Reading Colonial Heads
This paper contradicts the view that the interest in phrenology in colonial Australia peaked in the mid-nineteenth century and faded to the distant margins of quackery by the 1870s. Instead, the material for analysis is drawn from the second half of the nineteenthcentury, demonstrating that phrenology was more pervasive than has previously been acknowledged. Also, taking Sharrona Pearl's lead, I subsume phrenology into the wider paradigm of physiognomy. (Pearl, Harvard Univ. Press, 2010) I particularly highlight the direct influence of North American phrenological texts in the transmission of physiognomical thinking in popular illustration and photography to demonstrate that the image economy used to define racial, criminal and social types in Australia was governed by the codes of physiognomy. Even in its highly determined manifestation of phrenology, this influence reached into the twentieth century as a measure of social standing and occupational potential.
Contact (AANZ Annual Conference 2011)