Mi / 10:00 – 12:00

Mapping Blackness in Southeast Asia and Oceania

German Anthropology ca. 1900

Marissa Petrou, KWI International Fellow

Online (Zoom) & Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) Essen, Room 106, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

As European museums begin to address the harms they have and continue to cause descendant communities, my current book project examines the complex history behind one museum which aimed to prevent such harms at its founding. The Dresden Museum for Zoology, Anthropology and Ethnography was founded by A.B. Meyer (1840-1911), a German Jew who would use the museum’s collections to propose an historical, non-essentialist approach to understanding racial and cultural difference because of his commitment to extensive field research, Darwinian evolution, anticolonialism, and experimentation with techniques of visual representation. Internationally, this historical understanding of ethnicity attracted the attention of Filipino nationalists and launched the careers of Meyer’s students and collaborators in European and Latin American museums. In this presentation, I will discuss how the aim of German physical and cultural anthropologists to track population migration included mapping Blackness in the Pacific. This mapping project inscribed Blackness onto a vast number of ethnic groups through the theft of ancestral remains. This talk explores how A. B. Meyer participated in harms to descendent communities while trying to counter scientific racism in his contributions to the mapping of Blackness in the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea.