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:

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This chapter presents some final thoughts from the author. The 1920s saw the rise of Rassenkunde as the dominant paradigm—a virulently racist brand of anthropology based on the acceptance of völkisch racial theories and the exploration of the connections between race, nation, and Volk. The ideological and conceptual shifts of the war years aided in creating an intellectual atmosphere in which liberal distinctions no longer held sway. The youngest generation in German anthropology now felt freer to determine the links between physical makeup and cultural or psychological qualities, and also focused obsessively on the racial makeup of Germans, especially in relation to other European groups. In this atmosphere, a racialized version of eugenics now became the norm within anthropological circles. By the mid- to late 1920s, the conceptual remnants of the liberal tradition had all but disappeared. In German anthropology, as in so many other areas of German life, the Great War proved to be a critical turning point. The story of the discipline's engagement with World War I and its transformation in the aftermath can be read as a cautionary tale about the relationship between science and politics, and the dangers embedded therein.

Keywords: German anthropology; World War I; Rassenkunde; völkisch; racism; nation; Volk; liberal tradition

Chapter.  3450 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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