A world of difference: The reception of Enlightenment thought in the travelogues of the Forsters

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    Abstract

    The accounts which Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Georg have written of the voyage with Captain Cook have always been considered being representative of the Enlightenment. In this article this assumption is put to the test: it traces Enlightenment theories and concepts in the Forsters’ representations of non-western peoples. It analyses descriptions of the peoples of Tahiti in Polynesia and Tanna in Melanesia, following the rules of poststructuralist textual analysis. The analysis shows important differences in the Forsters’ perceptions of society, in particular of the ways in which living standards can be improved. Furthermore, the authors have different views of femininity, resulting in different assessments of ‘the situation’ of women. Because their concepts of ‘woman’ have specific connotations of civilisation, these impact not only the relations between the sexes in indigenous societies but also the evaluations of these cultures at large.
    Translated title of the contributionA world of difference: The reception of Enlightenment thought in the travelogues of the Forsters
    Original languageDutch
    Pages (from-to)164-185
    Number of pages22
    JournalDe Achttiende Eeuw
    Volume45
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb-2013

    Keywords

    • Enlightenment, Exploration, First Contact, Pacific, Gender

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