Crowd Scenes: Pacific Collectivity and European Encounter

Vanessa Smith


This essay looks at the phenomenon of the Pacific crowd as registered within eighteenth-century voyage accounts. The experience of the crowd on the beach-an experience of being overwhelmed-was integral to European encounters with Pacific islanders. However, the impact of the crowd has been neglected within Pacific scholarship, which has not accessed the insights of crowd theory within analyses of contact. Concomitantly, crowd theory ignores the peripheral crowd scene. The crowd has been theorized as a predominantly metropolitan phenomenon and historicized in the context of (primarily industrial) urbanization. Through close textual analysis of a number of European voyage texts, particularly Bligh's account of the Bounty voyage, the essay asks what kinds of reading might be produced if we acknowledge the crowd as material force and rhetorical figure within imperial encounter and discourse.

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