5. Scientific Diplomacy and the Establishment of an Australian Chair of Anthropology, 1914–25
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121 5 Scientific Diplomacy and the Establishment of an Australian Chair of Anthropology, 1914–25 During the first decades of the twentieth century, Australian scientists , supported by their British counterparts, worked to convince the recently formed (1901) Commonwealth government of Australia, a federation of the states and territories,1 of the value of anthropology. They argued that it had value as an academic discipline for two reasons : first, it sought to ascertain the laws of human sociality and origins , and second, it would be useful in training colonial field officials (Kuper 1996; Kuklick 1991; Stocking 1995). To this end they argued for the establishment of a chair of anthropology in an Australian university . It was a time of rising nationalism, pride, and a sense of Australian uniqueness, an Antipodean Briton; the crimson bonds of kinship with Britain were not severed, but there was a call to “let us be Australians: Big Australians first, and all the time” (Cole 1971; see also Anderson 2002:11–40).2 WhileanthropologyinAustraliawasgenerallyconcernedwithtracing origins and seeing the indigenous inhabitants as examples of early mankind, British anthropologists had expressed the need to institutionalize anthropology for imperial ends (Quiggin 1942:117). In Australia ’s sole colony, Papua, administered by Australia from 1906, J. H. P. Murray, the jurist and soon to be lieutenant-governor of Papua, was first introduced to “this very fascinating science” of anthropology at the beginning of his Papuan career through the established anthropologists of the time, particularly A. C. Haddon, C. G. Seligman, and R. R. Marett.3 Murray accompanied Seligman on his “rounds of investigation in the Port Moresby villages” (Stocking 1995:251). Nevertheless , anthropology, he wrote to his brother Gilbert, a classical scholar Geoffrey Gray 122 Geoffrey Gray at Oxford, “is purely fantastic; the alleged facts being unsupported by evidence, and the inferences forced.”4 In spite of this view, anthropology and anthropologists “became tools to be harnessed by Murray in achievinghisaimofbeingconsideredaparagonofthecolonialadministrator ” (Griffiths 1977:5). Atthe1911meetingoftheAustralasianAssociationfortheAdvancement of Science (aaas), “Aboriginal welfare [as] a matter of serious debate” was raised for the first time (Mulvaney 1988:203). The following year, Herbert Basedow (a medical doctor) and Baldwin Spencer (professorofbiologyattheUniversityofMelbourne)wereappointed, respectively,protectorsofAboriginesintheNorthernTerritorytoassist intheadministrationofAboriginalpeopleandhelpdefinetheproblems and provide solutions. Neither appointment was successful in halting depopulationandpreservingtheindigenouspopulation,whichwerethe critical issues of the day (Mulvaney 1988:205; McGregor 1997:71–86). There was even an attempt by the University of Melbourne to obtain funding from the Australian government to be used by the “departments of anthropology (the science of the structure and functions of thehumanbody)inthevariousuniversitiesofAustralia,”whichwould belinkedupwiththeTropicalDiseasesInstituteatTownsville.5Atthe same time Murray was casting around for a government anthropologist ,anappointmenthedidnotmakeuntil1920(West1968:204–235).6 Duringthisperiodsomemajorethnographicstudieswerepublished in Australia. Among them were studies by W. E. Roth, a medical practitioner ; Erhard Eylmann, a German ethnographer; Carl Strehlow, a Lutheran missionary; and R. H. Mathews, a surveyor. Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen published The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899), and it attracted considerable interest. There were major scientific expeditions, such as the Haddon-led Cambridge Anthropological expedition to the Torres Strait Islands in 1898 and the Oxford Anthropological Expedition led by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. This spate of research and publications stimulated great interest in Europe, especially among British anthropologists and scientists. Concerted calls for a chair of anthropology in an Australian university began with the eighty-fourth meeting of the British Association for Advancement of Science (baas) held in Sydney, Melbourne, Scientific Diplomacy 123 and Adelaide in 1914 (MacLeod 1988).7 This meeting signaled a more specific and direct interest in the development of anthropology as a university subject.8 It was proposed that a committee be appointed to examine how the teaching of anthropology could be extended in the British white dominions of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa (Hammond-Tooke1997:20–25).Italsourgedthatthevanishingtribes of Australia should be studied “before it was too late” (Elkin 1970:10; Mulvaney 1988:204). The meeting was interrupted by the declaration of war and the advent of World War I. This chapter traces the events and arguments put forward that led to the establishment of a chair of anthropology at the University of Sydney and reexamines the role of the Australian National Research Council (anrc) and that of the Rockefeller Foundation. It challenges the conclusions of previous writers such as A. P. Elkin, who claimed that the London University anatomist Elliot Grafton Smith was “the key figure” in the establishment of the chair (1970:12; see also Blunt 1988), and J. H. P. Murray, who claimed it was “largely through the persistenteffortsofthePapuanGovernment...


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