Finding harmony between space and people

Colin Ross argues that New Guinean natives have found their own solution to a problem that haunts geopolitics: the balancing of population numbers with available space.

While Ross unabashedly rooted for white supremacy with any means necessary in global power relations, he did not generally find Europe’s nations superior to others, racially or culturally. His outlook was ethno-pluralistic rather than racist, conceding “to each his own”, and looking for lessons to apply in Europe’s political and economic turmoil.

This is exemplified by his praise for the population policy he sees realized in native settlements on the island of New Guinea. “It is considered improper to have children during the first years of marriage”, Ross states in voiceover in this clip from Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien (1930). “This primitive people is strangely attentive to preserving harmony between space and people.” The struggle to balance a population, essentialized here to the ethnic unit of “Volk”, a “people”, and the space available to them is of course the central topic of this 1930 film. In a fashion typical for his reporting, Ross decreases dimensions here from the abstract units of global politics to the tangible, concretely visible, from China vs. Australia, to one New Guinean village.

Not less typically, the declared wisdom of the “primitive people” is tied to a lack of knowledge. “It is not known to them that man has something to do with child-bearing”, and portrays the natives as more childlike than his own five-year old son in safari suit: “Hopefully, Ralph doesn’t teach them the facts of life.”

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Australien - Indien - Neuguinea - Neuseeland [archive title]
[Excerpt from] Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.

reel 2: 35mm | b&w | sound | 522m | 24 fps | 19’

Master:; 0:20:13,06-0:20:38,09

Clip: 0001-01-0926_Australien_ROSS_Colin_XY_Omnimago_2016_H264-12Mbits-KFauto-CABAC_1440x1080_24fps_IsFormatOf_ProRes422HQ_2048x1768_PCM_24fps_00201306-00203809.mp4

Topic: Indigenous peoples
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

Scroll to page top