Chapter

The Secret of Primitive Accumulation: The Political Economy of Anthropological Objects

in Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226983417
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226983462 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226983462.003.0008
The Secret of Primitive Accumulation: The Political Economy of Anthropological Objects

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The exchanges that made up colonialism—exchanges of gifts, exchanges of commodities, and even exchanges of fire—both supplied anthropologists with objects and began the process of stripping those objects of their history. Perhaps like all exchanges they introduced a moment of instability that was particularly threatening for colonists and anthropologists. Even in the face of the overwhelming power exercised by colonists, the colonized often—intentionally or unintentionally—challenged European interpretations of the exchange. Indeed, the very notion of exchanges between colonizer and colonized threatened the sharp gap between European cultural peoples and colonized natural peoples on which European understandings of both anthropology and colonial rule depended. This chapter uses a number of exemplary exchanges to suggest the ways in which German anthropology was an integral part of a larger colonial political economic network.

Keywords: exchanges; political economy; German anthropology; colonial rule; acculturation; anthropological objects

Chapter.  8757 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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