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White men with low moral standards? German anthropology and the Herero genocide

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Stone argues that, although German anthropologists were relatively liberal thinkers before 1900, they nevertheless advocated an understanding of race that encouraged hierarchical thinking. Such thinking saw colonized peoples as primitive and culturally inferior. When, around 1900, anthropologists became increasingly reactionary and drawn to social Darwinist and racist ideas, their work served as a scientific legitimation for colonial atrocity, as the case of the Herero genocide in German South West Africa (1904-5) demonstrates. At this point anthropologists, along with the colonial military, were more sanguine about the disappearance of 'backward races'.
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Keywords: Hereros; South West Africa; anthropology; colonialism; genocide; race; social Darwinism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Publication date: 2001-04-01

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