||While it is generally taken to refer to the growth of knowledge of the globe that resulted from various voyages of discovery and scientific expeditions, the label \'exploration\' disconcerts. Its contested character arises from the clash over the appropriate vocabulary in which to speak of this essentially contested concept. The very terms discovery and exploration, according to revisionists, should be replaced by invasion, conquest, or occupation, for the simple reason that these unmask the pretended innocence and moral neutrality that the standard scientific-sounding idioms convey.
Whatever the allocation of moral accountability, there can be no doubting the significance of exploration on the scientific enterprise in general and the discourse and discipline of geography in particular (see also geography, history of). Traditional chroniclers of these exploits have thus tended towards a progressivist interpretation of scientific knowledge, cartographic history, and global awareness (Baker, 1931). The vast maritime expeditions of ChÃªng Ho in the early decades of the fifteenth century (1405-33), for example, have been commended for their contributions to Chinese marine cartography and descriptive geography, though, in contrast to later voyages, the purpose of the mission was neither the garnering of scientific information nor commercial conquest (Needham, 1959; Chang, 1971). In similar vein the writings of the Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta during the late Middle Ages are typically interpreted as an encyclopaedic conspectus of Islamic life and culture in different climatic regimes (Boorstin, 1983; James, 1972).
It is, however, with the European voyages of Reconnaissance during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that putative connections between scientific \'progress\' and geographical \'exploration\' are even more closely associated (see also travel writing, geography and). Parry (1981, p. 3), for example, argues that, save for the arts of war and military engineering, geographical exploration was \'almost the only field\' in which \'scientific discovery and everyday technique became closely associated before the middle of the seventeenth century\'. Similarly Hale (1967) suggests that the first scientific laboratory was the world itself; O\'Sullivan (1984, p. 3) proposes that \'the voyages of discovery were in a way large scale experiments, proving or disproving the Renaissance concepts inherited from the ancient world\'. In such scenarios the names of Bartholomew Dias, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Fernand Magellan, and, perhaps most of all, \'Prince Henry the Navigator\' assume heroic status. For these reasons, the Portuguese and Spanish voyages have been interpreted as precursor to the Scientific Revolution (Hooykaas, 1979).
Francis Bacon later reflected in his Novum Organum of 1620 that the opening up of the geographical world through the voyages of discovery foreshadowed the expansion of the \'boundaries of the intellectual globe\' beyond the confines of \'the narrow discoveries of the ancients\'. Support for this interpretation has come from those attaching crucial significance to the Portuguese encouragement of navigational science and mathematical practice through the work of the Jewish map- and instrument-maker Mestre Jacome. This Jewish tradition of Mallorcan cartography, instrumentation and nautical science was perpetuated by Abraham Zacuto and Joseph Vizinho, while Francesco Faleiro, Garcia da Orta and Pedro Nunes did much to further medicinal botany, cartography and natural history during the first half of the sixteenth century (Goodman, 1991). Such accomplishments, accordingly, have recently been canvassed to substantiate the claim that this Jewish style of science practised in sixteenth-century Portugal provided the template for the Scientific Revolution in England and \'the catalyst inducing the emergence of modern science in Western Europe\' (Banes, 1988, p. 58).
Nevertheless, even partisan commentators concede that the scientific advances of the Age of Discovery were by-products of the commercial, evangelistic, and colonial motives that undergirded these expeditionary enterprises. Ostensibly more scientific were the Pacific exploits of Enlightenment figures like Louis Antoine de Bougainville, James Cook, Joseph Banks, the Forsters, Jean FranÃ§ois de la PÃ©rouse, and George Vancouver during the eighteenth century (Beaglehole, 1966). And yet with them, too, political factors loomed as large scientific ones: pre-voyage briefings on settlement possibility, resource inventory, and the staking of colonial claims all revealed the strategic significance of everything from cartographic survey to geodesic experiment and ethnographic illustration (Frost, 1988). Still, the scientific achievements were not insubstantial â€” Cook, for instance, carried with him landscape painters, natural history draughtsmen, and professional astronomers, surgeons and naturalists, and successfully completed an accurate recording of the transit of Venus (Goetzmann, 1986). Indeed the Pacific became something of a laboratory for the testing of scientific methodologies and artistic representational styles (Smith, 1960). Precisely the same was true of later explorations in South America and Central Africa. Alexander von Humboldt and AimÃ© Bonpland, for example, used their South American findings at the turn of the nineteenth century to break the bonds of the static taxonomic system of Linnaeus (which classified each plant and animal and assigned it a single scientific name), and ultimately to create a distinctive mode of scientific investigation â€” what Cannon labelled \'Humboldtian science\' â€” in which \'the accurate, measured study of widespread but interconnected real phenomena\' were interrogated \'in order to find a definite law and a dynamic cause\' (Cannon, 1978, p. 105; for a different perspective see Dettelbach, 1996). Again, Roderick Murchison, who has been dubbed England\'s scientist of empire, virtually orchestrated the British colonial assault on Central Africa in the Victorian period through his oversight of the Royal Geographical Society, and used a variety of explorers to test his own geological theories there (see geographical societies). In the expansive personage of Murchison, geography\'s complicity in the colonial project found expression (Stafford, 1989).
There is not space here to delineate, even in outline, the scientific contributions of a host of other exploratory ventures: the Napoleonic survey of Egypt, Baudin\'s deadly mission to \'New Holland\', the succession of Russian voyages into the Pacific by Krusentern, Kotzebue, and Lutke, the Royal Geographical Society\'s efforts to reduce the Australian outback to cartographic enclosure, Lewis and Clark\'s western territorial expedition orchestrated by Thomas Jefferson, Darwin\'s Beagle circumnavigation, the United States Exploring Expedition under Charles Wilkes, the voyage of T.H. Huxley on The Rattlesnake, A.R. Wallace\'s sojourn in Borneo, and the oceanographic survey of The Challenger, to name but a very few. Their role in the evolution of geographical knowledge has been so engrained in the discipline\'s collective memory that various expeditionary ventures continue to receive the sponsorship of institutions like the Royal Geographical Society and the National Geographic Society, and to provide a language in which to speak of geographical excursions into other threatening environments, such as urban ethnic \'no-go\' areas (Horvath, 1971).
To interpret the significance of these surveillance exploits solely in terms of cognitive \'progress\' is highly questionable, however. Moreover, merely stating that the growth of these scientific knowledges was situated within the framework of imperialism is to pay scant attention to a whole suite of issues to do with the construction of western Identity, the representations of exoticism, the inscription of otherness, the reciprocal constitution of scientific discourse and colonial praxis (see colonialism), and the deconstruction of cartographic iconography.
It was indeed as a consequence of the European Age of Exploration/ Reconnaissance/ Conquest that the idea of the West and west-ern-ness received its baptism. Europe\'s sense of distinctiveness from the other worlds that the navigators encountered was embedded in a discourse about identity that represented \'the West\' and \'the Rest\' â€” to use Stuart Hall\'s (1992) words â€” in the categories of superiority â€” inferiority, power-impotence, enlightenment-ignorance, civilization-barbarism. Seen in these terms, Europe\'s rendezvous with the \'New World\' in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was as much a moral event as a commercial or intellectual one, and induced what Pagden (1986) calls a sense of metaphysical unease because it confounded standard conceptions of human nature (see also Pagden, 1993).
The construction of this \'discourse of the West\', of course, depended crucially on the idioms in which the new worlds were represented. The categories, vocabularies, assumptions, and instruments which the explorers brought to the encounter were, understandably, thoroughly European, and so the worlds of the other were interrogated, classified and assimilated according to European norms. That the language of the engagement was invariably gendered, moreover, facilitated the representation of new landscapes in the exotic categories of a potent sexual imagery intended to indicate mastery and submissiveness (see gender and geography).
If the foundations of western discourse were laid during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they were reinforced during the following centuries when Eurocentric modes of representation actually constituted regional identities. One such construction was what Edward Said has termed Orientalism â€” a discursive formation through which, he writes, \'European culture was able to manage â€” and even produce â€” the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively during the post-Enlightenment period\' (Said, 1978, p. 3). And if the construction of Orientalism was crucially dependent on the scientific, historical and literary crafts of western exploration, its evocation also owed much to the supposedly realist works of visual art later produced by painters like Jean-LÃ©on GÃ©rÃ´me (Nochlin, 1991). Indeed the standard scholarly practices of science, history and comparative literature were themselves profoundly indebted to artistic representation (Smith, 1960; Stafford, 1984). Said\'s reading, of course, has not gone uncontested (for example, Mackenzie, 1995). But the idea of the Oriental or Asiatic type certainly gripped western imaginations. Linde-borg (1994), for example, has shown how concerns over what was termed \'oriental vice\' in the very heart of England â€” \'heathenism in the inner radius\' as it was called â€” expressed anxieties about the moral authority of Christian England. The danger of the East occupying the West thus animated a variety of home mission activities.
The procedures facilitating the marginalization of the Oriental realm (and â€” at the same time â€” its constitutive role in European self-definition) were also perpetuated in other places and in other terms. The variety of representational devices that Cook and his coterie of naturalists and draughtsmen deployed â€” whether Bank\'s abstract taxonomics or Parkinson\'s evocation of anthropological variety â€” succeeded in encapsulating the Pacific world within the confines of European epistemologies. Moreover, their penchant for designating names â€” the naming of places, peoples and individuals â€” at once invented, brought into cultural circulation and domesticated the very entities that were the subjects of their enquiries (Carter, 1987). That Cook\'s team was engaged in what Salmond (1991, p. 15) terms \'mirror-image ethnography\' is beyond dispute. But just because their modes of categorization were suffused with the expectations of eighteenth-century society â€” from descriptions of social status (governors and kings make their appearance) to the evaluation of character (courage, honour and virtue figure prominently) â€” should not be permitted to gainsay the remarkable accuracy of their accounts of physical phenomena. Their New Zealand portrayals, for example, \'check well against the surviving evidence of the places and objects which they described\', Salmond writes (p. 294). So much is this so that Cook\'s vivid depictions of the \'regional variability of tribal life\' (Salmond, p. 431) exposes the ahistorical idealization of pre-European \'traditional Maori society\' which in fact only began to be systematically constructed a century later.
Exploratory encounters such as these contributed massively to the generation of global imaginative geographies (Gregory, 1993). Thus the Americas, in one way or another, were constructed according to European predilections (Harley, 1990; Mason, 1990; Greenblatt, 1991); later the Pacific was recomposed as a coherent geographical entity (MacLeod and Rehbock, 1994) â€” as was \'darkest Africa\' (Brantlinger, 1985) â€” as these topo-nymic labels were brought into cultural currency. The same can also be said of the tropical world: Arnold (1996) has thus spoken of the invention of tropicality â€” a conceptual space that came into being courtesy of the conjoined forces of geographical exploration, colonial administration, and tropical medicine (Livingstone, 1999). Moreover exploration and exhibition frequently went hand in hand, as in the case of Egypt which found its people and places enframed, ordered and exhibited to suit European curiosity (Mitchell, 1988).
Space does not permit further elucidation of such motifs in other regions. Suffice to note that in the African context, according to the Comaroffs (1991, p. 313), European colonization \'was often less a directly coercive conquest than a persuasive attempt to colonise consciousness, to remake people by redefining the taken-for-granted surfaces of their everyday worlds\'. Yet here too the temptation towards \'monolithizing\' the encounter must be resisted: the moral significance of African environments became a source of endless debate about the effects of a tropical climate on white constitution and the connections between black racial character, biological make-up, and physical geography (Livingstone, 1991: see environmental determinism). In South America it was Humboldt\'s \'interweaving of visual and emotive language\' that contributed so powerfully towards what Pratt (1992) calls the \'ideological reinvention\' of America â€” reimagining so vivid and so vital that Humboldt\'s writings provided founding visions for both the older elites of northern Europe and the newer independent elites of Spanish America.
If these machinations, however tangled their genealogies, satisfied a European sense of superiority through constituting the peripheral regions of the globe in its own terms, those self-same arenas were soon to become pivotal laboratories for scrutiny into human prehistory. In this way the threat that resided in \'alien\' human natures could be rendered benign if those races turned out to be the persistent remnants of earlier phases in the story of human evolution. Just as earlier Scottish and French Enlightenment thinkers, like Smith, Ferguson and Buffon (see Enlightenment, geography of), regularly crafted their image of the bestial or noble savage into evolutionary schemes depicting a transition from barbarism to civilization, so early twentieth-century students of human archaeology used \'the peoples defined as living at the uttermost ends of the imperial world as examples of living prehistory\' (Gamble, 1992, p. 713). Thereby their identity remained engulfed within the imperatives of western scientific scrutiny. They remained subordinated too in the cartographic representations that invariably accompanied the exploratory process. Whether in their use as military tools, in their advocacy of colonial promotion, in their marginal decorations, in their systems of hierarchical classification, or in their imposition of a regulative geometry that bore little reference to indigenous peoples, maps became the conductors of imperial power and western ideology (Harley, 1988: see cartography, history of).
Imperial readings of exploration, however, can serve to obscure as much as they reveal when presented with monolithic tenacity. Treating ethnicity as simply the invention of missionary activity, colonial officialdom, or early anthropology, for example, is insufficiently flexible to take the measure of exploration encounters. Such scenarios are not sufficiently subtle to discern the complex role of the missionary movement â€” to take one activity too easily typecast as the servant of cultural imperialism â€” in emerging senses of nationhood (see nation; nationalism). Thus we are only beginning to appreciate how, in the African context, a missionary passion to render indigenous languages into written form (for the purpose of Bible translation) provided mother tongue cultures with a vernacular literacy that in turn cultivated nascent senses of nationhood. Through translation, written languages were created and a vocabulary for national self-consciousness fostered (see Sanneh, 1990; Hastings, 1997).
The history of \'exploration\', then, turns out to be far from antiquarian chronology. Rather it focuses centrally on the Identity of people, the wielding of power, and the construction of knowledge; and it is precisely because these are entangled in such complex and intricate ways that their elucidation is of crucial importance to the future course of human history.Â (DNL)
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Suggested Reading Brosse, J. 1983: Great voyages of discovery: circumnavigators and scientists, 1764-1843, trans. by S. Hochman. New York: Facts on File Publications.Â Penrose, B. 1967: Travel and discovery in the Renaissance 1420-1620. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Â Van Orman, R.A. 1984: The explorers: nineteenth century expeditions in Africa and the American West. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Â Viola, H.J. and Margolis, C., eds, 1985: Magnificent voyagers: The U.S. exploring expedition, 1838-1842. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.