writings of other colonial-era figures who had spent time in the region like Hugh Clifford, Frank Swettenham and Herman Hesse.  

As a comparative narrative study of scientific and fictional texts, this presentation serves a provocation: not only can the humanities complicate what was hitherto considered the unassailable ‘objectivity’ of science; in fact, the humanistic mode of enquiry can also be considered an applied discipline worthy of continued investment in universities. 

Where: ONCA Gallery, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4GB

When: 29 June 2023, 1-2pm

Image Credit: File:Malay Archipelago Orang-Utan attacked by Dyaks.jpg – Wikimedia Commons