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These Dead, but still Eloquent Witnesses of the Past

Scientism, Ventriloquism and Scientific Racism in the American School of Anthropology in the First Half of the 19th Century — Abstract

Masterprojekt von Paul Schillinger

The American School of anthropology is an interesting aspect of the history of scientific racism in the 19th century. The de facto head of this group, Samuel George Morton, worked specifically on phrenology, trying to show how Native Americans are inferior to the Caucasian white race, analyzing a large number of Native American skulls. In my paper, I study the relationship between scientist and their object of study, in this case the dialog between anthropologist and the skulls and heads of non-white people which occurred in 19th century Anglo-American science.

Scientific racism in anthropology was, and to a degree still is, a scientific legitimization for the colonizing power to supersede the colonized. In the history of the American School the main focus is on white Anglo-Americans colonizing Native Americans. This is done through a number of different things, one important way is the attempt to scientifically prove how the Caucasian mind is the best at being ‘civilized’.

This paper explores whether this scientific racism might have been a by-product of scientism, which, in short, is an abuse of scientific methodology, meaning that the ‘science’ in question does not really have the power the scientists (or the public) think it has.
Following this combination of scientific racism and scientism, the discussion then continues as to whether as a result of these two elements a form of ventriloquism occurs, (as introduced by Mita Banerjee's book Ethnic Ventriloquism), which in this case is a metaphor for the silencing of non-white peoples for the gain of the white powers.

Website: paul-schillinger.org

  1. Fakultät für Philosophie, Kunst-, Geschichts- und Gesellschaftswissenschaften
  2. Institut für Philosophie