Taxonomy as Colonial Imperialism

Coleridge pointed to this difference between an organising taxonomy and a dynamic scientific principle or law in essays in The Friend (1819). The psychology of collecting, ordering and naming specimens could also be seen as a form of mental colonising and empire-building. ‘Taxonomy after all, is a form of imperialism. During the nineteenth century, when British naval surveys were flooding London with specimens to be classified, inserting them in their proper niches in the Linnaean hierarchy, had undeniable political overtones. Take a bird or a lizard or a flower from Patagonia or the South Seas, perhaps one that had had a local name for centuries, rechristen it with a Latin binomial, and presto! It had become a tiny British colony.’ Anne Fadiman, ‘Collecting Nature’, in At Large and at Small (2007), p.19.


British scientists renaming species that were already named by the native inhabitants of the colonies as a form of oppression.

Folksonomies: culture taxonomy colonialism imperialism

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/science/biology/zoology/ornithology (0.346378)
/travel/transports/air travel/airlines (0.324810)

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Coleridge:Person (0.980795 (positive:0.585354)), Anne Fadiman:Person (0.969921 (neutral:0.000000)), South Seas:GeographicFeature (0.958235 (neutral:0.000000)), At Large:GeographicFeature (0.940268 (neutral:0.000000)), London:City (0.773408 (neutral:0.000000))

Colonialism (0.958529): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Nomenclature (0.594238): dbpedia
Colony (0.486777): dbpedia | freebase
Clade (0.467220): dbpedia | freebase
British Empire (0.464357): dbpedia | freebase
Linnaean taxonomy (0.405405): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Carl Linnaeus (0.364451): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Species (0.362447): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Age of Wonder
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Holmes , Richard (2010-03-02), The Age of Wonder, Vintage, Retrieved on 2012-01-02
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: history enlightenment science