Aldo D. Aragon

"Who are these people? Where did they come from? How did they get here?"
A Twentieth-Century Intellectual History of the Antipodean Question, 1916-1976

Presented to the Department of History in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors
A defining debate in Pacific Islands pre-history is often referred to as the Antipodean (NZ/AUS) and/or Polynesian (U.S.) "Question," and it has been asked by Western explorers, religious missionaries, anthropologists, and historians for over two centuries. Simply put, the "Question" is this: "Who are these people? Where did they come from? How did they get here?"

By the end of the twentieth century, rapidly-improving archaeological techniques and higher standards of scientific inquiry finally gave us general answers to these first-order Pacific problems relating to "who," "where," and "how." But intellectual historians today know that it's important to think critically about what we know, and how we know it. They are curious to understand "why" academics were (and continue to be) interested in the pre-history of the last major region on Earth ever to be settled by humans.

This "why" question is what my thesis is all about.
Chapter I: A Tale of Two Scholars (1916 and 1932)

Roland Burrage Dixon; Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

Te Rangi Hiroa (anglicized name: Sir Peter Buck); Professor of Anthropology, Yale University; Director, Bishop Museum in Honolulu
Chapter II: A Tale of Two Voyages (1947 and 1976)

Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki (1947)

The Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Hokule'a (1976)
Chapter III: A Tale of Still Being Told (1976-)

Who, Where, and How?

Radiocarbon dating, DNA, underwater archaeology (can the submerged speak?)
Senior Thesis Writers Conference
November 2023, Harvard University
Eliot House Thesis Presentations
April 2024, Harvard University
Archival/Research Visits
January 2023, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

January 2024, National Library of New Zealand
Research Themes
(20th-century) Intellectual history; history of anthropology; Pacific history

(21st-century) History of science

Relevant Coursework
Deep History w/ Prof. Smail (HIST) and Prof. Liebmann (ANTHRO)
The British Empire w/ Prof. Jasanoff (HIST)
The Offshore: A Global History w/ Kumekawa (HIST, tentative enrollment)
Intellectual History w/ Prof. Blair (HIST)
The Object in the Art Museum w/ Prof. Schneider-Enriquez (HAA) and Prof. Best (HAA)