BHA 21(1): Browman

Intellectual Imperialism in the Andes: German Anthropologists and Archaeologists in Peru, 1870–1930. 2007 PhD Dissertation, Department of History, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 236 pp. DAI-AAT 3268194.

Works relating to the intellectual history of archaeology by non-archaeologists often take a while to show up in our disciplinary history literature base. Thus I was glad to learn of this dissertation by Uta Raina, and to find that it was available through inter-library loan as well as by purchase. And I was particularly delighted when in the first few pages I read (p. 25) that she had identified more than ninety German researchers during this sixty-year period (1870–1930) that had been active in the Peruvian Andes doing archaeology and anthropology.

Regrettably she doesn’t follow up with a historiographical evaluation of these ninety individuals, but only discusses a few of them. In fact, almost immediately, it becomes clear she has been trained in history, and knows very little about Andean anthropology and archaeology. She focuses mainly on larger German political events, and their peripheral influence upon German scholars’ working in Peruvian studies.

The discussion is organized employing three time units. The first of these is what she terms the ‘pre-colonial’ unit, 1870–1884. Two events help anchor arguments for this period: the development of research societies such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Anthropologie (German Society of Anthropology) founded in 1869; and the 1871 defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War, which then allowed Germany to attempt to catch-up with other colonial European powers, particularly with establishing significant colonies in Africa and elsewhere after 1884.

The second time unit, termed ‘colonial’, then lasts from 1884 until 1914, when World War I marked the end of Germany’s role as a short-lived colonial power. It was during this period that Germany became the leading European nation of Andean scholarship, she argues, and as such it is thus the period of much of the theoretical focus of her dissertation.

Her third time unit, termed ‘post-colonial’, is from 1914 to 1930, when she contends Germany shifted to an aggressive campaign of cultural propaganda in South America. After Germany was defeated in World War I, and denied colonies, Raina argues that the German elite poured substantial funds into increasing cultural relationships with other nations, specifically resulting in more German scholars being sent to the Andes. The year 1930 is utilized as an end-date as it marks the overthrow of the regime of Augusto Bernardino Leguia in Peru. Leguia had ruled for eleven years, 1919–1930, and had been particularly friendly to German intellectual activities. But with the onset of a new Peruvian administration after Leguia’s removal, there was a reaction against foreigners. Raina also views this date as more or less coincident with the rise of Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany in 1933, and a shift in German foreign policy. The end date is fuzzy, as the dissertation does go on to discuss some of the roles of German archaeologists in the later 1930s in the Andes.

Raina argues (p. 52) that in the ‘pre-colonial’ period (1870–1884), the Peruvian government had encouraged professional Germans to immigrate and had exempted them from paying taxes, because the over-riding political philosophy of the Peruvian government was that for the country to succeed in their development interests, they needed to ‘whiten’ their population by encouraging European immigration. In the succeeding ‘colonial’ period (1884–1914), she notes that German economic interests increased in Peru, so that Germany was its third largest foreign trading partner by the outbreak of the First World War. This economic interest also was reflected by German scholars becoming the leaders on Peruvian topics among intellectuals from foreign nations. As an example of this concentration, under Adolf Bastian, the Ethnologischen Museum in Berlin disproportionately focused its collections on Latin America, so that by the 1880s, some 200,000 of its total collection of 300,000 items were from Latin America, and nearly one quarter, 73,000, were from Peru.

One of Raina’s principal exemplars of German scholars influence in the ‘colonial’ period was the work of Max Uhle. She begins with the collection research he undertook in 1892-1895 in Bolivia, funded by the Germans through the ‘Aid-Committee for the Enhancement of the Ethnological Collections of the Royal Museums’. She quotes from letters sent when he continued working in Bolivia for other funding groups in 1895, wherein he complained about the social class Raina terms ‘Creoles’ in Peru and Bolivia, referring to the mestizos’s ‘treachery’ and ‘selfishness’ when he had to work with them. And he later fumed that the local populations did not have the intellectual capabilities of establishing an archaeological collection that would go beyond one simply gathered by a lover of curiosities, and lamented that it was up to him and other German scholars then to work out the proper evolutionary sequence of cultures in the Andes (pp. 96, 108). However the discussion overlooks the links between Uhle and Phoebe Hearst, and the University of California-Berkeley and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, and leaves the reader with the mistaken impression that Uhle was only a German-funded researcher at that point. Raina goes on to characterize not only Uhle, but researchers such as Arthur Baessler, Ernest Middendorf, Wilhelm Reiss, Alphons Stuebel, and Johann Tschudi, as being ‘full of contempt’ for the contemporary Indians and mestizos in the Andes, viewing them ‘as racially, physically, and intellectually far inferior to the ancient Indian races’ (p. 99).

During Raina’s ‘colonial’ time unit, there was significant German government funding of archaeological research, which led German scholars to focus upon government-favoured issues of national importance, rather than upon questions of purely scholarly or academic interest in their reports. With their country having just ended a conflict with the French, she argues that there was considerable overt German political concern about their researchers ‘keeping up with the French’. The German government was characterized as carefully monitoring French scholarly activity, and going to the length of requiring the number of German scholars attending meetings, such as the International Congress for Anthropology, to be at least equal to the number of French scholars. Latin American archaeological research in Germany was thus linked to nationalism and governmental institutions beginning in pre-colonial phase, and this involvement increased in the colonial phase.

Raina goes on to illustrate this competition by discussing the ‘rivalry between Max Uhle and the French (sic) archaeologist Adolph Bandalier (sic)’ (p. 141). These pages left me feeling a bit queasy. The example of Uhle vs. Bandelier was chosen from work they conducted in the Titicaca basin of Bolivia – but Raina has completely ignored the research of other German-born scholars working there such as Arthur Posnansky. I was expecting that because the Titicaca basin was brought into the discussion the reader would have a more fulsome discussion of German activities there, particularly during Raina’s ‘post-colonial’ phase when there was intense German scholarly involvement in Bolivian archaeology at Tiahuanaco. But strangely none of that work is mentioned. She treats Bandelier (whose name she consistently spells incorrectly) as if he is a Frenchman, working for the French. She seems unaware of the fact that even though he was born in Switzerland, he was raised and educated in Highland, Illinois (and not in France). She does not mention the fact that Bandelier worked for the Archaeological Institute of America in the Southwest of the U.S.A., and that he worked at the American Museum of Natural History and was employed by Columbia University, for example, during the timeframe that Raina treats him as a ‘French’ competitor of Uhle. While Raina is evidently correct about the competition of France vs. Germany during this period, the case of Bandelier vs. Uhle is not the example she should have employed – Bandelier was not French, and to be technical, at the time point of her comparison, both Uhle and Bandelier were working for U.S. institutions.

Raina continues to use Uhle as a one of her major illustrative examples of German practices in her ‘post-colonial’ timeframe. She argues that ‘Uhle himself not only saw his role as scholar, but also as instrument of [German] national politics’ (p. 155) during this period. Thus the lively arguments about the origins of Peruvian civilization in the 1930s between Julio C. Tello and Uhle were rooted in part in Uhle’s links to the so-called German ‘Middendorf School’, which essentially diminished the achievements of the Peruvian Inca ancestors by seeing Bolivian Tiahuanaco as giving the Inca their cultural inventory. With respect to the latter, Raina reminds us that Uhle had favoured the idea that Inca political concepts were derived from the Maya via Tiahuanaco. And later, after the Nazis came to power, Raina argues that German archaeological modelling favoured the idea that the civilization that had built Tiahuanaco as being derived from exactly the same people whose previous civilization was from sunken Atlantis. German scholarship dealing with Tiahuanaco at this point, and particularly the German Andean scholars that Arthur Posnansky invited to Bolivia in the late 1920s and early 1930s to work with him, were fascinated with this idea, but strangely Raina does not include mention of a single one of them.

In 1945, when Peru finally declared war on the Axis, Uhle was detained in a Peruvian prisoner of war camp. Although the Peruvians offered to release him because of his past service to the country, Uhle preferred to remain confined with fellow Germans, an action which Raina saw as part of the influence of the nationalism and imperial rivalry that played an important role in the development of German academic disciplines such as archaeology. For those who would like to see more of Uhle’s archaeological contributions to Peru, I would recommend the works of Kaulicke (1998), Lumbreras (1998) and Rowe (1954).

Raina’s concludes that the importance of her dissertation is that her research shows clear evidence of German ‘intellectual imperialism’ upon the origin stories of Andean archaeology for the period of 1870 to 1930. Further she argues that this work contributes to the broader understanding of German intellectual trajectories by providing evidence that the German Peruvianists, actively supported by the German government, promoted racial constructs of the purity of the Aryans that long preceded the Third Reich. Thus other literary sources that have in the past blamed or credited this racist construct as originating with Hitler and the Nazis have missed an important historical root to that belief ideology. I think these are fair characterizations, and help to make it clear that her dissertation is not so much about providing historiographic commentary on the actual intellectual contributions by Peruvian German archaeologists, as it is about using the activities of German scholars in Peru during the 1870-1930 timeframe to extract patterns with which to address broader questions of the German worldview in Europe.


Kaulicke, P. (ed). 1998. Max Uhle y el Perú Antiguo. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Lumbreras, L. G. 1998. Max Uhle y la tradición de investigación arqueológica en el Perú. Indiana 15: 177–196.

Rowe, J. H.. 1954. Max Uhle, 1856–1944: A Memoir of the Father of Peruvian Archaeology. Berkeley: University of California Press Publications in American Anthropology and Ethnography 46 (1).