Te Aboriginal Male in the Enlightenment World
contributed to Enlightenment theories about mankind, human variation andthe nature o so-called savage society. Tere were also undoubtedly momentso mutual understanding and comprehension between Aboriginal people andEuropean explorers, as well as moments where they expressed eelings o wonder,bemusement and scorn towards one another. Yet, the vast majority o the explor-ers’ accounts o Aboriginal people prosaically describe what they looked like andhow they lived. Europeans documented what Aboriginal people ate, where theyslept, what kinds o manuactures they made and even, as the curious-minded William Anderson and Jacques-Felix-Emmanuel Hamelin both documented,how indigenous men stood while relieving themselves.
Tese descriptions o ordinary activities tend to be le out o the histories, inavour o accounts which reect broader political concerns, such as Aboriginalland tenure, diplomatic protocols and rituals, and gender relations.
But suchaccounts are pregnant with signicance and reward detailed study. Exploreraccounts o the mundane and quotidian challenge teleological histories becausethey illustrate that rst encounters were not between imperial invaders andindigenous victims in waiting, with both enacting preordained roles. Instead,these meetings, oen tense, sometimes perplexing, and occasionally convivial, were between men, with their vulnerabilities, egotism and aggressive propensi-ties. Tis is because during the eighteenth century women were usually le athome, be that a European dwelling or an Aboriginal shelter out o the explor-ers’ sight. Moreover, they were meetings between men with more immediateconcerns than empire, such as the need or sustenance, and anxieties over howto saeguard themselves rom harm. Neither the European nor Aboriginal menconsistently held the upper hand in these exchanges, as both were ultimatelyheld hostage to the needs o their bodies and their ailure to ully comprehendthe motives and intentions o the other. At the same time, it was the mutuallyrecognized railties and pleasures o the body, and the curiosity kindled by theirencounters, which enabled European and Aboriginal men brie moments o connection. Tese included miming acts o bodily elimination, laughing at theother’s lack o body hair, physical strength, agility, or apparent sexual vigour, andtouching, scrutinizing, grooming and adorning one another’s bodies.Hence, rst contacts can be read as embodied encounters, as the body wascrucial in acilitating rst exchanges between Aboriginal and European people.Indeed the term contact means ‘to touch’, and it was through using their bodiesas a medium o communication that the Europeans engaged with Aboriginal people and attempted to learn more o their physiology and mores. Further, todifering degrees, the explorers were also inuenced by various aspects o Enlight-enment thought, including the prolieration o scientic and anthropologicaldiscourses on the body.
New empirical sciences such as anatomy enabled closerand seemingly more sophisticated scrutiny o the human body, and recent tax-