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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Of 'Native Skulls' and 'Noble Caucasians': Phrenology in Colonial South Africa
Author:Bank, AndrewISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
physical anthropology
History and Exploration
Health and Nutrition
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2637310
Abstract:This paper traces the origins of racial science in South Africa back to the first half of the 19th century. Metropolitan racial theory attracted a substantial following among white settlers in British colonies. Local scientific thinking about race focussed on phrenology, a popular science of character analysis based on the configurations of the brain and skull. But phrenology had differential appeal for British colonial intellectuals according to their broader political affiliations. While humanitarian liberals were critical of newfangled theories of cerebral determinism that might contradict their cherished belief in the immediate transformative powers of religion and education, antiliberal ideologues, and especially medical men, used the new racial science to buttress their hostile attitudes towards Africans. The Xhosa wars of the 1830s and 1840s proved a particularly fertile terrain for sowing the seeds of scientific racism. Frontier violence generated both African skulls, the raw empirical materials that fuelled metropolitan racial science, and a hatred of the Xhosa that made the settler population increasingly receptive to theories of the innate inferiority of the African mind. Notes, ref., sum.