The Race Question in Oceania

A. B. Meyer and Otto Finsch between metropolitan theory and field experience, 1865–1914

by Hilary Howes (Author)
Thesis XIV, 344 Pages
Series: Germanica Pacifica, Volume 12


In 1873 the German naturalist A.B. Meyer spent five months in New Guinea. He had expected «bloodthirsty and untamed savages» and was amazed to find «men of milder customs». His compatriot Otto Finsch returned from a voyage through Hawaii, Micronesia, New Zealand and Torres Strait declaring Germany’s most respected anthropologists wrong. Human races could not be neatly distinguished: they «merge into one another to such an extent that the difference between Europeans and Papuans becomes completely unimportant». This richly interdisciplinary book explores the transformative impacts of personal encounters in Oceania on understandings of human difference, and illuminates the difficult relationship between field experience and metropolitan science in late nineteenth-century Europe.


XIV, 344
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (November)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013. XIV, 344 pp., 18 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Hilary Howes (Author)

Hilary Susan Howes completed her PhD in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. She has published and taught on environmental history, history of science and Pacific history at the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne.


Title: The Race Question in Oceania