Review: Headhunting and Colonialism

Rodney Taveira, 11 March 2013

We congratulate REGS postdoc Ricardo Roque on a most favourable review received for his book, Headhunting and Colonialism: Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870-1930 (MacMillan, 2010), published in Annales Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 1 (2013), pp. 240-242. Below is a translation of an excerpt, with the original below that:

“Ethnohistory is rarely mobilised by the historians of sciences. Yet, R. Roque shows us the gains in understanding that derive from an integrated approach to the colonial phenomenon, as regards this case-study as well as other dossiers discussed in conclusion (slavery in Africa, for example). The hypothesis of reciprocal parasitism, inspired in Michel Serres and here re-appropriated, clarifies in a new light the very material economy of the overseas scientific collections. This brilliant book, of a subtle writing style, exemplifies the well-founded method described by the great historian of anthropology George Stocking in 1987 as ‘multicontextualization’.” (Claude Blankaert)

“L’ethnohistoire est rarement mobilisée par les historiens des sciences. R. Roque nous montre pourtant le gain de comprehension qu’apporte une approche intégrée du fait colonial sur cette étude de cas comme sur d’autres dossiers abordés en conclusion (l’esclavage en Afrique, par exemple). L’hypothese du parasitisme réciproque, reprise de Michel Serres et ici réappropriée, éclaire d’un jour neuf l’économie tres matérielle des collections scientifiques d’outre-mer. Ce livre brillant, d’une écriture subtile, exemplifie le bien-fondé de la méthode que George Stocking, le grand historien de l’anthropologie, dénommait en 1987 la «multicontextualisation».”