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Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany$
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Andrew Zimmerman

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780226983417

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226983462.001.0001

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Exotic Spectacles and the Global Context of German Anthropology

Exotic Spectacles and the Global Context of German Anthropology

(p.15) Chapter 1 Exotic Spectacles and the Global Context of German Anthropology
Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany
University of Chicago Press

In the years before World War I, the majority of encounters between German anthropologists and the people they studied occurred in Germany, in circuses, panopticons, and zoos. To dismiss science of this sort as “armchair anthropology,” as groundless speculation based on unreliable sources, would be to ignore the foundations of anthropology in a global culture of imperialism and in the popular culture of exotic spectacles. Although anthropologists themselves rarely conducted research abroad, they did study individuals from around the world who traveled to Europe to perform in popular ethnographic shows, or Völkerschauen. Performers, however, were not merely shaped according to anthropological expectations; they often came to Europe with personal and political agendas that sometimes led to conflicts with anthropologists. They often disrupted—and thereby illuminated—the conceptual and political structures presupposed by anthropology.

Keywords:   German anthropology, imperialism, ethnography, performers, political structures, exotic performances

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