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“What Do You Really Want in German East Africa, Herr Professor?” Counterinsurgency and the Science Effect in Colonial Tanzania

  • Andrew Zimmerman (a1)

“What do you really want in German East Africa, Herr Professor?” was a question asked of the anthropologist Karl Weule by more than a few of his fellow passengers on board a ship bound for the German colony that is today Tanzania, in 1906. At least this was what Weule himself recalled after he returned from a journey during which he was caught up, and participated in, the counterinsurgency operations that followed one of the greatest anti-colonial uprisings that Africa had ever seen, the Maji Maji uprising. One elegant woman, Weule wrote, demanded: “And what do you want, Herr Professor, from all these tribes? Simply to collect for your museum in Leipzig? Or does the anthropology of today also have other, higher goals?” Anthropology did indeed, Weule explained, have “other, higher goals”: “The museum you speak of, my dearest, exists out in reality, as even the most hard-hearted Philistine would have to admit. … But how will anthropology be able to assert its much-contested status as a science, when it knows nothing higher and better than simply to bring together bows, arrows, spears, and thousands of other things? This collecting and preserving is really just … the elementary branch of our work. The other, higher part is the study [Aufnahme] of mental culture [geistige Kulturbesitzes].”

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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