Anthropology in the Aftermath: <i>Rassenkunde</i>, Racial Hygiene, and the End of the Liberal Tradition

in Anthropology at War

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780226222677
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226222691 | DOI:
Anthropology in the Aftermath: Rassenkunde, Racial Hygiene, and the End of the Liberal Tradition

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This chapter examines anthropology in the aftermath of the conflict. The impact of the war continued to be felt long after 1918, not only through the hardships of difficult daily working conditions and financial strain, but also in the larger ideological directions of the discipline itself. The process of transforming anthropology into Rassenkunde or “racial science” was carried out primarily by a younger group of anthropologists, many of whom had professionalized at the very moment of World War I. Seeking to refashion their discipline, these men rejected the earlier morphological and liberal tradition of Virchow's generation as “the science out of which nothing is allowed to come,” and instead took inspiration from genetic approaches as well as völkisch racial theorists. Most important, they sought to explore the connections between race, nation, and Volk, the very categories that liberal anthropologists had argued were distinct and unrelated. With the rise of Rassenkunde, the liberal tradition in German anthropology faded from the scene, replaced by a form of racial science that paralleled the racial ideologies of the National Socialists in the 1930s.

Keywords: German anthropology; racial science; anthropologists; liberal tradition; Virchow; socialism

Chapter.  14525 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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