Race, ideas, and ideals: A comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F.K. Günther

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive on 2012-12-27 21:08Z by Steven

Race, ideas, and ideals: A comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F.K. Günther

History of European Ideas
Volume 32, Issue 3, 2006
pages 313-332
DOI: 10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2006.05.001

Amos Morris-Reich, Director of the Bucerius Institute
Department of Jewish History
University of Haifa, Israel

This article compares two radically opposed views concerning “race” in the first half of the 20th century: the one of Franz Boas (1858–1942), the founder of American cultural anthropology, and the other of Hans F. K. Günther (1889–1968), the most widely read theoretician of race in Nazi Germany. Opposite as their views were, both derived from a similar non-evolutionist German anthropological matrix. The article reconstructs their definitions of racial objects and studies their analyses of racial intermixture. Although both believed that contemporary peoples were racially deeply mixed, Boas moved towards an antiracist conception of race-as-population, whereas Günther moved towards a racist conception of homogenous races in mixed peoples. The comparison shows that the major difference between them concerns their ideals or guiding principles. Their respective ideals seeped into their versions of science and transformed the nature and the significance of their respective ideas.

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