1st Edition

Interrogating Human Origins Decolonisation and the Deep Human Past

Edited By Martin Porr, Jacqueline Matthews Copyright 2020
    366 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    366 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Interrogating Human Origins encourages new critical engagements with the study of human origins, broadening the range of approaches to bring in postcolonial theories, and begin 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 their 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.


    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



    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.