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Different ways of seeing 'savagery': Two Nordic travellers in 18th-century North America
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6215-6225
2019 (English)In: History of the Human Sciences, ISSN 0952-6951, E-ISSN 1461-720XArticle in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Andreas Hesselius and Pehr Kalm both spent time in eastern North America during the first half of the 18th century. Both came with an ardent desire to observe and learn about the natural environment and inhabitants of the region. Both produced writings, in the form of journals that have proved immensely useful to subsequent scholars. Yet their writings also display differences that illuminate the epistemological and sociological underpinnings of their observations, and which had consequences for their encounters with foreign environments. Hesselius, who served as pastor to the Swedish congregation in Philadelphia from 1712 to 1724, described his experiences and observations with what we might call a historical awareness, while Kalm, known as the first of Linnaeus's students to travel to the New World, primarily offered dehistoricized and denarrativized taxonomic ethnographic descriptions. At first glance, Hesselius and Kalm appear to illustrate perfectly Michel Foucault's description of the difference between Renaissance and classical epistemologies. Kalm's disembodied and decontextualized representations fit well with Foucault's description of natural history in the classical age as consisting 'of undertaking a meticulous examination of things themselves horizontal ellipsis and then of transcribing what it has gathered in smooth, neutralized, and faithful words'. This article, however, points out that while Hesselius and Kalm arrive at similar descriptions of plants and other-than-human beings by employing different methodologies, when it comes to describing indigenous peoples their respective methodologies lead to radically different approaches, with Hesselius writing them into history, while Kalm relegates them to ethnology in the sense of savage 'peoples without histories'.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2019.
Keywords [en]
cultural encounters, epistemology, indigenous people, New Sweden, travel accounts
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-88773DOI: 10.1177/0952695119846003ISI: 000477220600001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-88773DiVA, id: diva2:1346492
Available from: 2019-08-28 Created: 2019-08-28 Last updated: 2019-08-28

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  • apa
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