Interrogating Human Origins: Decolonisation and the Deep Human Past, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Interrogating Human Origins

Decolonisation and the Deep Human Past, 1st Edition

Edited by Martin Porr, Jacqueline Matthews


360 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Interrogating Human Origins encourages new critical engagements with the study of human origins, broadening the range of approaches to bring in postcolonial theories, and beginning to explore the decolonisation of this complex topic.

The collection of chapters presented in this volume creates spaces for expansion of critical and unexpected conversations about human origins research. Authors from a variety of disciplines and research backgrounds, many of whom have strayed beyond their usual disciplinary boundaries to offer unique perspectives, all circle around the big questions of what it means to be and become human. Embracing and encouraging diversity is a recognition of the deep complexities of human existence in the past and the present, and it is vital to critical scholarship on this topic.

This book constitutes a starting point for increased interrogation of the important and wide-ranging field of research into human origins. It will be of interest to scholars across multiple disciplines, and particularly to those seeking to understand our ancient past through a more diverse lens.

Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Contributors


Section 1: Introduction

Chapter 1

Interrogating and decolonising the deep human past

Martin Porr and Jacqueline M Matthews

Section 2: Definition of the human and its colonial legacy

Chapter 2

IMHO: inventing modern human origins

Iain Davidson

Chapter 3

Modern ontologies of the ‘more-than-animal’ human: provincialising humanism for the present day

Kay Anderson

Chapter 4

Colonialism and narratives of human origins in Asia and Africa

Sheela Athreya and Rebecca Rogers Ackermann

Chapter 5

Primordialising Aboriginal Australians: colonialist tropes and Eurocentric views on behavioural markers of modern humans

Ian J McNiven

Section 3: Representation, temporality and narratives of human origins

Chapter 6

Old Flames: rekindling ideas of fire, humanity and representation through creative art practice

Ursula K Frederick

Chapter 7

Orientalism and origins: the search for firsts in the ‘Cradle of Civilization’

Allison Mickel

Chapter 8

The Beast Without. Becoming human in the science fiction of H.G. Wells

John McNabb

Chapter 9

The temporality of humanity and the colonial landscape of the deep human past

Martin Porr

Section 4: National, political and historical dimensions of human origins

Chapter 10

The Far West from the Far East: decolonisation and human origins in East Asia: the legacy of 1937 and 1948

Robin Dennell

Chapter 11

Interpretative shifts in understanding the prehistoric settlement of the Indian Subcontinent: comparing Western and Indian historical perspectives

Parth R Chauhan

Chapter 12

Our earliest ancestors: human and non-human primates of North America

Paulette F Steeves

Chapter 13

"If we are all African, then I am nothing", hominin evolution and the politics of identity in South Africa

Amanda Esterhuysen

Section 5: The construction of genetic facts

Chapter 14

Naming the sacred ancestors: taxonomic reification and Pleistocene genomic narratives

Jonathan Marks

Chapter 15

Traditional owner participation in genetic research: a researcher perspective

Craig Muller and Joe Dortch


About the Editors

Jacqueline M Matthews is a professional archaeologist with Cultural Heritage Management Australia and has wide-ranging experience working with Indigenous communities across Australia. She completed her Masters thesis at University of Western Australia focused on the application of ontological and postcolonial theories to Australian archaeology, which lead to a research interest in the role of Australia in global debates about human origins.

Martin Porr is Associate Professor of Archaeology and a member of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia (UWA). His research has so far concentrated on aspects related to Palaeolithic European art, Australian rock art, human origins and postcolonial approaches towards archaeological research. He has conducted fieldwork in Germany, Thailand, Australia, India and the Philippines.

About the Series

Archaeological Orientations

An interdisciplinary series that engages our on-going, yet ever-changing, fascination with the archaeological, Archaeological Orientations investigates the myriad ways material pasts are entangled with communities, animals, ecologies and technologies, past, present or future. From urgent contemporary concerns, including politics, violence, sustainability, ecology, and technology, to long-standing topics of interest, including time, space, materiality, memory and agency, Archaeological Orientations promotes bold thinking and the taking of risks in pressing trans-disciplinary matters of concern.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology