Jo Grant

National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholar, 2016–17

Topic: Internationalism and the ‘Primitive’ during the 1950s: Julian Huxley’s, Arnold Toynbee’s and Clyde Kluckhohn’s Tours to Aboriginal Missions in the Northern Territory

Biographical note

Jo Grant is a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at the Nathan campus of Griffith University.  Her dissertation examines the Australian lecture tours of several public intellectuals, particularly Bertrand Russell and Julian Huxley, during the early 1950s, and discusses the significance of these tours to the history of ideas of Australia.

Project summary

Jo Grant will examine the visits made by prominent internationalists to several Aboriginal and Indigenous missions in the Northern Territory during the early years of the Cold War, including anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn, zoologist Julian Huxley, and historian Arnold Toynbee.

At a time when racial ideologies were being globally contested alongside a growing humanitarian concern about minorities after the Second World War, government policy in Australia was shifting towards the assimilation of Aborigines into European settler society.  Paul Hasluck, the Federal Minister for Territories, invited Kluckhohn, Huxley and Toynbee to spend several weeks in the Northern Territory to witness the ‘civilising project’ in practice while they were in Australia on lecture tours for the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Through an outline of these mission tours, this project will discuss how Aborigines and Indigenous peoples featured in the internationalist imagination during the 1950s.  It will ask how the encounters of these internationalists with Aboriginal Australians, mediated through the mission space, reveals the ways in which ideas of the ‘primitive’ circulated around the world in the thought of Kluckhohn, Huxley and Toynbee, and how their thinking was shaped by their travels.

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