Wallace and the creation of history

Wallace’s article was unexpected to me. Either I had forgotten what had been said in class about the context in which it was written, or the context was never brought up in discussion. So I went into the reading thinking that it would be an academic article from our time and was extremely surprised to find comments such as “I am inclined to rank the Dyaks above the Malays in mental capacity, while in moral character they are undoubtedly superior to them,” (68). It is interesting though that Wallace’s piece was considered an academic article in his time. The things he shared were considered unchallenged knowledge about a people and area of the world. I suppose that the first half of the article could have been judged as subjective by some readers even then, but the latter half, which talks mostly about his encounters with bugs, birds, and nature, was meant to be read as very factual and full of biological evidence. From a modern perspective though even the “science” in the piece is undermined by the mentality with which he views the Dyaks, Malays, Siamese, and all other races he mentions.

But I agree with one of the posts that brings up the question of the perspective we inevitably bring to the reading. There is probably something that we are not seeing and that we feel cannot be made visible unless we somehow revert back to colonial mentalities. If this was something that influenced Conrad when writing Lord Jim, it makes me wonder how what we read and take in as facts, science, truth, and knowledge affects our writing. It can be argued that literature helped to perpetuate imperialism so it is not so far-fetched to think that the literature our generation produces will help to create history as well.

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