Is this considered a racist photo

Racial Thinking Part 1About the racist roots of science

Berlin, August 2018, French Friedrichstadtkirche on Gendarmenmarkt. Memorial service of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Council of Churches in Namibia.

"Today, dear sisters and brothers", it says at the ceremony, "we commemorate the handing over of human remains of victims of the genocide and colonial rule to their rightful owners: the people of Namibia."

Human bones are being returned, skulls and bones from Herero and Nama.

Dossier: Racism (picture alliance / NurPhoto / Beata Zawrzel)

"The bones that are being handed over here today are part of the bones that came to Germany from the concentration camps that the Germans had set up in Namibia for racist research here in Germany," explains Tahir Della from the Initiative Black People in Germany.

In front of the church: a vigil of representatives of the Herero and Nama. You are waiting for an official apology.

"During this time the bodies were beheaded, the skulls taken, thrown in large pots, boiled and then given to the Nama and Herero women to peel off the skin and flesh," complains Esther Muinjangue, Chair of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee. "Then they were shipped to Germany for so-called scientific research. Later it became a business. A trade. Corpses were exhumed, taken from the graves. There was great demand for the skulls. If these people were alive today, me she would really ask: What were you thinking? I really want to know: What did you find out? "

(picture alliance / AA / Abdulhamid Hosbas) Ceremony for the return of bones to Namibia - milestone in the coming to terms with German colonial guilt An apology in the French Cathedral in Berlin: This is the temporary high point in the process of coming to terms with the German colonial crimes against Herero and Nama.

End of the 19th century: The states of Europe, the USA and the Ottoman Empire are in the so-called "race for Africa". The German Reich claims a role as a colonial power - the supporters of the colonial project are numerous and active in the German Reich as well: The "German Colonial Society" - in which traders, industrialists and banks campaign for the expansion of the colonies - has around 30,000 members . Colonial and African associations emerge, the "Deutsche Kolonialzeitung" reports weekly.

The reputation of the German colonial system, however, is bad: newspapers report on arbitrariness, violence and murder by officials in the colonies. There had already been an uprising in German East Africa in 1888 - in German South West Africa there are always conflicts. In 1904 they lead to the Herero uprising, the brutal suppression of which almost wiped out the Herero. Later also the Nama. The first genocide of the 20th century.

Strengthen the "colonial will" of the population

If the colonial cause is nevertheless to be successful, its opponents must be appeased. A justification must be provided for one's own action. The best one that at the same time strengthens the people's "colonial will" - so it was said at the time. By creating an image of superiority.

Museum Berlin Treptow-Koepenick. Three rooms here are dedicated to the First German Colonial Exhibition of 1896. The organizers - above all export companies - engage people from the colonies for this. To show them in activities that the exhibition organizers consider typical of the so-called "natives".

"Those responsible for the exhibition said: You make the spears, you perform some kind of dances, you sit down all day and cook, you weave baskets," you learn today on a guided tour of the museum. "But they were well-educated people, influential people too, so they have never woven a basket in their life!"

(Bezirksamt Treptow-Köpenick) Germany's colonial past - hesitant coming to terms with its long amnesia It is a process of small steps, but it is taking place: Germany is beginning to grapple with its colonial past.

More than two million visitors will have seen the "native villages" by the end. They are designed as an "ethnological part of the exhibition" - next to the hall, which shows the status of research into flora and fauna, geology and geography of the colonies. And next to the halls in which Siemens and Halske present their giant dynamo and Conrad Röntgen the medical application of his X-rays - and AEG illuminates the evening with the electric light bulbs, which were only patented a few years ago.

Prove the existence of races

The Berlin colonial exhibition sees itself as scientific. Members of the Board of Directors of the Society for Geography, the Botanical Garden and the Natural History Museum. The representative of the Royal Museum of Ethnology is the anthropologist Felix von Luschan.

"From the first day I tried to study and record the rich material that had accumulated in Treptow in various directions" writes Felix von Luschan in "Germany and its colonies in 1896. Official report on the First German Colonial Exhibition "," and so at the end of the exhibition I had a large portfolio with photographs and drawings in my hands, many of which also appeared to be of interest to a larger audience, even if they had originally only been produced for very special, strictly scientific purposes. "

(imago images / Panthermedia / scusi) Evolution researcher on the concept of race - "Nothing more than a conceptual construct" Today there is no longer any biological basis for a concept of race, said Martin S. Fischer from the University of Jena, in the Dlf. In a statement, scientists demand that it no longer be used in connection with science.

"With the rich material he means the 106 people", is explained during the tour. "And not only the photos exist in this book, but also the measurement results for the 106 people. The people were measured in 120 categories. You can imagine that standing in front of a, yes, scientist in quotation marks, undressed in a group of five to ten people, and then you would be measured on every part of the body you can imagine. "

"Science wanted to prove the existence of races by all means," explains Susanne Illmer, co-organizer of the exhibition "The Invention of Human Races" at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden. "And that was connected with a great obsession with collection, classification, order, anthropometry in every respect. Nonetheless, one has to say what we like to console ourselves with and what does not correspond to the truth: One describes all sciences that deal with the validation of Race were busy, preferably as pseudoscience. They never were. They were state of the art and absolutely up to date.

Living beings and people are classified

Europe in the 19th century: Spain and Portugal have subjugated the south of America, the British empire extends to Canada and India, France holds colonies in the South Seas and in northwestern Africa. The colonial empires fight for supremacy - also with the help of science. Overseas expeditions are often research missions at the same time. Accompanied by botanists, geographers and doctors who want to explore the country and its people.

About 200 years earlier, Isaac Newton heralded the end of natural philosophy with his knowledge of gravitation and mechanics. Theological and metaphysical attempts to explain the world have disappeared from universities - rational notions of knowledge have taken their place. Human and natural sciences are separated, the latter break down into increasingly specialized disciplines. Nature is no longer creation, but an object of research. And whoever says "science" means mostly: "natural science".

"Also knowledge about people. That means that the attempt is made to systematize and classify people according to defined criteria. This is a project of the 18th century that was continued in the 19th century."

"It is the time of scientification as an expression of the developing bourgeois society against an aristocratic corporate state" explains Pascal Grosse, historian and human medicine at the Charité Berlin. "The natural sciences are a very decisive element in the development of civil society. To cultivate a scientific culture. We have the expansion of the universities in the 19th century. We have - after the French Revolution - the development of the technical universities."

(SLUB / Deutsche Fotothek / Hans Meyer) Exhibition of the Humboldt University Berlin - Colonial violence and human remainsThe exhibition "The Dead, as far as (...) can remember" shows how researchers legitimized racism and colonialism for decades. The show tries to change perspective.

Ethnological collections and museums for ethnology are being created in Europe. Zoos and botanical gardens are expanding. Photography, film and sound technology are developing, atlases and encyclopedias are finding their way into bourgeois living rooms. Grosse: "It all belongs together in this educational context, a bourgeoisie that understands itself as an educated bourgeoisie. That is part of self-assurance."

The more one can see, so the thought, the more extensive - the more universal - the knowledge. The task now is to derive general principles that explain and legitimize the civil order. Just as valid, as theology in particular had done so far for the feudal order. At a time when nation states are forming and the question is who should belong to their inhabitants.

Back to the Berlin anthropologists. Felix von Luschan was an internationally recognized scientist at the end of the 19th century, as were his colleagues Rudolf Virchow, head of pathology at the Berlin Charité and founder of the Berlin Anthropological Society - and Wilhelm Waldeyer, director of the Charité's anatomy. Not only do they collect vast amounts of data from surveys of living people - they are also interested in bones.

"Regardless of the request for the procurement of ethnographic objects, I would like to take the liberty of asking whether you should be able to procure larger series of skulls and also individual skeletons from adult natives," wrote Felix von Luschan in a letter to Hermann Glauning, one of them the so-called "collection travelers".

The shape of the skull was considered an essential "racial characteristic" by anthropologists at the time. Not least because it is easy to measure - compared to skin color, for example.

Skull collecting for science

Appointment with Andreas Winkelmann at the Brandenburg Medical School in Neuruppin. The anatomist and medical anthropologist has been researching the history of Virchow's and von Luschan's skull collections for ten years.

"In any case, Mr. Waldeyer or a Mr. von Luschan gave instructions that doctors, officials, all sorts of people in the colonies should be given instructions on how to get data," he reports. "You should send human remains such as skulls and bones to Berlin. In order to get what you called material. And that is not a matter of course that someone then goes out and digs up skulls, for example. But relatively many have that made."

(picture alliance / Rainer Jensen) Berlin breed skull collection is being researched - Looted graves and an unsolved criminal case An execution, a hushed up murder - while examining a thousand skulls from East Africa, the researchers come across crime stories. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation examines the "Luschan Collection".

"What a Mr. Virchow or Luschan would certainly not have done in Berlin would have been to go to the cemetery and desecrate graves, that would not have been done. But that was something that was of the opinion: If you were traveling in Africa now, you were The science is worth it. You then had less respect for the local population, that was already the case. Science is something noble, for which you can then ignore certain things. There is a medical officer who describes how he is after an execution Sends skull to Berlin and proudly reports that Waldeyer gratefully mentions him in a publication.

In principle it was the case that some explorers sent skulls or skeletons in boxes to Berlin. They then arrived at a Mr. von Luschan's, who unpacked them and integrated them into his collection. Interestingly enough, I did relatively little research myself, just collected first. And at Waldeyer it was like that, he had employees who wanted to practice a so-called "race" anatomy of the soft tissues. And they really asked colonial doctors in German South West Africa to send them whole heads, fixed in formalin, then in a tin canister, somehow soldered and sent off. And they will have arrived here in the anatomy department in Berlin and Waldeyer then passed them on to employees who researched it. "

Herero activist Muinjangue: "It could have been anyone you knew: husbands, relatives. And the women had to prepare their heads. What were these people thinking?"

Around 8,000 skulls from all over the world are still stored in museum depots in Berlin alone. There are similar collections in Leipzig, Marburg and Göttingen. In Sweden, Austria, Italy. Why were there so few scruples? Why was it so easy for Luschan, Waldeyer and Virchow - after all also a liberal and socially committed politician - to regard the inhabitants of the colonies as "material"?

Europe as a benchmark for civilization

For a long time, writes the historian Christian Geulen in his "History of Racism", "Race" was a kind of "empty formula" - filled with any number of cultural, historical and geographical features used to describe groups of people. In the 17th century, the French physician François Bernier first differentiated people according to physical characteristics. Among other things, he determines four "races" based on skin and hair color - the inhabitants of Europe, North Africa, India, the Middle East and some of Southeast Asia belong to the same "species". A hundred years later, the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné assigned people to continents according to the skin color types white, yellow, red and black.

(picture alliance / dpa / ZB / Britta Pedersen) German Historical Museum restitutes Namibia receives cultural property back - “Cape Cross” - the stone cross pillar from the German Historical Museum - is being returned to Namibia. It was brought to Germany during the colonial period.

At the time, the violent conquest of America by the Spaniards and Portuguese had been going on for 250 years - Europeans were heavily involved in the slave trade between Africa and America. At the same time, the philosophers of the Enlightenment declare humanity to be a species with a single origin. And postulate human rights, equality and freedom. A contradiction. Immanuel Kant solves it by postulating a hierarchy among peoples: According to their cultural advancement - measured against his own, European culture. In the "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime" he writes:

"... that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks, (..) not a single one has ever been found who has imagined something great either in art or in science (..), although among the whites there are constantly some rising up from the lowest mob and gain a reputation in the world through excellent gifts. "

"What was new," says Nadin Heé, historian at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, "was that you had a new idea of ​​European civilization that was founded on scientific discoveries. That you say: because you are new Had knowledge, including technical knowledge, there was industrialization - and this rationality, especially in Europe, has led to Europe eventually overtaking the rest of the world. And Hegel then argues about this economic line, for example, and says: There is civilized peoples and less civilized peoples. They are evolutionarily less advanced, but also on this cultural level. "

"With the N ---- (...) the characteristic is that their consciousness has not yet come to the perception of any fixed objectivity, He represents (...) the natural man in all his wildness and unrestrainedness: (.. .) There is nothing to be found in this character that is reminiscent of the human. "

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in "Lectures on the Philosophy of History"

The state of European science and technology becomes the benchmark for civilization, which is a prerequisite for being human. And the ability to develop science and technology is traced back to rational thinking. What cannot be measured with this standard cannot therefore be a civilization. Cannot have emerged from rational thinking. It's wild and subjective. It's "nature". One resource.

Middle of the 19thIn the twentieth century the natural sciences added another dimension to thinking about "races": Darwin's theory of evolution. According to which nature is not static, but there are connections between different species. Natural selection ensures that the populations survive in a particular environment that is best adapted to it. Darwin does not see a goal-oriented, constant upward development.

A postulate that many contemporaries do not want to subscribe to - and that motivates them to review it. With the self-image of the enlightened, rational scientist.

Race research as an end in itself

The medical anthropologist Andreas Winkelmann: "So Zeidler, a doctoral student who has examined the facial muscles, clearly sets himself the task of looking from the outset: are there differences between what he calls N ---- and the Europeans. And that also explicitly says: There is a desire to classify this in the ascending row of animals, i.e. to look where the jump to the monkey is? And he actually finds different characteristics too, which he then calls regressive or progressive in the sense of evolution, viewed and mixed but that combined in such a way that in the end it comes out that the facial muscles of what he calls N ---- are more primitive. And that puts the African under the European. If you read it now, you get the impression that that since the result was more or less fixed beforehand and one now tried very hard to describe something that went with it. "

The colonial expansion policy of the 19th century needed a justification for the exploitation of the colonized and science provided it: The people there were underdeveloped. At the same time, however, this becomes the argument that represents the rule of the Europeans in the colonies as a civilizing mission - as: development aid towards a society that is seen as more advanced.

Research colonies, harness them, exploit them

The image of the "underdeveloped black" is only given a real contour: anthropology and ethnology, mining, medicine, agricultural and engineering sciences develop as disciplines not least by researching the colonies, making them usable for themselves, and exploiting them. They develop at the expense of the conquered countries, their inhabitants - and the knowledge of these people.

"I wouldn't say that science came first and really was the engine of all European expansion," notes Heé. "But I think that the colonies created incentives for scientists to do research in the first place. For many, that was an opportunity to get money - in the beginning there were more adventurers and at some point it was more institutionalized and then there were also colonial institutes that did their people sent there. "

Science provides the colonial project with knowledge about countries and people - politics gives the researchers validity. And money.

"In the end, that's always an economic question: what kind of knowledge economy does a state create," explains Heé. "And I think it is very important to see that the institutionalization of science has resulted in the engine, so to speak, being set in motion and then being able to be kept running. And if there was no money then it would certainly not have been given this authority on the discursive level. That was a constantly reciprocal process. "

Measure the skull and the proportions of the limbs

A process in which the search for evidence of inferior and superior "races" becomes an end in itself. And the assumptions on which it is based continue to fade into the background.

Visit to Thomas Etzemüller - historian at the University of Oldenburg. He examined the methods by which anthropologists sought to identify differently developed "races" in the 19th century. They were coined by Otto Ammon, among others. He differentiated between Nordic, Eastern, Dinaric, African and Asian "races", assumed the superiority of the Nordic people himself - and against this background set out to examine the anthropology of the Baden people.

"And then tried to use genealogical data and social data to draw conclusions about the genetic makeup", reports Etzemüller.

Otto Ammon also measures the skull and the proportions of the limbs, notes the skin, hair and eye colors of the residents of different areas, their voice and diet, and the activities of their parents. Almost everything that can be grasped about a person himself and in his environment. However, he finds: nothing.

The postulate becomes a principle

"An English anthropologist would like to get pictures of a typical Badener from Otto Ammon," says Etzemüller. "And Otto Ammon then replies: There is actually no such thing. Either we have the Badener who combines all the racial elements, but then he is not typical. Or we have a normal Badener, but then you can have the racial elements not neglecting it. So they have definitely reflected on that too. "

Nevertheless, Otto Ammon does not move away from his assumption that there are races - and that the Nordic is the superior. Just as many of his colleagues did not, although they could not find any evidence of it either. Namely: because they were convinced that they had worked scientifically.

"Because they collected data and made error analyzes, the data was recognized as scientific," explains Etzemüller. "This also generated evidence. In addition, they have developed methods to cleanly calculate their own data again. In other words, a scientification of their own work, to make it so consciously scientific. Even critics do not question the scientific nature of race anthropology You said: Well, we just have to do more research, collect more data. "

They admit mistakes, refine the methods of evaluating their data. That makes them believable.

Etzemüller: "You can see that very nicely with Ammon, who in his first reports after the measurements listed all the difficulties that he retouched in his printed version without hiding them - and later anthropologists then just said: Ammon has shown in his study that this and that is the case. The subjunctive has thus been transformed into the indicative and the problems have been transformed into scientific truths. And this is how it still works today across different levels of reception or different media. "

What can be seen and measured can also be looked up and measured. Can be understood. Results that come about in this way appear to be neutral, unaffected by world views and personal opinions. But they are not automatically. As clearly as the anthropologists reflected on the inadequacy of their data and methods, so little did they do so in relation to the premises that preceded their research and the context in which they conducted them. They were objective - but not neutral.

"This is of course due to the fact that, unlike the humanities, they operate and have to operate with a progress model," explains Etzemüller. "And a falsification verification model. So: we have data, we have theories and then we see if it works. And if it works, it is verified, if it does not work, it is falsified and that is progress."

What is still a postulate with Kant, a criterion with which he establishes a hierarchy between groups of people, becomes a principle in nineteenth-century science. And in the scientific work itself the assumption of one's own progressiveness was confirmed again and again. Regardless of the results and often blind to the premises on which progress is based.

Nothing that would have confirmed the existence of "human races", certainly not an inequality among people. However, while anthropologists measure bodies, realities are created. On the basis of the "facts" that had not been proven at all, the idea of ​​differently developed and thus valuable "races" is anchored in people's everyday lives. Something that couldn't be found in biology becomes a visible reality through action. Literally being cemented.

"A highly racist utopia"

How - Manuela Bauche described it using the example of the city of Duala, today Cameroon. Since the 17th century, says the science historian, close relationships between the local population and European traders had developed in Duala.

"When Duala then belonged to the German colony of Cameroon, it was increasingly a thorn in the side of the colonial administration," reports Bauche. "And what the colonial administration had in mind was to divide this city in two."

Only Europeans should live in the city center, the African population on the periphery. A so-called "sanitary belt" was to be set up as the border between the two quarters, which should not be built on - and which was supposedly necessary to protect the European population from malaria. A disease that was thought to originate from Africans.

"The idea was that the width of one kilometer exceeded the flight distance of the anopheles mosquito, which transmits malaria," explains Bauche, "so that the mosquitoes would not be able to fly from the African city to the European city. A highly racist utopia. Because they assumed that one part of the city was affected by disease and the other part of the city was the pure part of the city that was not to be endangered. "

Lagos had also been segregated a few years earlier with the argument of fighting malaria, and a little later Dakar. On the grounds that the plague could be better controlled.

"The idea was also that these two districts would be different," explains Bauche. "In the European city there would only be houses that were built according to a European architectural style and in the African city there should only be matted houses, that's a quote. But the problem was: There were many Duala who had built large houses that corresponded to the classic style of the colonial bungalow. And the solution was found by saying: Okay, in the African city, there shouldn't be any permanent houses, only mat houses and for the better-off Duala should then be from the colonial authorities specially invented a so-called indigenous style, which should be designed between mat houses and European bungalows. "

The medical reports with which the construction plans are ultimately to be justified then only marginally deals with malaria.

Bauche: "It also appears in it. But there is also talk of it - so a vision is opened up that the European city will be quiet, that certain smells will no longer exist and so on. I think there will It is clear that this medical thinking about disease transmission is very closely linked to other utopias, what a bourgeois city looks like and how not ... You have to see that medicine and other sciences that played a role in colonial times were very closely interlinked with other interests of the colonial project, which cannot be separated from them.
I think it's very important to always look at it, because it makes it clear that racism not only has something to do with appearance or with the phenotype, but that the idea of ​​culture is, so to speak, inscribed in thinking in terms of "race" itself. "
Those who oppose racism often succumb to the illusion that racism is a lack of thinking in the sense of simple stupidity, writes the French philosopher Étienne Balibar in "Rasse, Klasse, Nation" at the end of the 1980s. That it would be enough to make people think to drive back racism. It is about changing the mindset. And that is the hardest thing in the world.

Production Dlf 2018

Racial Thinking Part 2 - White Spots on the Scientific Map
(Deutschlandfunk, Wissenschaft im Brennpunkt, December 26, 2018)