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Collecting and the Dramas of Colonial Hostility

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Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Abstract

In the previous chapter the interaction between historical stories and anthropological knowledge has been examined in the context of a controversy about the authenticity of the Coimbra collection. In the 1930s, conflicting narratives about the colonial past of the Timorese crania intruded into anthropological constructs. Throughout the twentieth century, the diffuse historical identity of the collection was expressed in two contrasting narratives. Some stories attributed the origin of the skulls to a Timorese massacre of Portuguese troops in Cová in 1895–96, while others associated them with indigenous victims of Timorese headhunting, during unspecified conflicts near the Dutch border sometime prior to 1882. Both narratives, however, accepted the skulls had been collected from a ‘sacred tree in Cová’. This chapter reassesses these accounts, by looking at the colonial episodes of collecting. In addition, the chapter unearths the ‘lost’ documentation of the collection and offers an alternative account of its colonial history.

Keywords

Human Head Social Drama Human Remains Catholic Priest Sacred Tree 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    ‘When a sacred being is divided into parts, every single of its parts continues to contain the entirety of its self. In other words, with regards to religious thought, the part is worth the whole; it has the same powers, the same efficacy. A fragment of relic has the same virtues as the entire relic. The smallest drop of blood contains the same active principle as the entire blood.’ Emile Durkheim, Les Formes Élémentaires de la Vie Religieuse (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1912), p. 112.Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    Cf. Hélio Felgas, ‘Como foi Massacrada em Timor a Coluna do Capitâo Eduardo da Câmara’, Atomo, 2 (1952), 20; Martinho, Timor. Quatro Séculos, p. 78; Castro, Timor (Subsídios para a sua História), p. 92.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    Military historians in particular recounted the incident with the intention of clearing Câmara of responsibilities and enhancing his heroism. Cf. Ribeiro da Fonseca [R. F.], ‘Timor’, Revista Militar, 47 (1895), 646–50; Martinho, Timor. Quatro Séculos, ch. V; Felgas, ‘Como foi Massacrada em Timor a Coluna do Capitâo Câmara’; Augusto Krusse Afflalo, ‘Heróis do Ultramar. Capitâo Eduardo Inâcio da Câmara—Pai do Grande Artista Leal da Câmara’, Jornal de Sintra, 22 March 1974, p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Victor Turner, Dramas, Fields and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974), p. 33.Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    Later nationalist historiography would add consistency to this interpretation, selecting the ‘campaign of 1895 and the death of Captain Câmara’ as ‘biggest disaster’ of the history of Portuguese Timor. J. Simôes Martinho, ‘Ocupaçâo Militar de Timor. Resumo Histórico’, in Anonymous (ed.), Principais Factos da Ocupaçâo Ultramarina (Séculos XIX e XX até à Grande Guerra). Exposiçâo Histórica da Ocupaçâo (Lisbon: AGC, 1937), pp. 73–5; Martinho, Timor. Quatro Séculos, ch. V; Felgas, ‘Como foi Massacrada a Coluna do Capitâo Câmara’; Oliveira, Timor na História de Portugal, II.Google Scholar
  6. 30.
    After the Maubara war of 1893, Dionizio Barretto, captain of moradores, was commended by governor Forjaz ‘for having prevented that the head of [Portuguese] second-lieutenant Pio was cut off, getting wounded and at the risk of his own life in front of the village Baner-bê’. Cipriano Forjaz to MSNMU, 15 Nov. 1893, Lisbon, Macao and Timor, ACL_SEMU_DGU_1R_002_1894, Cx 8. I thank Janet Gunter for this reference. See also the legend reported in Ezequiel Enes Pascoal, ‘A Morte do Buan. Conto’, Seam, II (1950), 172–3.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    Marshall Sahlins, ‘The Return of the Event, Again: With Reflection on the Beginnings of the Great Fijian War of 1843 to 1855 between the Kingdoms of Ban and Rewa’, in A. Biersack (ed.), Clio in Oceania. Toward a Historical Anthropology (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), pp. 37–99.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Yves Léonard, ‘I—A Ideia Colonial, Olhares Cruzados (1890–1930)’, in F. Bettencourt and K. Chauduri (ed.), História da Expansdo Portuguesa (Lisbon: Circulo de Leitores, 1998) IV, pp. 521–35.Google Scholar
  9. 60.
    For skulls, bones, and severed heads as relics in Western cultural tradition, compare Geary, ‘Sacred Commodities: the Circulation of Medieval Relics’; Henschen, The Human Skull, pp. 61–3; Quigley, Skulls and Skeletons, ch. 1. The severed heads of Christian saints could also take on political and nationalist significations, as it happened with the remains of the St. Oliver Plunkett in the Irish context: cf. Siobhân Kilfeather, ‘Oliver Plunkett’s Head’, Textual Practice 16, 2 (2002), 229–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 63.
    The holiness with which Câmara’s head was endowed was revealed in the greatest care put in the construction of a reliquary (a special box of the finest wood) for storing and preserving the head during the journey. The practice bears analogy with the practices of preserving and transporting the heads of Catholic martyrs and saints. See, for example, the history of St. Oliver Plunkett’s relics: Frank Donnelly, Until the Storm Passes: St. Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Armagh Who Refused to Go Away (new edn, Drogheda: St Peter’s Church, 2000).Google Scholar
  11. 69.
    Ramon Aunon y Villalon, ‘La Cabeza del Capitan Câmara’, Anais do Club Militar Naval, 4, XXVII (1897), 233–5.Google Scholar
  12. 70.
    Roy Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason: the Modern Foundations of Body and Soul (London: Allen Lane, 2003), p. xiv.Google Scholar
  13. 71.
    Cf. Ruth Richardson, Death, Dissection and the Destitute (2nd edn, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. XV.Google Scholar
  14. 72.
    Cf. Winans, ‘The Head of the King’; and for an insightful argument in this direction on the connections between ‘savage’ enemies, skull-collecting, and military practices in the Victorian period, see Simon J. Harrison, ‘Skulls and Scientific Collecting in the Victorian Military: Keeping the Enemy Dead in British Frontier Warfare’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 50, 1 (2008), 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 74.
    The Natural History Museum and the Museum of the Geographical Society of Lisbon hold no Timorese skulls in their current collections and it is likely that none entered the collections in the past. Notice of a gift of Timorese remains to the Museum of Mineralogy and Geology in Lisbon appeared only in 1930–33. The remains were collected from graves by captain Correia de Campos. Cristina Neto, personal communication, August 2002; Hugo Cardoso, personal communication, November 2004; Ana Cristina Roque and Livia Ferrho, ‘Notas para um Inventârio do Património Histórico-Cultural de Timor Lorosa’e’, Anais de História de Além-Mar, II (2001), 423–48.Google Scholar
  16. 103.
    See Manuel Teixeira, Macau e a sua Diocese. Missões de Timor (Macao: Tip. da Missão do Padroado, 1974), p. 48Google Scholar
  17. Francisco M. Fernandes, D. Antdnio Joaquim de Medeiros (Bispo de Macao) e as Miss Oes de Timor 1884–1897 (Macao: Universidade de Macau, 2000), ch. V.Google Scholar
  18. 119.
    Manoel Augusto de Sousa Pires de Lima, As Missões Ultramarinas. Discursos Pronunciados na Câmara dos Senhores Deputados (Sessôes de 14, 15 e 16 de Maio de 1879) (Porto: Livr. Internacional, 1879), p. 60.Google Scholar
  19. Cf. Henrique de Barros Gomes, ‘Discurso proferido na sessão de 6 de Maio de 1887 pelo Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros’, Annaes das Missões Ultramarinas, II (1890), 58–94Google Scholar
  20. Manuel Pinheiro Chagas, ‘Reforma do Collegio das missões. Relatório do Exmo Ministro da Marinha, 3 Dezembro 1884’, Annaes das Missões Ultramarinas, I (1889), 1–2.Google Scholar
  21. 120.
    Annaes das Missões Portuguezas Ultramarinas, 18 (1871), 280–2. See also Antbnio José Boavida, ‘Os Missionários Portuguezes e a sessao da Sociedade de Geographia’, Annaes das Missões Ultramarinas, 1 (1889), 23.Google Scholar
  22. 123.
    Note, for instance, that Medeiros’s regretted the physical condition of the bones (not properly dried up by the ‘natives’). Instructions for collectors in that period, in fact, express concern with the preparation of anatomical specimens. See for example: Paul Broca, Instructions Générales pour les Recherches Anthropologiques à faire sur le Vivant (Paris: G. Masson, 1879), pp. 8–25.Google Scholar
  23. 124.
    The term kaladi (as well as apparently its counterpart firaku) and correspondent anthropological stereotypes were common throughout the colonial period. Cf. Artur de Sà, ‘Caladis de Timor’, BGC, 302–3 (1950), 35–45; Traube, Cosmology and Social Life, p. 49.Google Scholar
  24. 133.
    Indigenous auxiliaries could give skulls taken in punitive campaigns to Dutch agents. The anthropologist Ten Kate possibly collected a few skulls in 1890— 92 through these means. Cf. Meyners d’Estrey, ‘Nouvelles du Dr Ten Kate à Timor’, L’Anthropologie, III (1892), 124; Kate, ‘Contribution à l’Anthropologie de Quelques peoples d’Océanie’, 279 n. 2; D cit. in McWilliam, ‘Severed Heads that Germinate the State’, p. 128.Google Scholar
  25. 136.
    See Joâo Gomes Ferreira to Bishop of Macao, 11 Aug. 1881, Lisbon, AHU, Macao and Timor, ACL_SEMU_DGU_1R_002_Cx 2, 1881. The authority of Catholic missionaries as nai lulik of outsider origins was legitimated by mythic narrations and legends. See Ezequiel Enes Pascoal, ‘Curiosa Lenda’, Seara, 3–4 (1950), 41.Google Scholar
  26. 142.
    Antbnio Joaquim de Medeiros, ‘[Visita a prisioneiros em Macau], Feb. 1888’, Annaes das Missões Ultramarinas, 2 (1890), 149.Google Scholar
  27. 144.
    Cf. for a recent state of the arts, O’ Hanlon and Welsch (ed.), Hunting the Gatherers. See also Chris Gosden and Chantal Knowles, Collecting Colonialism: Material Culture and Colonial Change (Oxford: Berg, 2001).Google Scholar
  28. 146.
    In Australia, or North America, human skulls often reached European hands as the result of grave-robbing and other forms of colonial violence. But they could also be traded with Euro-Americans or gifted by indigenous people to colonial agents, as some Melanesian examples or the case of the Shuar suggest. Cf. Turnbull, ‘“Rare Work Amongst the Professors”’; Bank, ‘Of “Native Skulls” and “Noble Caucasians”’; Thomas, Skull Wars; Markus Schindlbeck, ‘The Art of the Head-Hunters: Collecting Activity and Recruitment in New Guinea at the Beginning of the Twentieth-Century’, in H. Hiery and J. Mackenzie (ed.), European Impact and Pacific Influence: British and German Colonial Policy in the Pacific Islands and the Indigenous Response (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 1997), pp. 31–43. On the Shuar headhunting and shrunken heads trade, see Steel, ‘Trade Goods and Jivaro Warfare: The Shuar 1850–1957, and the Achuar, 1940–1978’; Rubinstein, ‘Circulation, Accumulation, and the Power of Shuar Shrunken Heads’.Google Scholar
  29. 147.
    For the sociomaterial notion of translation here implied, see for example: Michel Callon, ‘Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St. Brieuc Bay’, in John Law (ed.), Power, Action and Belief A New Sociology of Knowledge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986), pp. 196–233; Latour, La Science en Action.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ricardo Nuno Afonso Roque 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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