Dampier v Cook to different encounters with Aboriginals.

Analysis of this weeks writing goes some way to exposing that our phenomenology impacts our vulnerability to culture shock. Cook who had encountered and experienced many unknown cultures before landing on the shores of “Terra Nullius”. Did the ethnocentrism of those who first encounter the Aboriginals impact the European societies valuation of the value of the inhabitants of this land? Did the cultural violence commence before the arrival of the first fleet and other colonisers?

In Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines : Recreating Song Lines Atkinson quotes from Cook’s journal.

“They live in a Tranquility which is not disturbed by the Inequality of condition. The Earth and Sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for Life … they live in a Warm and Fine Climate, and enjoy every wholesome Air, so that they have very little need of Clothing … in short, they seem’d to set no Value upon anything we gave them; nor would they ever part with anything of their own … This, in my opinion Argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life (James Cook, Journal, 1893 edn).”

In contrast to Cook, Dampier (the ex-pirate) who landed on Australia earlier described the Aboriginals as ‘the miserablest People in the World’. He goes on to be even more aggressive:

The Inhabitants of this Country are the miserablest People in the world. The Hod-madods of Monomatapa, though a nasty People, yet for Wealth are Gentlemen to these; who have no Houses and skin Garments, Sheep, Poultry, and Fruits of the Earth, Ostrich Eggs, etc. as the Hodmadods have: and setting aside their Humane Shape, they differ but little from Brutes
What was the difference between the two explorers worldviews to create vastly different accounts? “

Many of his ethnological accounts were embellished to help him sell more books. He was broke after struggling back to England and need all the publicity he could muster. In his journals, he was more respectful and acknowledged they were well organised and had been there for a significant time. But the helped set the mindset that future explorers and colonised of a land with a population of no significant importance, no more than animals. The impact of their journals and accounts back in Europe influenced scientific and intellectual beliefs. This seemed to European scientific and intellectual beliefs which influenced the evaluations of different cultures.

Other published descriptions enforced the negative view such as Lord Monboddo, Thomas Malthus’ description of Aboriginals as “the lowest stage of human society” and statements like “barbarous mode of court-ship” as a cruel but effective form of population control”. James Cowles Prichard offered biblical contrast as Aboriginals were not children of “Adam” and described them as among “the rudest and most destitute savages found on the face of globe”.

Their journals would have documented a dynamic analysis of the Aboriginal culture. But their ethnocentrism tainted their accounts in what can only be described now as pure racism. Their stories went to create the stone that was cast into the pond as per as in Atkinson’s account of Charles Figley Trauma and its Wake (1986). That stone was the righteous biopower that would create hundreds of years of cultural violence.


Atkinson, Judy. Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines : Recreating Song Lines, Spinifex Press, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/deakin/detail.action?docID=410460.
Created from deakin on 2019-09-21 00:46:37.

Strong, Pauline Turner. “Fathoming the Primitive: Australian Aborigines in Four Explorers’ Journals, 1697-1845.” Ethnohistory 33, no. 2 (1986): 175-94. doi:10.2307/481773.

Binan Goonj: bridging cultures in Aboriginal , Anne-Katrin Eckermann 2010