The Germans learn slowly – this is not surprising, giving the TV programmes they are forced to watch. Despite several blackface scandals in recent times, those responsible for one of the biggest entertainment shows thought it funny, to invite the citizens of Augsburg, where the programme was recorded, to a staging of blackface. They were supposed to dress as Jim Knopf or Lukas, the Engine Driver (Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver) – Jim, as it was explicitly demanded, »painted black« with shoepolish, coal or whatever.1

   The people of Augsburg followed the invitation in numbers (and roundabout seven million viewers were present). Even their major along with his partner mixed with the crowd (he, of course, as engine driver and she with blacked face as Jim). First protests from the net were responded to by the local, as well as the national press with the usual ignorance. The critics »obsessed [...] over a wild racism debate«, reprimanded the local press and one illustrated review titled »Racism? What a drivel!«

Wetten Dass, Lanz & Bürgermeister
»... racist entertainment ...«

   The TV station explained in mitigation that Jim Knopf was, after all, the hero from one of the »most successful and popular children’s books in Germany«. Tahir Della of the Initiative of Black People in Germany, in contrast, sees a »clear case of Blackfacing« and declares that »the ZDF has catered to racist perceptions«.2

   This is the crux of the matter: it is (at least in this case) not (chiefly) about Jim Knopf,3 but about the racist staging of a blackface farce as white drollery. At this, it was clear from the beginning that the revenants of Jim Knopf had to paint themselves black. When the dressed-up Augsburg people had entered the stage, the host asked whether there was a »real« engine driver amongst them. The idea that black people could have joined the event, did not occur to him.

Wetten daß, engine driver
»... ›is a real engine driver in the house?‹ ...«

   Perhaps, he is altogether ponderous in striking on an idea. Even if he had spent the night after the recording in the Augsburg hotel ›Steigenberger Drei Mohren‹ (›Three Moors‹), this would not have brought him to reflect on the situation. And about the historical backgrounds of the critique on racism, in general, and blackface, in particular, or even about the latter’s connection to the history of Augsburg, he surely did not inform himself.

1   Cf. Wetten, dass – Augsburger Puppenkiste.

2   Cf. also the open letter by the ISD.

3   A critical study of this alleged descendant of one of the Three Kings, who, as a baby, was delivered in a postal parcel on the island ›Lummerland‹ (›Morrowland‹) and then became the apprentice with the local engine driver, is still pending (I am looking forward to Eske Wollrad’s analysis of ›Gift der frühen Jahre‹). Hadija Haruna would already now keep Jim Knopf away from her children. The former feuilleton chef of the ›Zeit‹ sees this differently. He is of the opinion that Jim could be referred to using the n-word because this is a) funny and b) the »actual black« in the story would be the engine driver, blackened with soot. For his, all in all ignorant, attitude, see soon Malte Hinrichsen, Wulf D. Hund: Metamorphosen des ›Mohren‹. Rassistische Sprache und historischer Wandel. In: Sprache – Macht – Rassismus, hrg. v. Gurdrun Hentges, Kristina Nottbohm, Mechthild M. Jansen, Jamila Adamou. Berlin: Metropol 2014, pp. 69-96.


Can Leibniz be understood as a »model for a philosophical concern with cultural exchange«1 while at the same time being examined under the question of ›Racism and Philosophy‹? Ian Almond, at least, maintains: »However remarkable Leibniz's prescient interest in China may have been, the barbarous Mohammedans, lazy Turks, and lascivious Egyptians we find in his Opera Omnia do offer a sobering corrective to the more ambitious claims made for his inter-culturalism«.2

»... knock-down argument ...«

   This leaves a lot to be added, because Leibniz presents an early example of various dimensions which coalesced in the race concept of modern racism. Here, the category ›race‹ joins as the last element – in the case of Leibniz through the reception of François Bernier. Already existing patterns were the distinctions of religious racism in distinguishing ›chosen‹ and ›castaways‹ as well as the culturalistic racism of ›cultivated‹ and ›barbarians‹ on the one hand and ›civilised‹ and ›savages‹ on the other. The latter found expression in the plan to cleanse a remote island (Madagascar, for example) of its inhabitants and use it as a place of education for young men who were brought there as ›slaves‹ from ›barbarian‹ regions like Africa, Arabia, America, and New Guinea. This »concilium semibestiarum« was meant to be trained to become a powerful Janissaries army for European colonialism.3

   Moreover, there exists an additional ›insight‹ of Leibniz’s which Aristotle had already verbalized for European racism when he stated that nature did indeed labour to construct differently the bodies of both the free and the enslaved but would more often than not fail to do so.4 Leibniz discussed this problem using the example of »imaginary Australians inundat[ing] our countries«. If ›they‹ cannot be distinguished from ›us‹ but God had interdicted »le mélange de ses races«, there would be an easy solution for the problem: »then it would be necessary to try to make artificial marks to distinguish the races from one another«.5

   His contemporaries did not require ›imaginary Australians‹ to understand this instruction. They were already looking back on a long tradition of stigmatization of racistly discriminated others.

1   Franklin Perkins: Leibniz and China. A Commerce of Light. Cambridge [et al.]: Cambridge University Press 2004, p. XI.

2   Ian Almond: Leibniz, Historicism, and the ›Plague of Islam‹. In: Eighteenth-Century Studies, 39, 2006, 4, pp. 463-483.

3   Cf. Peter Fenves: Imagining an Inundation of Australians; or, Leibniz on the Principles of Grace and Race. In: Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy, ed. by Andrew Valls. Ithaca [et al.]: Cornell University Press 2005, pp. 73-88, p. 77.

4   Cf. Wulf D. Hund: Negative Vergesellschaftung. Dimensionen der Rassismusanalyse. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot 2006, pp. 19 ff.

5   Quoted in Fenves, op. cit., p. 84.


This semester my PhD students and I are discussing essays from ›Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy‹. We started with the article about Spinoza – and were rather disappointed.1 The author does not even mention Spinoza’s central deliberations on this topic. It is a passage about a dream: »When one morning, after the day had dawned, I woke up from a very unpleasant dream, the images, which had presented themselves to me in sleep, remained before my eyes just as vividly as though the things had been real, especially the image of a certain black and leprous Brazilian whom I had never seen before. This image disappeared for the most part when, in order to divert my thoughts, I cast my eyes on a book, or something else. But, as soon as I lifted my eyes again without fixing my attention on any particular object, the same image of this same [Ethiopian] appeared with the same vividness again and again, until the head of it gradually vanished«.2

Spinoza’s Dream
»... dreaming Spinoza ...«

   Spinoza’s dream has caused painter Perle Hessing to create a complex painting illustrating his life which puts this phantasmagoria in centre stage. My interpretation will be published in 2014 in a Spinoza-issue of the journal ›Das Argument‹. In the meantime, attention should be directed to the copious deliberations by Nicolás Gonzáles Varela about this matter.3

1   Debrah Nails: Metaphysics at the Barricades. Spinoza and Race. In: Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy, ed. by Andrew Valls. Ithaca [et al.]: Cornell University Press 2005, pp. 57-72.

2   Baruch de Spinoza: Letter to Peter Balling (20 July 1664). It is astounding that the racist translation of the original wording »ejusdem Aethiopis imago« is still being upheld with »this same negro«. I have corrected it here.

3   Nicolás González Varela: Racismo y Filosofía. ›Cierto negro brasileño leproso‹. Sobre un seño de Spinoza, 2013 (e-book).


In a promotional video1 the company Ferrero has a crowd of nutty juveniles celebrate the continued availability of ›white‹ chocolate pralines (Ferrero-Küsschen). In this context, the advertisers avail themselves of overtly racist allusions.2 The adolescents wear buttons with an inscription that is also being held up as a poster: ›YES WEISS CAN‹ – ›YES WHITE CAN‹. This is not only a conspicuous borrowing from the election slogan of Obama’s first election campaign but also its thwarting, because the emancipatory content is directly reversed into a blatantly supremacist provocation: in the USA a black candidate may have won the majority of votes. For Germany, in contrast, applies, as the big ticked ballot card poster acting as the closing picture proclaims: ›DEUTSCHLAND WÄHLT WEISS‹ – ›GERMANY VOTES WHITE‹.

»…Germany votes white…«

   Fittingly, the ›white‹ chocolate comes with ›brown‹ hazelnuts. During the ›Third Reich‹, their folksongy variant ›Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuß‹ (black-brown is the hazelnut) enjoyed great popularity, from Hitler Youth to Wehrmacht.3 By this contextualisation, the sugary sweet is put into a simultaneously chocolatey and racist ›white‹ context. This is bolstered by another poster with a slogan which is also chanted by the almost ›white‹ juvenile crowd: ›WEISS NUSS BLEIBEN‹ (literally: ›White Nut Stay‹; a modification of ›Weiss muss bleiben‹, ›White must stay‹) – The (politically) ›brown‹ nut shall remain (ethnically) ›white‹. This is advertising to promote chocolate at right-wing events with the motto ›Germany for the Germans‹. What a foolish racist promotion.....

Follow Up

At least, Ferrero has reacted quickly to the spreading critique, removed the spot from their website and announced its revision. This is primarily damage control rather than a sign of rethinking. The company is still assuming (as do several of the nibblers of their ›Küsschen‹, by the way) that their advertisement has allegedly fallen victim to a ›misunderstanding‹. They claimed to have talked about nothing but chocolate and refuses any kind of contextualisation.

   Nokia referred to a lack of contextualisation years ago when their ad campaign for mobile phones with the slogan ›Jedem das Seine‹ (›To each what he deserves‹) evoked protests. Here »control functions« in the responsible ad agency had purportedly failed because the »macabre background« was »no longer known« to the »young generation of Germany«.4

   The advertisers of ›Ferrero‹, in contrast, did know what they did. But apparently they simply considered it humoristic to alienate the paroles of a black presidential candidate in the USA to ›Yes white can‹ and, in addition to this, let it result in the staged election decision ›Germany votes white‹. This is no ›misunderstanding‹ but the expression of the same insolence with which countless commentators on the Facebook page of the advertised commodity declared that they had once and for all grown sick and tired of the admonitions by the ›do-gooders‹...

1   Ferrero has removed the video but it can still be watched here.

2   Ferrero appears to be surprised at the critique of their advertising spot and states: »The ›Vote White‹ campaign is talking about nothing but the Ferrero-Küsschen brand with white chocolate and relies on puns about the word ›white‹ – quite clearly without xenophobic hidden agenda«. This only leaves saying: unfortunately also without any form of reflection. Those responsible just pretend that they have not taken note of the public debate on question of racist advertising [for this kind of ›notpology‹ see ›Die Kunst der Nichtschuldigung‹]. Apart from that, the explanation that ›Yes White Can‹ is merely a pun on the word ›white‹ is downrightly audacious.....

3   This was due to the direct link of the colours ›brown‹ and ›black‹ to the uniforms of the SA and SS – cf. the lemma ›Braunhemd‹ in Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus. Berlin: De Gruyter 2007, pp. 128 f. and Bastian Hein: Elite für Volk und Führer? Die Allgemeine SS und ihre Mitglieder 1925-1945. München: Oldenbourg 2012, pp. 72 ff.

4   Cf. ›Die Welt‹, 15.6.1998 (›Nokia stoppt Werbekampagne‹)). In the same vein argued ›Esso‹ and ›Tchibo‹ when they were criticised for similar promotional campaigns – cf. Spiegel online, 14.1.2009 (›Abgewandelter Nazi-Spruch: Tchibo und Esso stoppen Kaffeewerbung‹). This, sure enough, happened ten years after the Nokia advertisement, whereby the dashing advertisers could demonstrate that they not only did not have any historical consciousness but also no awareness of problems. The pupils’ organisation of the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia fared no differently in the same year – cf. Spiegel online, 11.3.2009 (›Nazi-Slogan: CDU stoppt Kampagne ›Jedem das Seine‹‹).


Hannah Franziska Augstein has studied the formation of modern race thinking.1 This did not save her from a racist sally. In ›The political book‹, a column in the ›Süddeutsche Zeitung‹ she is responsible for, a caricature was published whose contextualisation resulted in the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany showing himself »shocked« about such »antisemitic associations«, the American Jewish Committee lodging a complaint with the German Press Council, and allowing a commentator in the ›Welt‹ to write »the ›Süddeutsche Zeitung‹ begins where the ›Stürmer‹ in 1945 had to break off«.

»... an innocent monster? ...«

   The image comes from a renowned caricaturist who initially had drawn it for the journal ›Feinschmecker‹ (›gourmet‹). It works with sexist implications but has nothing to do with antisemitism. Nonetheless the ›Süddeutsche Zeitung‹ chose it to illustrate a book review titled ›The Downfall of Liberal Zionism‹ and captioned it »Germany serves. For decades Israel has been provided, partially gratuitously, with weaponry. Israel’s enemies deem the country a ravenous Moloch«.

   The antisemitic association of image and text was neither prompted by the cartoonist nor by the reviewer. It originated with the relevant editorial department and the responsible editor. On the occasion of the many-sided critique Franziska Augstein explained that the »cornigerous, hungry monster« had nothing to do with »antisemitic clichés« and that the caption explained that »only the enemies of Israel« would see it in a manner which »is akin to the depicted monster«. And yet it was her who forged the link – and very well availed herself of antisemitic clichés. As regards the depiction of Israel as a ravenous monster, the Arabic press, for instance, is till this day filled with it.2

»... devouring the Islamic world (A-Ra'i, Jordan, 1990) and the Palestinians (Al-Medina, Saudi-Arabia, 2006) ...«

   Images like these are in connection with older antisemitic stereotypes amongst the most renowned is counted the realisation of the ›King Rothschild‹ by Charles Lucien Léandre, published in ›Le Rire‹ in 1898. That Jews are allegedly »voracious« and would »just eat up the whole world«, the ›Stürmer‹ claimed, too, and illustrated this with one of its repugnant caricatures (whose monster did not lack the fangs). The same applies to the image of the ›Jewish Devil‹. It, too, is being distributed until today not least by the Arabic press. At this, it can draw on a long Christian tradition and on antisemitic propaganda of the Nazi period with which Germany’s youth had been made familiar with pertinent children’s books.

1   Cf. Hannah Franziska Augstein: Race. The Origins of an Idea, 1760 – 1859. Bristol: Thoemmes 1996.

2   Cf. i.a. Arieh Stav: Peace. The Arabian Caricature. A Study of Anti-Semitic Imagery. Jerusalem 1999/5759; for the history of antisemitic caricatures still see Eduard Fuchs: Die Juden in der Karikatur. München: Albert Langen 1921 as well as Peter Dittmar: Die Darstellung der Juden in der populären Kunst zur Zeit der Emanzipation. München [et al.]: Saur 1992; Michaela Haibl: Zerrbild als Stereotyp. Visuelle Darstellungen von Juden zwischen 1850 und 1900. Berlin: Metropol 2000; Regina Schleicher: Antisemitismus in der Karikatur. Zur Bildpublizistik in der französischen Dritten Republik und im deutschen Kaiserreich (1871-1914). Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2009.


Despite the material collected by David Pilgrim in his Museum of Racist Memorabilia, and despite Spike Lee's movie ›Bamboozled‹ and his warning against a return of the blackface minstrel show,1 the First German State Television has staged exactly such a racist infamy. The literary critic Denis Scheck, who has been hosting a monthly book review programme for more than ten years, has commented on the replacement of sexist and racist expression in children's books in blackface makeup. At it, he agreed with those who insisted on the status of these books as works of literature and rejected any alteration as cultural philistinism.

»...vindicating the right to racism...«

   But it is not enough for him to rail against the »cowardly, preemptive obedience anticipating the rabidities of a political correctness encroaching on art«. By putting on blackface for his talk, he additionally insisted on his right to racism. Like the whites in the United States had once made fun of the blacks in the minstrel genre, a white cultural critic is now ridiculing critique of racism in books by bringing it forth in blackface. He trades his role as a commentator against that of a denunciator. The idea that he and his allies in the cultural industry would have to concede restrictions of their definatory power forces him to break the cover of cultural smugness to enter the field of overt aggressions and causes him to make a racist »gesture of dominance«.2

»…a gesture of dominance…«

   In the light of increasing critique, he claimed to be unaware of any wrongdoing. He had merely been dressing up as in Fasching. To which he, by the bye, the last time went as a Dominican monk without anyone objecting to this. Very fittingly. After all, the Dominicans were notably involved in the implementation of the Inquisition. The author of the ›Malleus Maleficarum‹ was a Dominican. And Bartolomé de las Cases , who propagated the idea to intensify the transport of African slaves to America, was a member of the Dominican Order.

1   See Inside the Minstrel Mask. Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy, ed. by Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch, Brooks McNamara. Hanover [et al.]: University Press of New England 1996 and Dan Flory: Bamboozled. Philosophy through Blackface. In: The Philosophy of Spike Lee, ed. by Mark T. Conard. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky 2011, p. 164-183.

2    Maureen Maisha Eggers, ›Sprache ist ein Gebrauchsgegenstand‹ (Interview).


Twenty years ago, on Mai, 29 1993, five people were killed during an arson attack in Solingen. This crime only seemingly marked a peak of racist assaults because its further development showed that since then racism has spread further through Germany. In 2010 a study observed a far larger Islamophobia in European comparison.1 In 2013 a survey found out that half of the Germans perceive Islam as a menace and are of the opinion that it is incompatible with Germany. At the same time it is certain that antisemitism is still widespread in Germany and extends »well into the centre of society«. The spectre of racist discrimination, besides, is more broadly defined, and the corresponding resentments can refer to skin colour, clothing, language, descent, lifestyle, religion and much else.

»...the problem is racism...«

   To the month twenty years after the murders of Solingen, began the process in Munich against the members and supporters of the so-called ›National Socialist Underground‹, a far-right terror group which had murdered numerous people. The treatment of these crimes by the investigation authorities and the press were themselves shaped by racist prejudices. Two decades after Solingen, racist culture in Germany presents itself not broadly delegitimised but broadened and solidified.

1   It was, as the debate about Thilo Sarrazin’s theses showed, able to reach broad consensus – cf. Klaus J. Bade: Kritik und Gewalt. Sarrazin-Debatte, ›Islamkritik‹ und Terror in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft. Schwalbach: Wochenschau-Verlag 2013.


For Shakespeare the (›civilised‹) world was already ›white‹ and still in order. When he got his inspiration for his ›Tempest‹ from a naval accident, he had no problem with passing off the indigenous inhabitant of the island, to which the ›white‹ shipwrecked were able to make it and whom they enslaved, as the son of a witch and call him ›Caliban‹ as well – a name which could be easily identified as an anagram for ›canibal‹. Cannibals – they were, of course, the others. After the ›discovery‹ of ›America‹ Europe had been well-nigh swamped with stories and pictures of the alleged cannibalism of the American ›Indians‹. At this Théodor de Bry’s workshop excelled in particular. In numerous prints the inhabitants of America were depicted at the performance of their anthropophagic barbecue. Such images served not least for the legitimation of the appropriation of the continent and the ›salvation‹ of their heathen inhabitants.1

»...legitimatory feast...«

   The inspiring naval accident happened in 1609 when a fleet onto its way to the settlement of Jamestown in the recently founded colony of Virginia got into a storm.2 Their supplies were desperately awaited. The settlers not only had trouble with the Powhatan whose soil they snared and whose living conditions they increasingly compromised. They also were extremely short on provisions. Now the Smithsonian Institution has shown that the hunger drove them to cannibalism. At the same time as Shakespeare at home staged his ›Caliban‹ as an indigenous savage, they commenced eating each other. The first sentence of the corresponding memo is quite something: »The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable«. The ›unthinkable‹? The Smithsonians should know better – considering their racist past.3 Moreover, they know their Shakespeare. A ›savage‹ as ›cannibal‹? Not unlikely. They do also know their de Bry. ›Indians‹ as ›anthropophagi‹? Quite possible. But ›white cannibalism‹? Unthinkable.

1   See Alden T. Vaughan, Virginia Mason Vaughan: Shakespeare’s Caliban. A Cultural History. Cambridge [et al.]: Cambridge University Press 1991; America de Bry, 1590 - 1634. Amerika oder die Neue Welt. Die ›Entdeckung‹ eines Kontinents in 346 Kupferstichen, ed. by Gereon Sievernich. Berlin [et al.]: Casablanca 1990.

2   Cf. Hobson Woodward: A Brave Vessel. The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest. New York: Viking 2009.

3   The anthropologists of the Smithsonian Institution understand bone analysis. In the past they have applied this not least in service for race science. Still at the end of the twentieth century, the scientific grave robbers and corpse desecrators had to be coerced by congress »to return identifiable skeletons to their respective tribes, although scientists say this will mean the loss of the most important material« (Jeanette Greenfield: The Return of Cultural Treasures. 3rd ed. Cambridge [et al.]: Cambridge University Press 2007, p. 177).


What critique has long since demonstrated,1 German politics will (perhaps) eventually learn from the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Thilo Sarrazin has propagated racist discrimination and got away with his disparaging invectives. The report of the committee laid it on the line to the German government: »The Committee considers that the [...] statements [of Mr. Sarrazin] contain ideas of racial superiority«. Furthermore the committee »concludes that the absence of an effective investigation into the statements by Mr. Sarrazin by the State party [Germany] amounted to a violation of articles 2, paragraph 1 (d), 4 and 6 of the Convention [on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination]«.

»…as a racist, one can remain member of the SPD...«

    Considering this news, it should not be forgotten that Sarrazin is still a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Klaus von Dohnanyi, ex-First Major of Hamburg and renowned member of the SPD, defended Sarrazin and declared: »The SPD needs more mavericks like Sarrazin«. At least from within the ranks of the Young Socialist in the party (Jusos) the commentaries have been much more cynical: »As a racist, one can remain member of the SPD«.

1   Cf. i.a. Gudrun Hentges: Between ›Race‹ and ›Class‹. Elite Racism in Contemporary Germany. In: Racisms Made in Germany, ed. by Wulf D. Hund, Christian Koller, Moshe Zimmermann [Racism Analysis | Yearbook 2]. Berlin [et. al.]: Lit 2011, pp. 185-206.


Once upon a time Sabine Ritter and Iris Wigger collected quite a few inspiring papers from some of my colleagues, friends, and former students, edited them under the title ›Racism and Modernity, and surprised me with this birthday present. Meanwhile, the collected essays have been well received and reviewed – a positive acknowledgement of a substantial and productive reading. Once again: many thanks to everyone involved.1

»...dimensions of racism...«

1   Cf. Critical Philosophy of Race, 1, 2013, 1, pp. 136-140 (Susanne Lettow); Anuario Colombiano de Historia Social y de la Cultura, 39, 2012, 2, pp. 277-283 (Hernando Andrés Pulido Londoño).


With its soap advertisements, the Pears company has done everything possible to popularise and to propagate the message of modern racism. Pears efforts to intertwine the sale of its soap with beauty, hygienics, civilising mission and whiteness are legendary.1

   The soap marketing represented ›savages‹ in any possible situation of discrimination and vilification. Infantilisation and stultification were daily faire. But even this shady business had its highlights and one advertisement was particularly odious. It displayed a dark-skinned man lying on the ground. The caption explained that even a native Australian hopes for a white resurrection. 2

»...Ev'n the black Australian dying hopes he shall return, a white...«

   With this insidious action, modern commodity racism3 could build on former paragons. Already at the end of the 17th century, the ›Athenian Mercury‹ asked the question with which colour the ›Negroes‹ shall rise at the ›last day‹. »Taking then this blackness of the Negro to be an accidental imperfection«, the gazette answered that he would »not arise with that complexion, but leave it behind him in the darkness of the grave, exchanging it for a brighter and better at his return again into the world«.4 At the end of the 19th century, God was substituted by Pears and there was not even a chance of white resurrection. The only hope for all non-white people should be to resign themselves to the racial hierarchy dominated by white supremacy and to await the civilising gifts of imperialism.

   Thanks to anti-imperialist struggle – a hundred years later things have changed and white supremacy will be pushed back further and further. To this end: Happy Easter.

1   Cf. Anandi Ramamurthy: Imperial Persuaders. Images of Africa and Asia in British Advertising. Manchester [et al.]: Manchester University Press 2003; see also Geoffrey Jones: Beauty Imagined. A History of the Global Beauty Industry. Oxford [et al.]: Oxford University Press 2010, pp. 71 ff.; Brian Lewis: So Clean. Lord Leverhulme, Soap and Civilisation. Manchester [et al.]: Manchester University Press 2008, pp. 93ff., 154ff.

2   The caption of the advertisement which, in the 1880s, was published in different versions, presented as additional information the reference »vide Locksley Hall«. Actually, the line is from Alfred Tennyson’s poem ›Locksley Hall Sixty Years After‹ (1886).

3   Cf. Anne McClintock: Imperial Leather. Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York [et al.]: Routledge 1995; see also Wulf D. Hund, Michael Pickering, Anandi Ramamurthy (eds.): Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism. [Racism Analysis | Yearbook 4]. Berlin [etc.]: Lit 2013.

4   Quoted from Colin Kidd: The Forging of Races. Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600 - 2000. Cambridge [et al.]: Cambridge University Press 2006, p. 68.


Gustave Le Bon felt certain that women »représentent les formes les plus inférieurs de l’évolution humaine et sont beaucoup plus près des enfants et des sauvages que de l’homme adulte civilisé«. In addition he observed that the crania of the Parisian women were also surprisingly small in relation. Even though their men were amongst the possessers of the largest crania ever, they rated even beneath the Polynesian women and only slightly over the New Caledonian women in race comparison. Regarding the lower classes, too, he arrived at a sobering conclusion when consulting his unconventionally compiled statistic. He evaluated the accounting records of Parisian hatters and concluded from them that the intellectuals amongst their clients had the largest head circumference and were therefore the most intelligent. According to this, servants (and peasants) had the smallest heads and the lowest intelligence.1

»...Gustave Le Bon at work...«

1   Cf. Gustave Le Bon: Recherches anatomiques et mathématiques sur les lois des variations du volume du cerveau et sur leurs relations avec l’intelligence. In: Revue d’anthropologie, 8, 1879, 2, pp. 27-104, pp. 60 f. (›women‹), 102 f. (›race comparison‹), 80 f. (›hatter‹).


Als Adalbert von Chamisso seine Reise um die Welt schilderte, sprach er auch die verbreitete Sitte sich als Entdecker verstehender Europäer an, die Ziele ihrer Reisen neu zu benennen. Vor allem bei Inseln würde das zu dem Mißstand führen, daß sie von verschiedenen Entdeckern unterschiedliche Namen bekämen und sich so oftmals nicht wiederfinden ließen. Chamisso schlußfolgerte daraus: »Der Seefahrer, der die Inseln, die er auffindet und deren Lage er bestimmt, willkürlich zu benennen sich begnügt, zeichnet seinen Namen in den Sand«.1

   Dabei erstreckte sich die Gepflogenheit, vermeintlichen Entdeckungen die Namen ihrer Herrscher, Frauen, Freunde oder Bekannten anzuheften, bei europäischen Weltreisenden nicht auf unbewohnte Inseln. Sie umfaßte mehr oder weniger alles, was sich entdecken ließ. So wurde der Name Georg Forsters in der Fauna verewigt – auch wenn die Forstera eine eher unscheinbare Pflanze ist, deren Namen er sich zudem mit seinem Vater teilen muß.2

   Immanuel Kant, mit dem Forster in einen bis heute diskutierten Streit über Menschenrassen verwickelt war, hatte, obwohl er entschieden berühmter war, trotzdem noch weniger Glück. Zwar behauptet ein Eintrag in ›Wikipedia‹, daß ein Johann Otto Polter eine Insel, die er 1884 unter dem Wendekreis des Krebses gesichtet haben wollte, auf den Namen ›Kantia‹ getauft haben soll. Freilich hätte er später dann mehrfach vergeblich versucht, das Eiland wiederzufinden und für Deutschland in Besitz zu nehmen: doch die Insel war nicht mehr zu finden.

»...à la recherche de l’île perdu: Johann Otto Polter...«

   Dafür gibt es einen einfachen Grund: Die Insel ›Kantia‹ ist samt der Geschichte ihrer Entdeckung und Benennung ganz und gar imaginiert. Der Journalist Samuel Herzog hat sich die Geschichte ausgedacht und in der ›Neuen Zürcher Zeitung‹ veröffentlicht.3 Sein Kollege Axel Bojanowski ist ihm auf den Leim gegangen, hat die Geschichte aufgegriffen und (ohne Hinweis auf ihre Herkunft) in der ›Süddeutschen Zeitung‹ weiter verbreitet. Schließlich wollte der journalistisch weit gereiste Ulli Kulke die Insel sogar auf Landkarten gesehen haben. Mit Hilfe solcher ›Information‹ generierte dann Wikipedia ein eigenes Stichwort ›Kantia‹ und es kam wie es kommen mußte – ein Doktorand übernahm die Insel in die überarbeitete Fassung seiner Dissertation (selbstverständlich ohne jeden Nachweis).4

1   Adalbert von Chamisso: Reise um die Welt mit der Romanzoffischen Entdeckungs-Expedition in den Jahren 1815-18 auf der Brigg Rurik, Kapitän Otto von Kotzebue. Zweiter Theil: Anhang. Bemerkungen und Ansichten. In: Chamissos Werke. Bd. 2. Hildburghausen: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts 1869, S. 255-454, S. 341.

2   Cf. Olof Swartz: Observations on Forstera sedifolia Linn. In: Annals of Botany, hg. v. Charles Konig, John Sims. London: R. Taylor and Co. 1805, S. 291-295.

3   Persönliche Mitteilung von Samuel Herzog vom 22.10.2012 – Herzog hat die Geschichte angesichts des Bildes eines seiner ›Vorfahren‹ entwickelt, das sich auf seiner Internetseite findet. Sie erschien unter dem Titel ›Die Wilden scheinen wohlgesonnen‹. Unterwegs zu einer fiktionalen Meereslandschaft in der ›Neuen Zürcher Zeitung‹, 22./23.5.2004.

4   Cf. Volkmar Billig: Inseln. Geschichte einer Faszination. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2010, S. 119 f. Axel Bojanowski hat seinen Artikel Ein Traum von einer Insel in der ›Süddeutschen Zeitung‹ (14.7.2009) veröffentlicht, unter dem Titel Inseln der Fantasie im ›Standard‹ (26.8.2009) weiter verbreitet und mittlerweile auch in sein Buch Nach zwei Tagen Regen folgt Montag und andere rätselhafte Phänomene des Planeten Erde (München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 2012) aufgenommen sowie die Geschichte in seinem Beitrag Kartenmysterium vor Australien auf ›Spiegel Online‹ (22.11.2012) neu aufgewärmt. Bei so intensiver Verbreitung von journalistischem Treibgut war es nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis dessen Trümmer auch anderswo angeschwemmt wurden – so zum Beispiel in einer Geschichte über Inseln der Phantasie von StD a.D. Dieter Blahak für die Internetseite des ›Ludwigsgymnasiums‹ in Straubing (12.9.2009) oder im Beitrag Meer in Sicht! Island Fantasies für das ›Lufthansa Magazin‹ (8/2012, p. 38). ›Real‹ existiert die Insel (samt ihrer Hauptstadt Neukönigsberg) nur in der Satire. Auf Landkarten verweist Ulli Kulke in seinem Bericht Wie Inseln plötzlich von den Karten verschwinden in der ›Welt‹ vom 7.12.2012. Vom deutschen Wikipedia-Artikel ist die Insel mittlerweile auch in den englischen Sprachraum eingewandert.


Survival Day

...In Hobart a silly white bloke in the Maritime Museum of Tasmania explained to us that other than the bark canoe they had virtually no exhibits tracing back to the original Tasmanians, because these had long been ›extinct‹. This happened after we talked to two Aboriginal Tasmanians: the chief of the department for the culture of Aborigines at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and an employee of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre – a descendant of Fanny Cochrane.

   ...A few days later the descendants of the original Australians in Adelaide celebrated ›Survival Day‹. However, only a few ›whites‹ attended it – they preferred to celebrate ›Australia Day‹ and staged themselves as descendants of Captain Cook or spent the day simply with barbecue and beer. They will not be able to uphold this forever...


...visited Sarah Island / started to read ›Gould’s Book of Fish‹ / the kabbalistic convolution of text and event soon turns out to be a trite trick / in the end the thus accomplished obfuscation of racist and other policies of oppression is heralded as »the sorry truth that it wasn’t the English who did this to us but ourselves, that convicts flogged convicts & pissed on blackfellas & spied on each other, that blackfellas sold black women for dogs & speared escaping convicts, that white sealers killed & raped black women,
& black women killed children that resulted«1...

   ...the betrayal of the analytical dimensions of ›class‹, ›gender‹, and ›race‹ finds expression in bad literature / while the fantastic construction by the author pale against the folly of reality / there the journeyman painter Gould is imprisoned for stealing paint and brush2 / and the painter Gould might well have painted his acclaimed fish not from nature but copied from Louisa Anne Meredith’s models3...

»…fish to whom fish is due: Louisa Anne Meredith (left) and William Buelow Gould (right)…«

1   Richard Flanagan: Gould's Book of Fish. Sydney: Pan Macmillan 2002, p. 443.

2   Cf. Garry Darby: William Buelow Gould. Sydney: Copperfield 1980, p. 19.

3   The publication of a portfolio with the corresponding drawings by Louisa Anne Meredith is in preparation by the Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society, Swansea.


Here is the summary of my new essay ›Predestination in the Desert? Marginalia to a Fata Morgana of Walter Benjamin‹:

   Based on the often-quoted description of a ›Bullrich Salt‹ promotion in the ›Arcade Project‹, the paper discusses elements of repression and concealment in Walter Benjamin’s investigation of this advertisement as well as in its analysis in secondary literature. The argumentation assumes that Benjamin withholds the colonial and racist aspects of the issue. Amongst other things, this may be attributed to personal memories of his youth. In any case, a remarkable blind spot plays a pivotal role – the fact that Benjamin in his study of Paris as the capital of the nineteenth century examines phantasmagorias of time and space, urbanity and interior, of culture and world exhibitions without referring to the phantasmagorias of colonialism and racism.

   For the full text see Wulf D. Hund: Prädestination in der Wüste. Marginalie zu einer Fata Morgana von Walter Benjamin. In: Das Argument, 54, 2012, 6 (300).

»… the trace of salt […] formed letters […]. Was not the pre-established harmony of a Leibniz
mere child’s play compared to this […] predestination in the desert?…«