With the rise of imperialism, the centuries-old European tradition of humanist scholarship as the key to understanding the world was jeopardized. Nowhere was this more true than in nineteenth-century Germany. It was there, Andrew Zimmerman argues, that the battle lines of today's "culture wars" were first drawn when anthropology challenged humanism as a basis for human scientific knowledge.
Drawing on sources ranging from scientific papers and government correspondence to photographs, pamphlets, and police reports of "freak shows," Zimmerman demonstrates how German imperialism opened the door to antihumanism. As Germans interacted more frequently with peoples and objects from far-flung cultures, they were forced to reevaluate not just those peoples, but also the construction of German identity itself. Anthropologists successfully argued that their discipline addressed these issues more productively—and more accessibly—than humanistic studies.
Scholars of anthropology, European and intellectual history, museum studies, the history of science, popular culture, and colonial studies will welcome this book.