‘The Englishman possesses eminently the deductive and comparative faculty, and the organ of creativity,’ wrote the British academic turned colonial politician C.H. Pearson in 1859, in one of the earliest appearances of the abstract English noun ‘creativity’ in a published work. This paper investigates the concept of creativity as it was deployed in the cultural and economic fields of the nineteenth century, with particular attention to the relationship between the British metropolis and Australian colony. It examines the mobilisation of the term in diverse fields, including education, commerce and empire-building, by capitalists and workers, colonizers and colonized, in their strategic manuoevrings across the social structures of the time. It takes inspiration from Bourdieu by seeking to understand the ways in which the term functions as both a claim to symbolic power and as a source of mystification that is generally — though not always — used to give distinction to the experience, perspectives and material productions of the privileged.
The paper is part of a larger project that challenges the traditional historical narrative that locates the origins of the discourse of creativity in the art of the Renaissance and/or Romantic eras by exposing the specifically modern preconditions for the emergence of the new term.
* South Australian Register, 30 December 1869
Nelson, C. (2011). ‘There is no Original Creative Power in the Place’:* Creativity and Colonial Anxiety. Paper presented at the Antipodean Fields: Bourdieu and Southern Cultures Conference, University of Western Sydney, 8-10 June, 2011.