The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa by George SteinmetzThe Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa by George Steinmetz

The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and…

byGeorge Steinmetz

Paperback | November 1, 2007

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 300 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Out of stock online

Not available in stores


Germany’s overseas colonial empire was relatively short lived, lasting from 1884 to 1918. During this period, dramatically different policies were enacted in the colonies: in Southwest Africa, German troops carried out a brutal slaughter of the Herero people; in Samoa, authorities pursued a paternalistic defense of native culture; in Qingdao, China, policy veered between harsh racism and cultural exchange.
Why did the same colonizing power act in such differing ways? In The Devil’s Handwriting, George Steinmetz tackles this question through a brilliant cross-cultural analysis of German colonialism, leading to a new conceptualization of the colonial state and postcolonial theory. Steinmetz uncovers the roots of colonial behavior in precolonial European ethnographies, where the Hereros were portrayed as cruel and inhuman, the Samoans were idealized as “noble savages,” and depictions of Chinese culture were mixed. The effects of status competition among colonial officials, colonizers’ identification with their subjects, and the different strategies of cooperation and resistance offered by the colonized are also scrutinized in this deeply nuanced and ambitious comparative history.
George Steinmetz is professor of sociology and German studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Regulating the Social: The Welfare State and Local Politics in Imperial Germany, the editor of State/Culture: State Formation after the Colonial Turn and The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences: Positivism and its Epist...
Title:The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and…Format:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.4 inPublished:November 1, 2007Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226772438

ISBN - 13:9780226772431

Look for similar items by category:


Table of Contents


List of Illustrations




 Introduction: Ethnography and the Colonial State
  Three Colonies
  Making Sense of Colonial Variations
  The Specificity of the Colonial State
  Precolonial Mimicry and the Central Role of Native Policy
  Toward an Explanation: The Colonial State as Social field
  Symbolic and Imaginary Identifications
  Resistance, Collaboration, and Infections of Native Policy by Its Addressees
  Imperial Germany and the German Empire


  "A World Composed Almost Entirely of Contradictions": Southwest Africans in German Eyes, before Colonialism
  Precolonial and Protocolonial Imagery of Southwest Africans
  The Khoikhoi: The Path to Precolonial Mimicry
  The Rehoboth Basters: Pure Intermediacy
  The Ovaherero: A Radically Simplified Ethnographic Discourse
  Toward Colonialism

  From Native Policy to Genocide to Eugenics: German Southwest Africa
  Accessing the Inaccessible
  The Germans and the Witbooi People
  "Rivers of Blood and Rivers of Money": Germans and Ovaherero
  Collaboration and the Rule of Difference: The Reheboth Basters under German Rule


  "A Foreign Race That All Travelers Have Agreed to be the Most Engaging": The Creation of the Samoan Noble savage, by way of Tahiti
  The Idea of Polynesian Noble Savagery
  Europeans on Polynesia in the Wake of Wallis and Bougainville: The Tahitian Metonym
  Polynesia and Tahiti in German Eyes, 1770s-1850
  Nineteenth-Century Social Change in Polynesia and the Increasing Attractiveness of Samoa
  Nineteenth-Century Samoa: From Lapérouse to the Germans
  The Evolution of European and German Representations of Samoa
  Precolonial Guidelines for a Future Native Policy
  "The Spirit of the German Nation at Work in the Antipodes": German Colonialism in Samoa, 1900-1914
  Salvage Colonialism
  The Sources of Native Policy in Samoa
  Class distinction and Class Exaltation
  Conclusion: Resistance and the Limits on Colonial Native Policy


  The Foreign Devil's Handwriting: German Views of China before "Kiautschou"
  Europe's Cathay
  German Views of China in the Era of Sinomania
  The Rise of Sinophobia
  German Sinophobia
  En Route to Quingdao: Speaking of the Devil
  Multivocality in German Representations of China at the End of the Nineteenth Century
  Toward "German-China"

  A Pact with the (Foreign) Devil: Qingdao as a Colony
  Bumrush the Show: Germans in Colonial Kiaochow, 1897-1905
  Shaken, Not Stirred: Segregated Colonial Space and Radical Alterity During the First Phase of German Colonialism in Kiaochow, 1897-1904
  German Native Policy in Kiaochow, Compared
  Early Native Policy and the Haunting of Sinophobia by Sinophilia
  The Seminar for Oriental Languages and German Sinology as a Conduit for Sinophilia
  Rapproachment: The Second Phase of German Colonialism in Kiaochow, 1905-14
  Explaining the Shift in Native Policy

  Conclusion: Colonial Afterlives

Appendix 1: A Note on Sources and Procedures
Appendix 2: Head Administrators of German Southwest Africa, Samoa, and Kiaochow

Editorial Reviews

"Steinmetz's vast and detailed examination of 'native policy' in three very different German colonies provides a welcome intervention into long-standing and sometimes stale debates. He makes a convincing case that managing and stabilizing local populations . . . were the chief concern of the modern colonial state, and he proposes a flexible framework to help explain vast divergences in the treatment of colonial subjects."