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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2021

Naturgeschichte und Rassenklassifikation: Zu Blumenbachs Anthropologie und ihrer Rezeption

From the book Bilddenken und Morphologie

  • Mario Marino


The present chapter discusses the development of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s (1752-1840) racial classification by analysing the theoretical, methodical, and conceptual shifts, and the ambivalences inherent to such an influential and controversial intellectual enterprise. Special attention is paid to Blumenbach’s iconography, to his conceptualisation of natural history as a science of natural mutability, and to the importance he attributed to the relationship between indirect sources and direct observation of nature in anthropological research. The chapter focuses on Blumenbach’s doctrine of degeneration and his alleged anticipation of Eugen Fischer’s domestication theory, as well as on the image of the book of nature and the ‘end of natural history’ (Lepenies), on the transition from the idea of ‘variety’ to that of ‘race’, and on the visualisation of human varieties. Finally, the problematic role of the notion of beauty in both the construction and reception of Blumenbach’s classification is highlighted.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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