chapter  2
22 Pages

Collection, repatriation and identity

ByCressida Fforde

Perceptions and constructions of identity saturate the history of the collection and interpretation of Aboriginal human remains. Scientific analysis of such material in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sought to identify and measure racial characteristics, constructing an Aboriginal identity expressed in quantitative terms and reifying a pre-existing perception of Aborigines as inferior to the colonizers. This identity was constructed in comparison and conjunction with that of the ‘superior’ European, itself measured and reified in the anthropological laboratory.The two were dependent upon each other.