Worldly Provincialism: German Anthropology in the Age of Empire
H. Glenn Penny and Matti Bunzl, Editors2003
Worldly Provincialism introduces readers to the intellectual history that drove the emergence of German anthropology. Drawing on the most recent work on the history of the discipline, the contributors rethink the historical and cultural connections between German anthropology, colonialism, and race. By showing that German intellectual traditions differed markedly from those of Western Europe, they challenge the prevalent assumption that Europeans abroad shared a common cultural code and behaved similarly toward non-Europeans. The eloquent and well-informed essays in this volume demonstrate that early German anthropology was fueled by more than a simple colonialist drive. Rather, a wide range of intellectual history shaped the Germans' rich and multifarious interest in the cultures, religions, physiognomy, physiology, and history of non-Europeans, and gave rise to their desire to connect with the wider world.
Furthermore, this volume calls for a more nuanced understanding of Germany's standing in postcolonial studies. In contrast to the prevailing view of German imperialism as a direct precursor to Nazi atrocities, this volume proposes a key insight that goes to the heart of German historiography: There is no clear trajectory to be drawn from the complex ideologies of imperial anthropology to the race science embraced by the Nazis. Instead of relying on a nineteenth-century explanation for twentieth-century crimes, this volume ultimately illuminates German ethnology and anthropology as local phenomena, best approached in terms of their own worldly provincialism.
H. Glenn Penny is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Matti Bunzl Assistant Professor of Anthropology and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.