Concepts of the Non-European in Early Modern Europe
- a biological condition that fascinated the eighteenth-century intellectuals because
it seemed to them to prove that white was the original color of Adam and Eve.
- Anthropological Perspective
- comparative point of view that there are physical and cultural differences among
human populations which must be taken into account in any attempt to generalize about humanity (Rowe, p. 61 = Darnell, ch. 5).
- Artificial variation
- antithesis of natural variation. The two types were confused in early modern Europe.
Some believed that negroid features had been artificially derived, meaning man-made
after birth by molding the head or facial features. Others argued that the variety
of characteristics occurred naturally. The pygmies ultimately turned out to be true,
whereas Negro nose-flattening ultimately proved to be fictitious and a rationalization
for aesthetic prejudices.
- self-evident truth; a universally accepted principle or rule. In logic and mathematics
an axiom is a proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying
the consequences that follow from it.
- two-footed animal. This quality was much discussed in the eighteenth century because
it was seen as an advantage to the human species.
- Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), author of the popular On the Natural Varieties of Mankind
(1775), is traditionally regarded as the “father of physical anthropology.”
- Count de Buffon (1707-1788) claimed to have found a synthesizing principle at work
in the living world, analogous to Newton’s synthesis in physics, in his popular 1749
essay entitled “Of the Varieties in the Human Species.” The underlying law at work
in nature was climate.
- = anthropophagite; a human being that eats human flesh. “Cannibalism always turns out
to have been suppressed shortly before the observer’s arrival, or is imputed by his
informants to other
people,” Bitterli, p. 9.
- of or pertaining to Descartes’s mathematical methods or philosophy; deductive reasoning
where a conclusion is drawn from a set of premises containing no more information
than the premises taken collectively. The conclusion is logically true. Deductive
reasoning is the antithesis to inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is where the
truth of the conclusion is verifiable only in terms of future experience and certainty
is attainable only if all possible instances have been examined.
- term invented by Blumenbach based on the [European] idea that the most beautiful race
lives around Mount Caucasus and that humanity’s progenitors (meaning their forefathers
and their original model) descended from Noah’s Ark settling on Mount Ararat, the
southern slope of Mount Caucasus.
- Chain of Being
- ancient concept or world-order of the great Scale of Nature. The world is structured
in terms of an immense number of links arranged in hierarchical order (gradation),
going from the lowest through every possible grade to the highest (plenitude), each
grade differing by the least possible difference (continuity). Charles Bonnet, Idée d'une échelle des êtres naturels. Alexander Pope coined
the phrase “chain of being” in his poem, “Essay on Man” (1732-4). Arthur O. Lovejoy,
author of The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea
(1936), considers evolution to be but a “temporalizing of the Chain of Being.”
Nineteenth-century evolutionists switched the European perspective from the angel-to-ape
gradation to one of the ape-to-humanity instead (with a gradation of races inside
EUROPEAN CONCEPT OF THE CHAIN OF BEING|
|Flying Squirrel|| ||Eureuil volant|
|Aquatic Birds|| ||Oiseau aquatique|
|Amphibious Birds|| ||Oiseau amphibre|
|Flying Fish|| ||Poissons volans|
|Crawling Fish|| ||Poissons rampans|
|Water Snakes|| ||Serpens d’eau|
|Tubular Worms|| ||Vers à tuyau|
|Tape-Worm|| ||Taenia, ou solitaire|
|Sea-Anemone|| ||Orties de Mer|
|Sensitive Plants|| ||Plantes sensitives|
|Mushrooms, Agarics|| ||Champigonons agaries|
|Corals, Coraloids|| ||Coraux et coralloides|
|Asbestos, Amianthus|| ||Amianthe|
|Talcs, Gypsums, Selenites|| ||Talcs, Gyps, Selenites|
|Formed Stones|| ||Pierres figurées|
|Pure Earth|| ||Terre pure|
|MORE SUBTILE MATTERS|| ||MATIERES PLUS SUBTILES|
- = “Man of the Woods” in an African language.
- conceptualized by Baudet, without using this term, as a wave of enthusiasm and uncritical
imitation of China and things Chinese — or perceived to be Chinese — that swept across
Europe (Baudet, pp. 43-44).
- Climatic theory
- ancient theory that the differences of skin color among human populations is due to
the differences of climate. This theory found new favor in the eighteenth century
thanks to the Baron de Montesquieu and the Count de Buffon.
- The Contact
- declination in qualities of human skin, size, and mentality from the ancestral racial
“norm.” According to Buffon, the laws of degeneracy operated from the Temperate Zone
to the Torrid or Frigid Zones and in the East-West direction as well.
- marriage within a specific social unit.
- The Enlightenment
- philosophical movement of the 18th century in Europe, characterized by a lively questioning
of authority, keen interest in matters of politics and general culture, and an emphasis
on empirical method in science.
- tendency to view alien groups or cultures in terms of one’s own.
- = xenophilia; superiority of all things foreign (Baudet, pp. 49-50).
- tendency to view non-European groups or cultures in European terms, with the assumption
that Europe’s are superior.
- to unroll, unfold, open; development; to come forth gradually into being; to go
to a more highly organized state or condition.
- marriage outside a specific social unit.
- not native, strikingly foreign; discussed by Baudet as characteristic of the Enlightenment;
the improper generally held an inordinate fascination for the 18th century; a modus vivendi
or temporary arrangement of living between the degenerative view of life “no longer”
and the evolutionist view of life “not yet” (Baudet, pp. 37-38 and 51).
- Frigid Zone
- the coldest zone of the globe and harshest conditions, consequently home to the most
degenerative varieties of the human species.
- Historical Point of View
- recognition of cultural contrasts between the present and the past (Rowe, p. 69).
- Homo sylvestris
- small orang-outang, according to Buffon.
- position on the north-south coordinate.
- position on the east-west coordinate, only made possible in the eighteenth century
with the invention of chronometers.
- change from one form into another, e.g., the Frog-Apollo metamorphosis as illustrated in Lavater’s Physiognomy (1778-79). This concept fascinated Enlightenment scientists because it illustrated the unity in diversity that characterized living nature. Petrus Camper (1722-1789) likewise illustrated metamorphoses in nature.
- a future reign of righteousness; for example, a future reign by Christ.
- theory or doctrine that all human races have descended from a single created pair,
or from a common ancestral type; antithesis of polygenism.
- “Morals and Manners”
- eighteenth-century expression for today’s concept of “culture” in the anthropological
- Natural inequality
- antithesis of artificial or social inequality pointed out by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
in the eighteenth century.
- unreasonable hatred of the “Negro” (African or African-American) race.
- Noble Savage
- eighteenth-century literary device to criticize society or l’infâme
(Voltaire’s term for Christianity); a literary device for Natural Reason in the Enlightenment.
“Man of the Woods,” in the Malay language.
- conceptualized by Baudet, without using this term, as a preeminently sympathetic
view of Turks, Persians, and other non-Westerners other than the Chinese, Africans, or American
Indians (Baudet, pp. 45-48).
- Perspective Distance
- sensitivity to and acknowledgment of cultural differences through time (history)
or space (anthropology) which permits the culture to be respectively observed on
its own terms (Rowe, p. 76).
- Polished society
- the civil state, i.e. European civilization; the antithesis of “rude nation” or the
- theory or doctrine that existing human races have evolved from two or more distinct
ancestral types; polygeny; antithesis of monogenism. Some polygenists of the 18th
century were Voltaire and David Hume. All the European scientists of the 19th century
- large orang-outang, according to Buffon.
- natural tendency of travelers to see only what they are prepared to see; psychological
urge to see only what one wants to see; intellectual anxiety to interpret the unfamiliar
in terms of the familiar; pre-judgments; prejudices; rationalizations.
- originally meant the initial, primary level.
- = “no longer;” degenerative; the belief that primitive or chronologically early civilizations
are qualitatively superior to contemporary civilization (Baudet, p. 34).
- a category of humans, conceptualized in the eighteenth century and reified in the
nineteenth century. Carolus Linnaeus, the great Swedish nomenclator of the 18th
century, classified four races based on the ancient theory of the four humors. Blumenbach
classified five races. The number and identification of races which each anthropologist classified varied enormously between them.
- defined broadly as stigmatization of those we perceive as different from us; defined
specifically as the doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races
determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s
own race is superior. There can be an ethnocentric group of people without being a
racist group of people because racism seems to need to have some systematized body
of scientific knowledge. Racist expressions generally seek to justify and thus perpetuate sets of mind or social practices already in existence.
- questioning the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual; a
doubting attitude; even doubting the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.
- the biological group in which the individuals can produce fertile offspring together.
- Temperate Zone
- the best zone on the globe in terms of environmental conditions, which included
Europe, and was the site of humanity’s origin because the temperate climate favored
Nature’s optimal generative power.
- Torrid Zone
- the hottest climate on the globe and therefore home, it was assumed, to the world’s darkest-skinned peoples.
- = “not yet;” evolutionist; place or state of political or social perfection; any visionary
system of political or social perfection; imaginary political or social perfection
(Baudet, p. 34).
- Wild children
- abandoned children of Europe found in the wild.
- Wild man
- homo sylvestris in Latin.
- = étrangisme; superiority of all things foreign (Baudet, pp. 49-50).
- unreasonable hatred or fear of foreigners.
- Baudet, Henri.
- Paradise on Earth: Some Thoughts on European Images of Non-European Man. Trans. Elizabeth Wentholt. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.
- Bitterli, Urs.
- Cultures in Conflict: Encounters Between European and Non-European Cultures, 1492-1800. Trans. Ritchie Robertson. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989.
- Darnell, Regna, ed.
- Readings in the History of Anthropology. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.
- Rowe, John Howland.
- “The Renaissance Foundations of Anthropology.” Readings in the History of Anthropology, ed., Regna Darnell (New York: Harper and Row, 1974): 61-77.
- Schiebinger, Londa.
- Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (Beacon Press, 1993): Chapter 5.
- Woodrow, Ross.
- Digital Lavater. Digital edition of Lavater’s Physiognomy (in English translation). University of Newcastle.
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