The German Invention of Race

Edited by Sara Eigen & Mark Larrimore

Subjects: German Culture
Series: SUNY series, Philosophy and Race
Paperback : 9780791466780, 229 pages, January 2007
Hardcover : 9780791466773, 229 pages, February 2006

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Table of contents

Introduction: The German Invention of Race
Sara Eigen and Mark Larrimore

I. Modes of Difference: Race, Color, Culture

1. What “Progresses” Has Race-Theory Made Since the Times of Leibniz and Wolff?
Peter Fenves

2. Laocoön and the Hottentots
Michel Chaouli

II. Race in Philosophy: the Problem of Kant

3. Policing Polygeneticism in Germany, 1775: (Kames,) Kant, and Blumenbach
John H. Zammito

4. Kant’s Concept of a Human Race
Susan M. Shell

5. Kant and Blumenbach’s Polyps: A Neglected Chapter in the History of the Concept of Race
Robert Bernasconi

6. Race, Freedom and the Fall in Steffens and Kant
Mark Larrimore

III. Race in the Sciences of Culture

7. The German Invention of Völkerkunde: Ethnological Discourse in Europe and Asia, 1740–1798
Han F. Vermeulen

8. Gods, Titans, and Monsters: Philhellenism, Race, and Religion in Early-Nineteenth-Century Mythography
George S. Williamson

9. From Indo-Germans to Aryans: Philology and the Racialization of Salvationist National Rhetoric, 1806–30
Tuska Benes

IV. Race in the Political Sphere

10. Policing the Menschen = Racen
Sara Eigen

11. Jewish Emancipation and the Politics of Race
Jonathan M. Hess


Illuminates the emergence of race as a central concept in philosophy and the social sciences.


In The German Invention of Race, historians, philosophers, and scholars in literary, cultural, and religious studies trace the origins of the concept of "race" to Enlightenment Germany and seek to understand the issues at work in creating a definition of race. The work introduces a significant connection to the history of race theory as contributors show that the language of race was deployed in contexts as apparently unrelated as hygiene; aesthetics; comparative linguistics; anthropology; debates over the status of science, theology, and philosophy; and Jewish emancipation.

The concept of race has no single point of origin, and has never operated within the constraints of a single definition. As the essays in this book trace the powerful resonances of the term in diverse contexts, both before and long after the invention of the scientific term around 1775, they help explain how this pseudoconcept could, in a few short decades, have become so powerful in so many fields of thought and practice. In addition, the essays show that the fateful rise of racial thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was made possible not only by the establishment of physical anthropology as a field, but also by other disciplines and agendas linked by the enduring associations of the word "race."

Sara Eigen is Assistant Professor of German at Vanderbilt University. Mark Larrimore is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts and the editor of The Problem of Evil: A Reader.