Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2015-01-21 20:07Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

The British Scholar Society
Book of The Month
November 2014

Lachy Paterson
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Salesa, Damon Ieremia, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 308 pp. $US 45 (paperback).

Race has always been an important preoccupation in New Zealand society. In the country’s popular imagination, its past is predicated on national myths that it had the best race relations in the world, and that its Māori citizens were the best treated of all indigenous peoples. Intermarriage between Māori and the Pākehā settlers, a practice encouraged even prior to formal colonisation, was often given as evidence for such claims. Damon Salesa’s Racial Crossings is an exciting investigation of the theories, discourses and policies that underpinned intermarriage, and the broader colonial project of racial amalgamation.

The volume’s subtitle, Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire, is a little misleading. The book is not a social history of intermarriage: indeed the story concerns itself more with the discourses of racial crossing, than the lives of the actual people doing the crossing. Its focus is on roughly four decades of New Zealand history, one preceding the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) and the three following. A reader will find little detail on the policies and practice of intermarriage of colonial India, Canada, Australia or South Africa, or even of New Zealand in the last three decades of Victoria’s reign. As Salesa notes, power was generally devolved to colonial governors, whose actions and policies were shaped by local conditions. Although conditions may have been localised, ideas flowed more freely around the Empire. New Zealand’s pertinence to “imperial” studies is that it was colonised when humanitarianism was flourishing. After earlier examples of destructive colonisation, Britain sought to protect New Zealand’s promising “aborigines” through civilisation and amalgamation. Although missionaries, officials both in Britain and New Zealand, intellectuals and settler politicians may have had differing (and sometimes competing) agenda, a general consensus prevailed that intermarriage would benefit both Māori and colonisation…

Read the entire review.

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Racial Crossings: Race, intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire by Damon Ieremia Salesa (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-04-20 02:30Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire by Damon Ieremia Salesa (review)

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2013
DOI: 10.1353/cch.2013.0015

Sarah Carter, Professor of History
University of Alberta

Damon Ieremia Salesa, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

With a focus on New Zealand to 1872 but with attention to other British colonies, Damon Ieremia Salesa finds that “€œthe “€žcrossing”€ of races: different races associating, liaising, reproducing, marrying or consorting,”€ (1) was everywhere. Racial crossings both fascinated and concerned the British of the Victorian era in the colonies and the metropole, yet rarely were they punished, or legislated against. One of the major insights of this study is that racial crossing (properly managed and administered) was seen as a strategy of colonialism, not a challenge to it, and was a “€œcornerstone of the colonial management of races”€ (13), although there were dissenting voices and intense debates. But while the book deals with intermarriage and more informal crossings, there is greater focus on the concept and pervasiveness of “€œracial amalgamation,”€ as opposed to separation or segregation, as a strategy for dealing with and solution to the “€œproblem”€ of different races. Racial amalgamation was a method of erasure, of obliterating difference peacefully. A central argument of this book is that race was constitutive and elemental, that New Zealand was “€œa “€žracialized state,”€ one associated and with a nineteenth-century British Empire increasingly organized and ruled through discourses and practices of race”€ (17).

Advocates of the “€œsystematic”€ colonization of New Zealand including Edward Gibbon Wakefield proposed policies that included variants of racial amalgamation, which was a foundation of the land policy of the New Zealand Company, the focus of the first chapter. There were to be no vast tracts of land set aside as reserves in New Zealand, no separation of the races. Instead the Tangata Whenua would be interspersed and sprinkled among the colonizers. This would permit an expansive, intensive colonization and at the same time speed the “€œcivilization”€ of the Tangata Whenua who, it was assumed, would naturally desire to acquire the habits and comforts of their new neighbours. The second chapter traces the development of “€œtender ties”€ between Tangata Whenua and foreigners, the emergence of the term “€œhalf caste“€ by the 1820s and the growing perception of New Zealand as a place of disorder and pandemonium in need of intervention. Yet no steps were taken to obstruct or abolish intermarriage by colonial government; it was actively supported by authorities as long as it was “€œlegitimate”€ according to British law. At the Colonial Office at mid-century, Herman Merivale was the “€œphilosopher”€ of the amalgamation of colonists with Indigenous people, which he saw a “€œsensible, humane and practical course”€ (95), compared to the other two alternatives: extermination, or segregation on reservations. Merivale imagined a peaceful “€œeuthanasia of savage races”€ (157). The goal of peaceful disappearance of Indigenous people through amalgamation, however, had the effect of sharpening racial categories and hierarchies. A racialized colonial regime based on strategies of amalgamation was etched onto the land in New Zealand and entrenched in related legislation and policy.

An important chapter is devoted to debates about racial crossing in science and scholarship. Those who saw race crossing in a positive light drew on views of the Britons as a mixed race people who had grown in strength and superiority as a result. Organizations such as the Aborigines Protection Society, and the Ethnological Society of London, promoted the benefits of race crossing, while others, most notably the Anthropological Society of London, sharply disagreed. Influential authors in the colonies, such as A.S. Thomson, writing about New Zealand, saw amalgamation as the hope for the future, arguing that by the third generation “€œthe features of the Maori race will disappear from among the half-castes”€ (157). While Salesa notes that Indigenous voices and actors were absent from science and scholarly circles, throughout the book there is an important thread of Tangata Whenua discourses of racial crossings. A major point of the book is that Indigenous understandings contrasted fundamentally with colonial taxonomic practices. “€œHalf castes”€ found an accepted place; they were born members of a hapū or clan through their mothers and were not fractionalized into “€œhalves.”€…

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Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, United Kingdom on 2011-05-14 03:00Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire

Oxford University Press
May 2011
320 pages
Hardback ISBN13: 9780199604159; ISBN10: 0199604150

Damon Ieremia Salesa, Associate Professor of History, American Culture, and Asian/Pacific Islander Studies
University of Michigan

The Victorians were fascinated with intersections between different races. Whether in sexual or domestic partnerships, in interracial children, racially diverse communities or societies, these ‘racial crossings’ were a lasting Victorian concern. But in an era of imperial expansion, when slavery was abolished, colonial wars were fought, and Britain itself was reformed, these concerns were more than academic. In both the British empire and imperial Britain, racial crossings shaped what people thought about race, the future, the past, and the conduct and possibilities of empire. Victorian fears of miscegenation and degeneration are well known; this study turns to apparently opposite ideas where racial crossing was seen as a means of improvement, a way of creating new societies, or a mode for furthering the rule of law and the kingdom of Heaven.

Salesa explores how and why the preoccupation with racial crossings came to be so important, so varied, and so widely shared through the writings and experiences of a raft of participants: from Victorian politicians and writers, to philanthropists and scientists, to those at the razor’s edge of empire—from soldiers, missionaries, and settlers, to ‘natives’, ‘half-castes’ and other colonized people. Anchored in the striking history of colonial New Zealand, where the colonial policy of ‘racial amalgamation’ sought to incorporate and intermarry settlers and New Zealand Maori, Racial Crossings examines colonial encounters, working closely with indigenous ideas and experiences, to put Victorian racial practice and thought into sharp, critical, relief.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Crossing Races
  • 1. Systematic Colonisation and Racial Amalgamation
  • 2. Intimate Encounters in New Zealand Before 1840
  • 3. Racial Amalgamation in New Zealand 1840-1850s
  • 4. Crossing Races, Encountering Places
  • 5. The Tender Way in Race War
  • Conclusion: Dwelling in Unity
  • Bibliography
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