The Sciences of Anthropological Classification in ‘Portuguese Timor’, c. 1894-1975

Principal Investigator: Ricardo Roque
Ricardo Roque, Gonçalo Antunes, Hugo Cardoso, Cláudia Castelo, Vicente Paulino, Maria do Carmo Piçarra, Rita Poloni, Frederico Delgado Rosa, Lúcio Sousa.
Warwick Anderson (Sydney), Chris Ballard (ANU), Bronwen Douglas (ANU), Elizabeth Traube (Wesleyan), Claudine Friedberg (Paris)
FCT, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (Referência HC/0089/2009)


The project aims to understand the interlaced histories of Portuguese colonialism and the anthropological classification of indigenous peoples, throughout the twentieth century. The study will consider these processes in the context of the sciences of anthropological classification in the Portuguese late colonial period. That is, the epistemic regimes and scientific disciplines aimed at ordering biological, linguistic, and sociocultural differences and affinities between peoples. As such, the study will consider a variety of disciplinary variants, methods and traditions of “anthropology”: from biological anthropology approaches (e.g., craniology; anthropometry; sero-anthropology) to sociocultural streams (e.g., comparative philology; social and cultural anthropology). The project takes as its main hypothesis that anthropological classifications and social and colonial order have to be approached as interlaced themes and interdependent processes. We address these wider issues by focusing on a revealing empirical case: the enduring attempts of Portuguese colonial officers, missionaries, and academic anthropologists to classify and chart the “races”, “languages”, and “cultures” of East Timor – formerly named “Portuguese Timor” in the colonial period.