Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas, 1900-1930

Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas, 1900-1930

Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas, 1900-1930

Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas, 1900-1930

Excerpt

The present book considers how, in the opening years of the twentieth century, German physicists and astronomers came to staff major research and teaching institutions in Argentina, the South Pacific, and China. It follows German influence at these institutions over the next thirty years. My larger aim is to understand how exact sciences having little practical utility interacted with explicitly imperialist strategies. I have sought in this way to provide a nuanced reading of a process that is the object of much vilification and little close attention--that of cultural imperialism.

When one thinks of cultural imperialism and its residues today, a number of images come quickly to mind: the ubiquity of English in Western Europe and Russian in Eastern Europe; the curious persistence of French as a language of international law; the many institutions abroad bearing names like the American School, the Alliance française, and the Goethe-Institut; the movements to drive foreign culture and ideas from the bistros and airwaves of nations like Flanders, Quebec, Iran, and Argentina. The phenomenon suggests itself, indeed, whenever different civilizations have come into contact over the preceding five or six generations. If one is generous about using the word imperialism, the temptation exists to identify it as an expected product of universal human strivings. In part because contemporary manifestations of cultural imperialism continue to generate strong emotions, I have chosen to limit my inquiry to unambiguous instances of imperialist activity where time has dulled painful memories.

Furious and hateful literature published between around 1930 and 1945 has understandably impelled historians away from the subject of German cultural imperialism. While the dimensions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Kulturpolitik in Europe are coming into focus, however, to my knowledge until now no synthetic treatment has appeared for German cultural expansion overseas. Notwithstanding isolated . . .

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