Die Odyssee der Pygmäen. Eine prekäre Figur auf den neuzeitlichen Spieltischen anthropologischer Differenz

Toggweiler, Michael (2012). Die Odyssee der Pygmäen. Eine prekäre Figur auf den neuzeitlichen Spieltischen anthropologischer Differenz (Unpublished). (Dissertation, Universität Bern, Philosophisch-historische Fakultät, Institut für Sozialanthropologie)

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Due to the impacts of postcolonialism, social and cultural anthropology has been dealing intensively with the possibilities and limits of representing "other” human beings and their meaningful worlds. Scholars such as George Marcus, James Clifford or Clifford Geertz have discussed ways of improving
anthropological 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 “represented”. Thus, despite attempts to purify classical anthropological categories, substantialized presences (“Humans”, “Others”, “Pygmies” etc.), various forms of binary oppositions (us–them, culture–nature, human–animal) as well as certain epistemological modes/
logoi (representation, interpretation) have been rehearsed until today.
The research aims to dissect and challenge the metaphysical outputs of the “anthropological machine” (Giorgio Agamben). I intended to solve these from their apparent familiarity as representable identities or differences in order to investigate their genealogy. In Derrida’s and Foucault’s understanding,
genealogy becomes manifest mainly in the “blind spots” (Derrida) or “anomalies” (Foucault) between differences, at the borders of identities.
As an analytical guideline, the research uses on one concrete metonym for the Derridean blind spot, one incorporation of a Foucauldian Other, namely pygmy narratives within early modern and 19th century imaginings. “Pygmies” have been part of both Western mythology and anthropological reflection since the antiquity and finally became “ethnographical facts” within an evolutionary anthropology in the 19th century during the European exploration of Africa. Throughout this veritable Odyssey, they were mostly
precarious “category-jammers” (Timothy Beal), occupying the impossible middle grounds within (proto)anthropological classification. Thus, along with the early modern wild men, enfants sauvages or the apes of proto-primatology, the pygmies of the Homeric myth, as a catalyst for the negotiation of categories, played a decisive role in early modern and 19th century conceptions of the human. Through the precarious Pygmies, concrete socio-historical materializations of Identities (human, European), differences (human–animal etc.), as well as the accompanying logoi which vindicate these as pseudo-entities, appear evident. The research aims to read
and write the history of early modern and 19th Century anthropology through
one of its many classificatory constituting Others. It thus contributes to a discipline that for a long time has examined concrete systems of knowledge and the genealogy of classification in general. One might call it an “anthropologization” of anthropology.

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)

Thesis Advisor:

Znoj, Heinzpeter and Buchenau, Barbara


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Znoj, Heinzpeter; Buchenau, Barbara and Toggweiler, Michael


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
100 Philosophy > 190 Modern western philosophy
900 History




Michael Toggweiler

Date Deposited:

09 May 2014 13:37

Last Modified:

09 May 2014 13:37



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