Die Odyssee der Pygmäen. Eine andere Geschichte der neuzeitlichen Anthropologie

Toggweiler, Michael (2017). Die Odyssee der Pygmäen. Eine andere Geschichte der neuzeitlichen Anthropologie. Bern: Philisophisch-historische Fakultät, Universität Bern

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Due to the impacts of postmodernism, social and cultural anthropology has been dealing intensively with the possibilities and limits of representing “other” human beings and their meaningful worlds. So far, the discipline has discussed ways of improving its methods of representation without, however, fully raising questions about the quality and validity of the objects represented and the very idea, that they could be “re- presented”. Thus, despite attempts to purify classical anthropological categories, substantialized identities (“Humans”, “Others”, “Pygmies” etc.) along with various forms of binary oppositions (us – them, culture – nature, human – animal, fact – representation) have been rehearsed. This book aims to dissect and challenge the metaphysical outputs of the “anthropological machine” (Giorgio Agamben). I intend to solve these from their apparent familiarity as representable identities or differences in order to investigate their genealogy within a dynamic game of différance (Jacques Derrida). In Derrida’s understanding, différance becomes manifest mainly in the “blind spots” between differences, at the borders of identities. As an analytical guideline the research uses on one concrete metonym for the derridean blind spot, namely pygmy narratives within early modern and 19th Century imaginings. As “no-things” (Julia Kristev a) “pygmies” for a long time occupied the impossible middleground between categories. They have been part of both Western mythology and anthropological reflection since the antiquity and finally became “ethnographical facts” within an evolutio- nary anthropo logy in the 19th century during the European exploration of Africa. My research has a twofold aim: first, it investigates specific historical effects of anthropological and epistemological différance by way of early modern (proto)anthropo - logical sources. More than any of the Plinian monsters of contemporary cosmography or natural philosophy, the pygmies of the Homeric myth, as a catalyst for the negotiation of categories, play a decisive role in early modern and 19th century conceptions of the human. Through the precarious pygmies, the genealogy of differences (human – animal, fictum –factum etc.) appear evident. Second, the project aims to establish a heuristic reading of anthropology via its constitutive others – „anOther “ history of early modern anthropology.

Item Type:

Book (Monograph)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Network (IRN)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology
Graduate Schools > Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Toggweiler, Michael


100 Philosophy > 190 Modern western philosophy
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
900 History > 940 History of Europe


Philisophisch-historische Fakultät, Universität Bern




Michael Toggweiler

Date Deposited:

30 Apr 2018 08:12

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2020 21:55

Additional Information:

Das vorliegende Buch basiert auf einer im Herbst 2012 der Philosophisch-historischen Fakultät der Universität Bern zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde vorgelegten und mit summa cum laude bewerteten Inauguralissertation.

Uncontrolled Keywords:

History of Anthropology; Pygmies; Monsters; Others; Early Modernity; Genealogy; Alterity





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