Kukutai, T., & Broman, P. (2016). From colonial categories to local culture: Evolving state practices of ethnic enumeration in Oceania, 1965-2014. Ethnicities, 16(5), 689–711. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796815603755
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/11158
Numerous scholars have examined how governments in particular times and places have classified their populations by ethnicity, but studies that are both cross-national and longitudinal are rare. Using a unique database of census questionnaires, we examine state practices of ethnic enumeration over a 50-year period (1965–2014) in the 24 countries and areas that comprise Oceania. The region’s extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity, combined with its complex colonial history and indigenous politics, make it an ideal site for comparative analyses. We find a shift from biological conceptions of difference to a more cultural understanding of group identity, exemplified by a sharp rise in language questions and the decline of race-based inquiries. While local identity labels have largely displaced colonial categories, the imprimatur of previous regimes still lingers, particularly in Melanesia. These shifts in official constructions of ethnoracial differences reflect a gradual lessening of colonial influences on demographic practices.
© 2015 the authors.
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