Review of Anna Johnston’s ‘Antipodean Laboratory’

My review of Anna Johnston’s important new book, The Antipodean Laboratory: Making Colonial Knowledge, 1770-1870 (Cambridge, 2023), was recently published online in the Journal of Australian Studies. In the review, I argue that Johnston’s book ‘reveals in impressive archival detail the complex processes by which data is transformed into knowledge in improvisational and situational conditions’, as well as ‘revisiting dominant archival discourses in ways that uncover previously overlooked collaborations and agencies’.

For the full review see:

Here is an abstract for The Antipodean Laboratory:

In this compelling study, Anna Johnston shows how colonial knowledge from Australia influenced global thinking about convicts, natural history and humanitarian concerns about Indigenous peoples. These were fascinating topics for British readers, and influenced government policies in fields such as prison reform, the history of science, and humanitarian and religious campaigns. Using a rich variety of sources including natural history and botanical illustrations, voyage accounts, language studies, Victorian literature and convict memoirs, this multi-disciplinary account charts how new ways of identifying, classifying, analysing and controlling ideas, populations, and environments were forged and circulated between colonies and through metropolitan centres. They were also underpinned by cultural exchanges between European and Indigenous interlocutors and knowledge systems. Johnston shows how colonial ideas were disseminated through a global network of correspondence and print culture.

Anna Johnston is Professor of English Literature in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.


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