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Historical fiction as anthropological technique: in the mind of an enslaved Melanesian

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Colonisation in the Pacific encompassed peoples who were separated by thousands of miles of ocean and an even greater gulf of incomprehension. As an anthropologist I am committed to the micro-scale of human interaction and lived experience, which does not lend itself easily to describing this grand scale of events, so I experiment with using elements of fiction to sew together different Pacific experiences into a coherent story. An unexpected side-effect has been to force this anthropologist to go further than I ever would in my normal writing: I felt compelled to write as if I really know what an enslaved Melanesian on an Australian plantation in 1884 thought. I present some of that writing sandwiched by reflections on the process and its limitations.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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