Dathorne pursues the phenomenon of encounter or contact as it relates to China and the Pacific Islands.
O. R. Dathorne pursues the phenomenon of contact or encounter particularly as it relates to China and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. He looks at how the Chinese have perceived their Other as heathen and exotic, and how the West has in turn similarly perceived the Chinese. The failure of the West to relate to China in human terms is subtly documented, and is contrasted to the European experience in the New World and the African encounter of both China and the West. Dathorne breaks new ground in his analysis of the construct of the Other on the Pacific Islands. Using indigenous oral accounts, early texts of European explorers and castaways, and imaginative accounts, he reconstructs the period of contact from the native viewpoint, of those who acted as translators, pilots, guides, chartmakers and male and female companions. He calls attention to the Western habit of romancing the place while denigrating or mythologizing the people.