Von Fleischgläubigen und Relativierern

Spezies-subjektive Prosa; Traktat.

Von denen, für die Fleisch ein anzubetendes Kulturgut darstellt, und denen auf der Gegenseite, die aus irgendeinem nicht nachvollziehbaren Grund begonnen haben, die Aussage „Meat means Murder“ zu relativieren

Manche meinen sie könnten ernsthaft eingefleischte Fleischfetischist*innen von einer anderen Lebensweise und einer damit einhergehenden anderen Haltung der nichtmenschlich-tierlichen Mitwelt gegenüber überzeugen, indem sie sagen: „Das mit den ‚Rechten‘ an und für sich, und genauer das mit den Tierrechten, ist so eine Sache. Die können wir ja diskutieren, aber ich überzeuge die von manchen von uns liebevoll als “Fleischi” bezeichneten Mitbürger, indem ich ihnen sage, wie wichtig so eine veränderte Lebensweise, die Tiere ethisch mitberücksichtigt, vor allem für die Umwelt und für unsere menschliche Zukunft in Hinsicht auf das Ressourcenmanagement ist … .“

Und man beruft sich dabei gerne, als den praktisch-ethischen Ansatz, den man verfolgt, auf seinen Veganismus, indem man diesen aber primär auf die pflanzliche Ernährung und -Anbauweise reduziert, und dabei geflissentlich dessen große Hoffnung auf eine aufgeklärtere Haltung im Bezug auf die Mensch-Tier-Beziehung unterschlägt.

Ja, der Veganismus hat sich aus wirklich tierethischen Gründen vom Vegetarismus bewusst abgespalten. Das war der Hauptmotor der Anfänge dieser Bewegung. Watson, Morgan, Shrigley und Co. schafften es, das Wesentliche zu fokussieren. Trotz aller vorteilhaften Begleiteffekte des Veganismus ging es ihnen in erster Linie darum, wie genau es den nichtmenschlichen Tieren geht. Full stop.

Man darf nicht vergessen, dass die ethische Debatte pro- und gegen Tiere keinesfalls neu ist.

„Nein, das glauben wir ihnen nicht!“ Doch, bitte! Denn schauen Sie sich mal die Entwicklung der vegetarischen Bewegung über die Geschichte hinweg an. Wer hier nicht das eigentliche Motiv erkennt, der ist dabei das Wichtigste in der Entwicklung zu unterschlagen. [1]

Fleischverzehr und die dazugehörigen Vorgänge des Mordens von nichtmenschlichen Tieren werden von vielen Menschen in unserer Kultur als, ihrer Meinung nach, ganz wichtige ‚Traditionen‘, ‚kulturelle Leistungen repräsentierend‘ und ‚Kulturgüter‘ betrachtet, die sie niemals in irgendeiner Weise aufgeben wollen würden und vehement verteidigen. Menschen, die solche Haltungen haben, können bezüglich anderer Themen durchaus recht aufgeklärt sein. Der Punkt aber, dass Tiere für sie in jeglicher Hinsicht da zu sein haben, in wirklich jeglicher Hinsicht, is so deeply engrained – you can’t pull it out of their mental frameworks. Und sie stoßen ja auch bequem immer wieder auf bequem zu ignorierende defensive Haltungen bei der „Gegenseite“.

Jetzt kommen manche wichtigen tierethisch-argumentierenden daher und verwässern das, wo eigentlich die klaren und normalen Zusammenhänge zwischen Rechten und Ethik bestehen, indem sie eine Reihe sophistischer Nebenschauplätze eröffnen, mit dem Argument, eine ethische Beziehung müsse bei Tieren doch auch ohne die ach so anthropozentrischen „Rechte“ möglich sein. Das heißt, wenn Menschen Tiere doch ethisch berücksichtigen würden, dann bräuchten wir doch gar keine Tierrechte und der Begriff Tierrechte würde zudem ja auch inzwischen von Leuten verwendet, die Tieren offensichtlich schaden … .

Denn was sind schon Rechte, solange es nicht die eigenen sind. Man könne ja auch für Tiere sein, indem Tiere weiterhin für uns da zu sein haben – als die, für die wir sie erklärt haben – siehe Zoologiebuch Seite XY (mit Homo sapiens on top).

Für manche Expert*innen der gesellschaftlichen Mensch-Tierbeziehung werden Schlachthausarbeiter so auch problemlos einfach nur zu einer Art Menschen, die in rationalisierter Form Tiere morden können. „Sie morden doch nicht, sie haben Gründe für das, was sie für richtig halten. Da es keine Tierrechte gibt, gibt es schlichtweg auch gar keinen Tiermord. So einfach ist das!

Diese Expert*innen suggerieren, Tiere seien so, dass man im Bezug auf sie wohl rationalisiert morden können müsste. Sonst würden Menschen das doch nicht tun?

Das Recht des Menschen mit einem humanistischen Ideal betrachtet zu werden wiegt für manche höher als Tierrechte, die man ja erstmal etablieren müsste. „Wozu denn die Mühe?“

Tiere brauchen auf einmal keine Rechte – „denn das ist ja viel zu anthropozentrisch gedacht, Rechte brauchen doch nur wir in-allen-relevanten-Dingen-begabten Wesen. Sie benötigen lediglich eine Befreiung aus den engen Haltungsbedingungen, dabei aber bitte doch ohne ein Recht auf LebensRaum und Leben, und ohne lästige Begründungen für sowas. Bloß keine Tierrechtssicht einnehmen – … und es wird stattdessen an den Symptomen aus vermeintlich tierethischer Sicht herumoperiert.

Es tut mir leid, aber die Tierethik selbst ist wirklich auch nicht mehr als das, woraus sie zumindest in Academia geboren wurde: ein Unterfach der Bioethik. Sie erscheint wie ein defensiver Ableger der Bioethik, weil aus ihr immer nicht die Tierrechtsethik werden will.

Nein wir Menschen sind aber doch kein Unterfach der Bioethik, das würden wir doch nicht dulden können. Wo bliebe denn da unsere Evolution als Homo sapiens? Manche durch uns marginalisierbaren Menschen können wir ja bioethisch diskutieren, aber uns selbst doch nicht. Und wir möchten bitte aber auch alle Rechte genießen, selbst die, vorzugeben wer Rechte haben darf und welche und wann, und wer, wann, wie und wo eben nicht. Zum Beispiel eben auch das Recht, Rechte zu haben.

Der rechtebesitzende Mensch will also keinesfalls anderen Menschen vorschreiben was sie zu essen haben und zu tun haben, weil das ein Eingriff in verbriefte Rechte wäre. Wie schnell alle denunziativ “hier” schreien, wenn sie sich auch nur ein Iota in ihrem persönlichen und kollektiv empfundenen Recht verletzt oder gar bedroht fühlen. Aber Tiere, sind eben „zu blöd“ nach Empfinden dieser Leute, als dass sie Rechte haben sollten.

Ein Recht vor uns geschützt zu werden? Vor unseren Übergriffen? „Nö, wieso denn. Das müssen wir erstmal tierethisch analysieren ob das überhaupt nötig ist“ … .

Diesen Leuten, egal wie sie sich titulieren, sind diejenigen Anderen, die eben bislang noch keine verbrieften Rechte haben, auf theoretischer Ebene so gleich, wie dem „Fleischi“ die Kluft seiner ethischen Vernunft im Bezug auf Haus-, Hof- und Wildtieren und sich selbst.

[1] Zur Geschichte des tierrechtsethischen- und Tierrechts-Denkens im Vegetarismus und Veganismus:

Ein rebellischer Dichter: der Syre Al-Ma’arri (973 – 1057 n. Chr.), https://simorgh.de/about/al-maarri/

Der vegane Prototyp des 19. Jahrhunderts, https://simorgh.de/about/der-vegane-prototyp-des-19-jahrhunderts/

Eine Übersetzung der ersten Vegan News aus dem Jahre 1944, verfasst von Donald Watson, https://simorgh.de/about/vegan-news-no-1/

Ästhetik zum Zersetzen, https://www.simorgh.de/own_public/aesthetik_zum_zersetzen.pdf

The Quest – list of quotes regarding animal ethics … https://www.simorgh.de/thequest.html

The Orphic vegetarian lifestyle in ancient Greece, Frugivore civilizations unknown, and new perspectives on the “history” of the religious murder of nonhumans, https://www.simorgh.de/objects/orphic-vegetarians/

Tierrechte, Spezies-Subjektivismus, Protest

Tierrechte, Spezies-Subjektivismus, Protest

Das Headquarter der Gruppe Messel zieht zur Zeit sehr aufwändig um – mit 200 Quadratmetern an Kunst- und Buchbeständen – daher die längere Pause hier. Die Pause ergibt sich aber auch deswegen, weil wir gegenwärtig beobachten, wie tief die Mehrheit von ‚fellow activists‘ in der deutschsprachigen Tierrechts- und/oder Tierbefreiungsszene noch ihre mentale Grube völliger Agrarfokussiertheit graben wollen, in denen alles Platz finden soll, was Tierlichkeit von sog. Farm-Tieren anbetrifft, statt anstelle dessen Räume ökosozialer Schnittmengen zu erkennen, zu benennen und somit darauf ostentativ hinzuweisen. Wer sich in Richtung ‚artgerechter Ansätze‘ einengt in seiner Betrachtung von tierlichen Interessensbereichen, der erkennt keine ökosoziale Komplexität an, sekundarisiert die politische Relevanz dessen, dass tierliche Diversität mehr als Artenschutz ist und dass tierliche Diversität eher Tierkulturen statt Tierspezies bedeutet. Wer sog. Farmtiere immernoch in ihren Interessen beschreibt, als hätte er/sie gerade einen Zoologie-Kurs bei Konrad Lorenz oder Professor Grzimek besucht, der sollte vielleicht nochmal überlegen, ob es sich nicht lohnt als Tierverteidiger*in auch mal seine eigene Thinking-Cap aufzusetzen und weniger chauvinistische und spezies-objektifizierende Haltungen gegenüber tierlichen Individuen und Gruppen einzunehmen.

Wessen Rechte sollen eigentlich so unwesentlich sein, dass man auf sie grundsätzlich verzichten könne?

Es gibt meines Empfindens nach viel an geistiger Sterilität unter Kulturschaffenden. Im gleichen Maße gibt es daneben auch eine Menge an geistig relativ sterilen politischen Graswurzel-Aktivist*innen. Hier eine wohlgemeine Kritik an solchen in der Tierrechteszene im deutschsprachigen Raum.

Mich wundert die aktivistische vereinfachende Gebetsmühle an der festgehalten wird, dass

a.) Umweltschutz plus Tiere die Gleichung nach einer Forderung einer sog. Argarwende ergeben müsste. Hier findet eine Verschiebung von Tieren und ihren Geschichten auf Orte statt, in die Tiere gezwungen wurden. Tiere haben nur gezwungenermaßen etwas mit dem Thema Agrar zu tun. Zudem: Eine vegane ‚Agrarwende‘ hat erstmal nichts mit der Schaffung neuer Lebensräume für Tiere zu tun und auch nicht der Adressierung von Tier-Objektifizierung in der Menschheitsgeschichte, die aber der unbedingten Adressierung bedarf, um so Systeme, die industrialisierten Mord überhaupt am laufen halten, logisch, ethisch zu dekonstruieren. Etwas zu ändern an der Situation der zahllosen Tier-Individuen, die gezwungen sind in Menschengemachten agrarindustriellen oder sonstigen Agrareinrichtungen geboren zu werden, zu leben und zu sterben, ist ein tierinklusiver soziologischer Prozess und keiner der die Thematik pflanzlicher Anbaustätten zum Primärnutzen für Menschen anbetrifft. Themen können nicht allesamt in einem simplen Aufwasch gelöst werden. Weder das der Situationen, die Tiere betreffen, noch menschliche Verhaltensweisen in ökologischer Hinsicht im Anthropozän. Ernährung, Fragen, die die Flora betreffen und dann wiederum wirtschaftliche Monopole, politische und gesellschaftliche Dis-/Funktionsweisen … das alles ist nicht einfach so als „Wust“ anzupacken, am Ende derer, die dadurch am existenziellsten Betroffen sind, und dann noch indem man das Thema Unrecht im Bezug auf diese Betroffenen ausklammert.

und

b.) dass Ethik ein von Rechten entkoppeltes Paralleluniversum sei – wie so einige Leute

in der deutschsprachigen Tierbefreiungsszene argumentieren.

Leuten, denen das eine oder das andere Argument bekannt ist, möchte ich folgende Punkte zu bedenken geben:

  1. Nicht allein der industrialisierte Tiermord ist Tiermord.
  1. Ethik und Rechte sind voneinander nicht trennbar. Denkt mal an Eure eigenen Rechte und die Ethik, die Ihr für Euch in Anspruch nehmt. Stellt Euch mal vor wir hätten ethische Ansprüche und stellten Forderungen aufgrund ethischer Leitsätze, auf die wir uns geeinigt haben, aus denen dann aber keine rechtlichen Konsequenzen sich herleiten und entwachsen würden. Wir fändet Ihr das für Euch? Nebenbei: Rechte sind etwas Grundsätzliches, wodurch die Integrität eines Wesens als Ende in sich selbst anerkannt wird, generell gewisse Eigenschaften anerkannt werden müssen, um so dem Wesen einen legitimen Schutz gewährleisten zu können – vor menschlichen dritten Interessen, die die Integrität des Wesens nicht grundlegend berücksichtigen wollen im Interesse des durch die Rechte geschützten und der sich so über die Speziesgemeinschaft hinweg konstituierenden sozialen Gemeinschaft. Bei der Diskussion über Rechte abzulenken mit Partikularismen wie irgendwelche spezifischen Rechtspraktiken – wie Verkehrs- oder Wahlrechte, etc. und dann zu behaupten, das seien doch „Rechte“, die ja Tiere nicht haben könnten – geht dem Ursprung und den Fundamentalfragen von dem was ein Recht überhaupt konstituiert, nicht auf den Grund.
  2. Wenn Ihr implizit sagt: der Mord beim Biobauern oder der Hausschlachtung ist weniger relevant, dann zählt für Euch nicht das einzelne Leben und die Würde des einzelnen Wesens, Ihr vermittelt, dass Gewalt ein Problem der Quantität wäre. Wenn es Euch aber mehr um die Folgen der kapitalistischen (globalen) Märkte auf die Ökologie geht und ihr meint, dass Tiermord vornehmlich ein Problem ist, dass in der Quantität an Relevanz gewinnt, dann möchte ich fragen, was ihr eigentlich meint wie das ganze Problem überhaupt erst begonnen hat und warum Euch die Geschichte so wenig interessiert? Ich hätte da allerdings auch noch etliche andere Fragen.
  3. Und: Wenn Ihr die ökologische Bilanz menschlicher Zerstörung mitverbucht bei der nackten Existenz von Tierkörpern, indem ihr aufrechnet wieviel ökologische Schäden durch Tierkörper entstehen, dann macht Ihr Tierkörper verantwortlich für menschliches Handeln.

Ohne Rechte ist Ethik eine Farce. Weder in Sachen natürlicher Mitwelt noch im Bezug auf tierliche Subjekte sprecht Ihr von einer Ethik, die faktische und direkte Rechte konstituieren können muss. Aber wenn es um Eure eigenen Interessen geht – und diese können natürlich auch die Mitwelt berühren – dann wisst Ihr wie Ihr Rechte als Eure Domäne schützen wollt. Als menschlicher Schutz vor dem Menschen und Garant zur Durchsetzung kollektiver menschlicher ‚speziessegmentgebundener‘ Eigeninteressen. Das Kastensystem zwischen Mensch – Tier – und natürlicher Mitwelt, begründet auf einem „Recht“ und einer „Würde“, die mit Ausschließlichkeitsansprüchen operieren.

Versuche in Spezies-subjektiver / Spezies-subjektivistischer Dichtung

Offenkundig fällt der kritischen Beobachtenden auf, dass gerade, wenn Leute sich selbst auf kleinster Ebene subjektiv beschreiben, wie in Gedichten, Nichtmenschen ganz besonders als ‚aus objektifizierender Perspektive wahrnehmbar‘ angenommen werden. Ich möchte hier ein „ich“ und ein „du“ und ein „wir“ beschreiben, dass Menschen und Nichtmenschen auf anderer Ebene betrachtet.

***

Wir sind

Als erstes muss ich mich demontieren, nicht vor Euch, nicht vor Dir, aber von dem kollektiven Menschen – er lässt kein ganzes Ich zu, das außerhalb von ihm ist.

Sie sagen also Du seist nur ein Nebenschauplatz. Du seist schön, hässlich, ganz, Opfer, aber Dein Du gäbe es nicht.

Sie sprechen Dich nicht als Du an, außer sie übertreten Deine Grenzen.

Was für Ein Du bin ich dann für solche Exkludierenden – wo Du aber mein Du bist? Ich bin ein Du mit Dir.

Dir, der bei dem Kollektivmenschen wie er jetzt ist, nur das Du ist, dessen Grenzen übertreten werden.

***

Unsere Liebe zu Erkenntnissen

Es muss deutlich werden. Deren „wir“ muss nicht Eures sein.

Mir ist das klar und ich mache es deutlich.

Es gibt menschliche „du‘s“ die immer um ein Zentrum kreisen, das ein Bündel „Mensch“ einpackt.

Es gibt menschliche „du’s“ die mit ihrem Intellekt Dein und Mein „du“ in unserer Liebe zu Erkenntnissen nicht wahrnehmen.

Sollte ich ein Du mitansprechen in meinem Gedicht, dass jemanden einbezieht der ein Du plus Liebe in die Ecke von Sexualisiertheit packt? Warum sollte der Mensch mein allgemeines Du sein hier, auf das ich intimsten Bezug nehmen darf, ohne dass das ein Problem wäre? Warum meint der „gebündelte Mensch“ zwischen uns gäbe es kein poetisches Du? Zu Gott darf es das geben. Zu Dir nicht, meinen sie. Warum sollte unser per Du immer gleich okkupiert werden durch fremddefinitorische Deutende. Wir sind in keiner dieser Gemeinschaften einzugemeinden.

Wir sind gemeinsam und wir sprechen die Sprache, die jenseits von allem stehen kann. Und dies ist unser Banner im allgemeinen Raum.

***

Liebesgedicht

Schöne Worte sind nur für wen? Schöne Worte, die nichts sagen außer, dass da noch einer ist, der Euch verneint. Ein schönes Wort, das für mich Gift ist, wenn nicht bedeutungslos, weil Du darin nicht vorkommen darfst.

Wir sitzen hier zu dritt. Dort der Jäger oder die Jägerin, dort Du, der Xar-Gush (Hase) und hier ich. Wir befinden uns nicht in einer Fabel. Spreche ich zur Jägerin über Dich? Das ist schwer, denn sie negiert Dich. Ich schaue, ob Dein Ohrenspiel und Deine Gestik mir zeigen, ob wir vielleicht diesen Raum lieber verlassen sollten. Mich will die Jägerin physisch nicht jagen, aber sie macht unser Leben draußen kaputt. Wir wollen mit ihr also auch nicht diesen „geschützten Dreier-Raum“ hier drinnen teilen. Wir gehen raus. Zusammen.

***

Zeichenlexika

Der „abwesende Referent“ ist niemals abwesend. Sprache und Zeichen sind überall und universell. Es gibt keine Barriere ist den Codizes und den Hauchen … manche Menschenwesen nummerieren diese. Wir tun das nicht. Du tust es nicht, ich nicht. Dennoch wirst Du und werde ich mitgezählt. Wir zählen anders.

Manche Menschenwesen erleben die Börsen als Ersatznatur. Wir sehen den Wert in der Substanz von Leid, das Denken ist und Materie, die Sein ist, das wir teilen, Und das ist unsere Liebe. Und nicht die zu Euren Phantomen.

***

Steinliebe

Ich verehre Dich, weil ihr Euch ehrt und weil Du und Du ihr achtsam und zugewendet seid. Ich könnte Euch nicht verehren, wenn unsere Verehrung nicht im Großen voller Achtsamkeitswarnungen wäre. Dort fangen Liebes-Geheimnisse an.

***

Kriege

Ich spreche zu Dir und wir beide sprechen verschiedene Sprachen. Wie Musik. Mit Schnittmengen, mit losen Enden, wir binden sie zusammen. Ich spreche mit Dir damit wir uns beschwören können, unsere Zauberei machen können, unsere gemeinschaftlichen Gesänge und Feste. Du singst in Deiner Sprache, ich in meiner.

Da hört uns jemand zu, der meine Sprache spricht. Er bindet mich ein, sagt, war plapperst Du da. Ich spreche seine Sprache, aber spreche zu Dir, nicht zu ihm.

Höre, der du meine Sprache sprichst. Wir sprechen alle verschiedene Sprachen! Da bist nicht nur Du und ich!

Wir aber gehen und wir wenden uns im Geiste ab. Lass ihm seinen Bannkreis. Daran erkennen wir ihn.

Wir zelebrieren, tod oder lebendig, ohne diese anderen.

***

Ideen

Da hocke ich nun in dem Club von „Homo genius“, umgeben, von einem Wissenschaftsgemäuer auf Logiken und Thesen bauend.

Ich bin immernoch verneinbar. Ich teile auch deren Träume nicht. Ich will sie gar nicht teilen. Deren Logik teile ich nicht.

Wir denken an Blätter, an lange Geschichten, an die Freunde, die Tiefseefische.

Schon wird gemeldet, dass das artenfremde demonstrativ hinausgeangelt wird.

Man macht das alles einfach.

So regiert man.

 

 

Miriam Yegane Arani: NS racism as a visual ideology

kts8

Jahrgang 7, Nr. 2, Art. 1, ISSN 2363-6513, Dezember 2020

NS racism as a visual ideology

This text as a PDF

A presentation by Miriam Yegane Arani

Background: This presentation by Miriam Yegane Arani of an introductory iconographic analysis of National Socialist racism, provides a good entry point to Yegane’s basic research on sociological and photo-historical methodology of analyzing visual materials, in particular photographic sources, from the Nazi era. It is striking that the images published under the Nazi regime followed a certain program that polarized between idealized body norms and deviations from them. The Ministry of Propaganda presumably controlled the photo-publication to ensure that only photographs that conformed to the racial ideology were published. It can be assumed that under the Nazi regime there was an increasingly rigid polarization between the guiding and enemy images within the government-controlled image program. During the pre-war period, the focus seems to have been on propagating the “Nordic” model, whose visual counterpart is expressed in the “racially” pejorative enemy images of the war years. Particularly noticeable is the practice of distinguishing between people according to their outward appearance in pairs of pictures typical of the period, which were intended to illustrate “racial” antagonisms.

Tags: NS racism, National Socialism, propaganda, sociology of images

TIERAUTONOMIE, Jg. 7 (2020), Heft 2.

NS racism as a visual ideology

Contextual infos

The pagenumbers in the brackets all relate to: Miriam Y. Arani: Fotografische Selbst- und Fremdbilder von Deutschen und Polen im Reichsgau Wartheland 1939–45 (2008).

After 1945

Race-ideology did not disappear after 1945, partly because of personal continuities that were possible to remain in German society after the Second World War and partly because of the long-term effects this thinking-model had in the everyday conceptions of the vast majority. (426)

From a strictly scientific point of view, race theory had already longer been considered untenable. (426)

Soon after the Second World War, the physical anthropologist Juan Comas clarified on behalf of the newly founded UNO in a paper entitled “Race as a Myth”, that the National Socialist racial teachings were factually incorrect. Human heredity has nothing to do with the blood. (426) Furthermore, the findings of physical anthropology in no way lead to the conclusion that “racial purity” causes cultural development while “race mixture” would cause cultural decay. (427) The results of international anthropological, social and historical research allow much more to conclude that not it’s not different body shapes, skin colors, etc. that are causes of conflicts, but rather conflicts of interest between different social groups, through which visible variedness (body, clothing, religious customs etc.) first become significant as signs of difference. (427)

In particular in biology, the classification of human races is scientifically obsolete, since it’s not a suitable concept for describing the variability of Homo Sapiens. Human populations can’t be adequately classified with the category “race”. A correct biological classification as a “breed” [in German the term race and breed are the same: ‘Rasse’] is not even applicable to natural populations of animals, since an exclusive allocation to a single “race/breed” would be necessary, which is not possible in the case of humans. The only area in biology where “races/breeds” are spoken of now, is in the breeding procedures that affect domesticated nonhuman animals. Only in context with nonhuman animals domesticated by humans the ‘biologically correct’ zoological forms of “breeds” exists. (427)

Racism as a visual ideology

It is noticeable that the pictures published under the NS-regime are subject to a certain program that polarizes between idealized body norms and deviations from them.

The Ministry of Propaganda most likely controlled photojournalism to that effect, that only photographs were published that corresponded to the racial ideology. (430)

I suspect that under the NS regime there was an increasingly rigid polarization between the guiding- and enemy images of the government-controlled image program. During the pre-war period, the propagation of the “Nordic” model seems to be in the foreground, whose visual counterpart becomes expressed as the “racially” pejorative enemy images in the years of war.

Especially striking is the practice of differentiating between people according to their external appearance in pairs of pictures typical of the time, which sought to demonstrate a racial antagonism. To narrow down the high relevance of these “contrast images” more precisely it is helpful to remember that Adolf Hitler, in his time in Vienna became acquainted to the Ostara booklets of Adolf Lanz that contained a Christian religious racial doctrine which described a “racial conflict” between blond-blue-eyed “Ario-Heroicists” and dark “Sodom monkey-likes”. (408)

The NS-ideologist Alfred Rosenberg claimed that the creative power of Europe was to be traced back alone to the Germanic tribes and that their greatest threat were the “mudflows of Mongrel from Asia, Africa, the entire Mediterranean basin and its foothills”. (408)

The precursors of the NS race ideology

The racial ideology was not a new creation of the NSDAP, which merely brought together the already existing racisms in the human sciences and then put it with an incredible radicalism into practical politics. (381, 382)

Since the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, the people of the world have been classified by European anthropologists predominantly on the basis of external, visible characteristics such as skin color, body type, shape of skull, hair color and texture, eye shape, nose shape, etc. On the basis of visible characteristics scholars formed “race-types” and interpreted their outward appearances as signs of moral, emotional and intellectual qualities. (381f., 394)

In the 19th and early 20th century, scientific anthropology was for large parts racial anthropology. (395) At the end of the 19th century racial theory achieved the rank of a scientifically legitimized dogma, that tried to justify political domination with “scientific” arguments. European Scholars mainly used visible characteristics, which usually only change over a long-term (behavior patterns, clothing, traces of specific living conditions), as indicators for the construction of different “races”. (382) The characteristics ascribed to other races usually corresponded to the social prejudices of the involved researchers towards the foreign peoples. (382) The European anthropologists routinely ignored empirical facts in favor of the norms of their own socio-cultural milieu, and the characteristics attributed to the other “races” legitimized above all the claim to leadership of their own “white race”. (395)

Until the end of the 19th century, the racial anthropological model of order was based on a selection of externally visible characteristics (skin color, physique, shape of skull, etc.). With the beginnings of modern genetics at the turn of the 20th century the biological theories about humans detached themselves from the visible exterior. The visible appearance was now called “phenotype” and was attributed to the interaction of hereditary factors and environmental influences. The hereditary factors that are not directly perceptible were called “genotype”. This also meant that human-biological race theory became largely detached from the concrete appearance in favor of abstract considerations, that could no longer be traced by the general public. (395)

Since the middle of the 18th century, European scholars have classified and hierarchized humans as “races” within an anthropology that was understood in terms of natural history, and they interpreted the physical appearance of a person as an exterior indicator of certain mental and spiritual characteristics, which were considered to be hereditary and unchangeable. (391) “Race” became a political term of struggle in the context with the aristocratic counter-revolution at the end of the 18th century in the conflict of the “two races”, in which the “purity” of “race” was first used to serve as a basis of legitimacy for the aristocracy’s claim to power. (391)

Race theory had become an elite ideology already in the German Empire. (390) Around the beginning of the 20th century, race theory developed into the elite ideology of the German academic middle classes. Among their most important supporters were biologists, anthropologists and physicians. In the period between the wars, the number of the followers of ideas of “racial hygiene” (eugenics) increased. ( ) Race theory was a thinking model represented by renowned German scientists during the Nazi dictatorship, from which by no means all of them moved away after 1945. This is also related to the fact that this thinking model was also established in other Western societies. (426)

In the Nazi state, eugenic ideology was propagated as “hereditary and racial hygiene”. (430) In addition, the argumentation of racial ideology was connected with the theorems of the eugenic movement, bringing forth a fearsome horror scenario of the imminent extinction of the “nordic race”. (430)

Content of the NS race ideology

According to the NS racial ideology, based on their outward appearance people could be divided into “races”, which would bequeath not only physical characteristics to their descendants but also a “racial soul”. (380)

Within the Nazi racial ideology, it was assumed that there was a direct relationship between certain physical and psychological characteristics and that a person’s physical appearance could be used to draw conclusions about the individual’s soul and behavior. (381)

The racial theory referred not only to the visible body, but also to the visible behavior. (430)

The Nazi race ideology amounts to a complete biologization of the socially and culturally acquired characteristics of a human. Characteristic is the representation of social conflicts of interest as a violation of a “naturally given” social order. The biologistic view of humans negates the historical, cultural and social influences on human existence. (380)

Racial theory reduced the diversity of humans to a few, statically conceived “racial types”, so that very large numbers of people could be thought of as summarizable and international political conflicts could be rationally explained with supposed biological tendencies of the “races” involved. (382) “Races”, as an absolutized supra-individual structure, became the presumed subject of history (382).

The “Nordic race”

The Nazi dictatorship elevated the “Nordic race” to the physical and mental ideal for the entire German people. The characteristics ascribed to the “Nordic race” were propagated as exemplary: a slender and strong body, a long narrow skull, blond hair and blue eyes. The rosy-white skin was considered the lightest of all the “races” and therefore only it should be called “white”. (405)

According to Nazi race theory, the “German people” consisted of 6 races, whereby the “Nordic” portion was to be increased to 50% by “racial care”. For this purpose, the most valuable “racial” components were to be collected from the population and brought into dominant positions. (380)

Already at the beginning of the 20th century, parts of German society perceived Northern Europe as an untouched counter-world to the modernizing society in their own country. Northern Europe became a projection screen for a racial-biological utopia: the peoples of Northern Europe were declared “Germanic blood relatives” and “noble people”. (405)

The glorification of the “northern race” did not only refer to the physique type of a human being, but also to its allegedly directly connected “racial soul”. (406) The racial theorist Hans F. K. Günther described the following mental “leader-qualities” of the “northern race”: the “ability to judge, truthfulness and energy (‘Tatkraft’)” were outstanding. The “Nordic” human controls him/herself and shows “an objective, prudent attitude that often makes him appear cool and stiff”, his “sense of reality” in combination with his “energy” drives him to great undertakings. He unfolds “objective passion, while passionality (…) is far from him”. In social interaction he/she showed “little inclination to empathize with the nature of other people”. (406) Günther thus described a contemporary bourgeois German habitus and placed it in direct relation to a certain type of physique, which was judged to be exemplary. (407)

The equation of “Nordic” and “Aryan”

The Nazi ideology combined the visual idea of the “Nordic race” with the race-theoretical view of history in the tradition of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, which interpreted both the culture of Greek antiquity, which was regarded as exemplary by the German elites, as well as the “Aryans”, which had been suspected even longer ago, as “Nordic”.

Although the origins of the Aryan language are undoubtedly to be found in the Middle East, the term “Aryan” had already been a synonym for “Christian-German” since the imperial period and was explicitly limited to Nordic-Germanic racial types in the encyclopedias of the Nazi era. (407)

During the Nazi dictatorship, a distinction was made between superior and inferior human races and it was claimed that only “Nordic” people had intellectual and creative cultural potential. The other “human races” were more or less clearly denied a cultural capability. (380)

Hitler attributed the majority of progress in art and science to the “Aryans” as the only culturally creative race; he considered all other races to be uncultured and culturally destructive. Like the race-theoretical ‘pioneers’, he claimed that the culture-creating potency of the “Aryans” was threatened by “racial crossbreeding” and “blood mixing”, because this lead to degeneration and cultural disintegration. (407)

The NSDAP ideology explained more precisely that ancient Greece as a “Nordic” high culture had disintegrated due to the “racial mixture” between Greeks and Turks. (408)

Hitler believed that German “blood” must be kept “pure” because “blood mixing” would lead to a “lowering of the racial niveau”. (407)

Race mixture

In the middle of the 19th century, the French Count Arthur de Gobineau, in his essay “On the Inequality of the Races of Man”, took the view that people in the world were divisible into three main races and the “white Aryan race” was the crowning glory of creation. “Race mixture” would lead to cultural decay, because a “mixed race” was not capable of higher cultural achievements. He thought the “Germanic peoples” were the last “purely preserved branch” of the “Aryans” and threatened by “mixing” with foreign peoples. (391f.) The German Gobineau Society, founded by Richard Wagner, supplemented these assertions with the idea of being able to counter the supposed decline of the “Aryan race” by “breeding”. (392)

Following on from Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain claimed in “The Foundations of the 19th Century” (1899) that the “Aryans” were “pure-bred” cultural carriers and had been in a “racial struggle” with the “Jews” as a “mixed race” since antiquity. His racial-theoretical historical misrepresentation became widely effective in the German Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm II made Chamberlain’s publication mandatory reading in the training of German senior teachers. (392) At this time, racial ideology was also a constitutive element of the German Emperor’s worldview. (392)

Finally, under the Nazi dictatorship, schoolchildren were taught that the culture of a people depended on its “race” and that German culture was in the tradition of the Germanic peoples, to whom the “Jews” were completely foreign in nature. (358)

The German-Germanic “People’s Face”

In the public visual world of the Nazi dictatorship – as in the associated politics – the focus of attention was not the individual, but rather the supposedly typical physical and psychological characteristics of large groups. (430)

Erna Lendvai-Dircksen’s books on the “German People’s Face” connected with the agrarian-romantic and anti-metropolis ideas, that became known under the slogan “blood and soil”, that were supported by the “völkischen” [Editor’s Note: a homogenous concept of “people” and “state” as an organic unity] groups of the Weimar Republic and the agricultural political apparatus of the NSDAP. Behind this was the idea of a social and biological unity of the Germans an based on a “piece of agrarian homeland” that was threatened by ”deracination”. (358)

Already in the last third of the 19th century, the “völkische” understanding of the German nation became the dominant ideology in the Prussian-dominated German Empire. (359)

The “völkischen” groups in the Weimar Republic also clung to the idea of a “racial hierarchy” associated with the “Volksgemeinschaft”-ideology [Editor’s Note:: unity of the ethnically homogenous ‘own’ people]. (379)

The “völkische” understanding of the German nation contradicts the democratic republican concept of nation, according to which “nation” is a political and “people” an ethnic category, so that from a democratic republican perspective a nation can also be composed of several peoples. (359)

The “average image” as a precursor of the “people’s face” (“Volksgesicht”)

The iconological roots of the German “people’s face” propagated in the Nazi era are to be found in the imperial era and the at that time still elitist racial anthropological-eugenic world of ideas. (430) Lendvai-Dircksen’s “people’s face” was preceded by the “average pictures”. (386)

The Prussian government established a non-democratic state in 1871 in the form of an empire. Now the elites involved in the rule “from above” made a supposed “essence” of the German people the nexus of national identity formation, and sought this in Christian, Aryan-Germanic and biological terms. (396)

Since the end of the 19th century, “illustrations” of a new way of thinking of the Western elites have been found in the form of “average pictures” or “composite photographs”. They were discussed within a transnational network of scholars around 1890-1920. What has come down to us is, among other things, an average image of Saxon soldiers, which belongs to the legacy of the first professor of photography at the TH Dresden (Robert Luther) at the beginning of the 20th century. He had received the picture from the art historian Georg Treu, who tried to prove that Classical Greek art had the purest ideal of beauty that was valid regardless of time and place. (385) For his research he also used average pictures, which he had become aware of through publications by Henry Pickering Bowditch of the Harvard Medical School. In the 1890s, Bowditch had been given with Saxon soldiers as photo objects by General von Funcke in Dresden. From numerous photographs of different individual heads, an average photo of the soldiers was finally produced by multiple exposures of these photographs on one and the same surface. (386) The average photograph of Saxon soldiers was to be compared with an “average face” of Slavic soldiers produced in the same way. Treu and Bowditch claimed that the “Germanic” head was rounder and the “Slavic” head was more angular. (386)

In the second half of the 19th century it became more common in Prussia to assume that the Germans were superior to the Poles. At the end of the 19th century, especially the Poles in Poznan became objects of an increasingly colonial self-image of the German Empire. (396) The continuing migration from divided Poland westwards into the German Empire and beyond became a political issue, which racial-theory-arguing-Germans portrayed as a “flooding” of the Germans by “the Slavs”. (398) The German Empire strived for an imperial world status and pursued a colonial policy both internally and externally. (399) The polarization between “Germans” and “Slavs” that began in anti-Polish journalism during the imperial era was a mental abstraction and imagination that did not do justice to the political realities on the ground. The “average photographs” of Saxon and Wendish soldiers were not only a synthesis of “scientific” images of humans with aesthetic values. They also represent an abstracting pictorial conception of the imperial elites of their “people” in a racial-ideological-eugenic context. (402)

The inventor of the average picture method was Sir Francis Galton, who also came up with the hypothesis, adopted by the previously mentioned two, that average pictures would lead to conclusions about the nationality, the “race” and the intelligence of the group in question. (386)

Galton is considered the founder of “eugenics”. He wanted to use quantitative methods to create the basis for the social selection of people in order to improve the quality of the “British race”. With his publications on the heredity of intelligence and talent, he laid the scientific foundations for a concept for the “ennoblement” of society, which he called eugenics from 1883 onwards: the allegedly too high birth rates of the weak, sick and poor were to be reduced and the allegedly too low birth rates of the intelligent, healthy and rich were to be increased. (386f.) Eugenics gained in importance above all because of the new, “biological” perspective on human beings. (387) It completed the arsenal of arguments put forward by the Social Darwinists who sought to apply Darwin’s theory of evolution to social life and who held the view that human beings were biologically determined to occupy certain positions in society. (387) Towards the end of the 19th century the eugenic movement also established itself among the economic and political elites of the German Empire and was institutionalized at German universities under the term of “racial hygiene”. (390)

The defining power of a minority of scientists became an instrument of power to control a majority. (388)

Visual enemy images

Physiognomics provided in particular explanations for the internal structure of the Germans, who were outwardly quite different. (361) Race theory, on the other hand, served primarily to scientifically rationalize the exclusion and devaluation of “Jews” and “foreigners” („Fremdvölkischen”). (361)

Enemy images of “the degenerated”

Since Darwin’s theory of evolution, the line between “human” and “nonhuman animal” seemed to become more fluid. European racial anthropologists took up this idea, arguing that the non-European “races” had not yet completed the process of becoming human and that Europeans too could “degenerate” and sink back to “animal” life forms. The “mentally ill” were now settled at a level of development between ‘humans’ and ‘animals’. (387f.)

The National Socialist “hereditary and racial hygiene” amounted to a breeding concept affecting German society. Initially, “hereditary patients” (“erbkrank”), “asocial” and “Jews” were to be excluded. The corresponding laws to legalize state exclusion measures were passed in the mid-1930s (Law against Habitual Criminals 1934, Inheritance Health Law 1935, Blood Protection Law/Nuremberg Laws 1935). (428)

During the Nazi dictatorship, the process of visual exclusion even became part of the state health care system. In the context of state-“hereditary and racial care”, the “foreign” and “sick” were excluded by aesthetic taste judgements in the guise of medical expertise. “Aryanised” German doctors judged the people entrusted to them in relation to a model of the “inherited healthy” (“erbgesunden”), supra-individual German “people’s body” (“Volkskörper”) with a “Nordic race ideal”. In the medical field, the aesthetic taste judgement about the body of a person became a medical judgement about the “racial” inheritance-value (“Erbwert”) of a person for the “people’s body” (“Volkskörper”) and a right to life based solely on this. (409) These processes are also reflected in visual communication: under the Nazi regime, visual representations of “abnormal” or “degenerated” human bodies were repeatedly used to evoke fear, disgust and contempt in viewers. The “abnormal” body was considered a sign of a “sick” mind. (409)

The iconography of the “abnormal” human being, popularized under the Nazi regime, was in line with the view held by the Italian doctor Cesare Lombroso as early as 1876 that there were “born criminals” who differed from other people in their physical build. His student Hans Kurella declared in 1893 that people “born to crime” had typical physical characteristics: a skull that was too small or too large, thick and dark hair, an asymmetrical face, deformed ears, large and wide or long and thin noses. (409)

Under the Nazi regime, aesthetic taste judgement, “racial hygiene” and criminal anthropology merged seamlessly. (409) Accordingly, the prisoners of Dachau concentration camp were presented in the NSDAP party magazine “Illustrierter Beobachter” as “deformities” (“Missgestalten”) with deep-set eyes, hollow cheeks, crooked mouths, protruding ears, scars etc. (410).

Enemy images of “foreign peoples” and “foreign races”

Of significance for the intended iconography of the “völkische” portrait photography is the exclusion of “un-German” physiognomies, which was also intended by the manufacturer. (364) In 1933 Erna Lendvai-Dircksen expressly advocated the exclusion of aesthetic figures of “foreign style” from the German pictorial world, because this would “not allow a national community”.

Images of the enemy / Jews

The government-controlled visual self-image of the Germans under the Nazi regime is primarily revealed in relation to the visually expressed image of the enemy “Jew”. During the Second World War, Nazi press propaganda used Jews as a central enemy image, with which other enemy images were associated. For example, anti-Polish Nazi propaganda was repeatedly closely linked with anti-Semitic propaganda. (384)

Enemy images / Polish

In order to understand the visual representation of the Poles in the National Socialist imagery of the Second World War, it is useful to be aware that at the beginning of the Second World War the mental border between Europe and Asia was moved by the Nazi regime to the western border of the Soviet Union – and thus ran through the previously Polish territory. (420)

“Racial science” (“Rassenkunde”)

In the Nazi state, racial research scientifically underpinned the ideology and policies of the NSDAP. The Polish civilian population also became the subject of German-language race research. (420)

In the Reichsgau Wartheland in particular, a professionalising and radicalising centre of racial selection of people was established. Experts of the SS on race and folklore tried to put their “folklore” political (“volkstumspolitischen”) measures on a scientific basis, in cooperation with the German civil administration and the Reichs-University of Poznan. (422f.) With the introduction of the DVL-procedure (Deutsche Volksliste) in all “incorporated eastern territories” in 1941, a “racial patterning” of the inhabitants in accordance with the SS’s RuSHA (SS Race and Settlement Main Office) was enforced in the Warthegau, which was also applied in other German-occupied territories in Eastern Europe and came to a provisional conclusion in the Warthegau in 1943. (426) The anthropologists Egon von Eickstedt and Ilse Schwidetzky used “racial formulae” to calculate allegedly exact percentages of “racial proportions” of individuals in the incorporated eastern territories. (420f.)

At the “Reichs-University of Poznan”, application-oriented race research was conducted for the Nazi dictatorship. Here, for example, the “Völkerpsychologe” Rudolf Hippius and the biologist Konrad Lorenz carried out race-relevant studies on the civilian population in cooperation with SS functionaries. This included, in particular, “Mischlingsforschung” (“mixed-race-research”) as a special branch of research which would have had no right to exist without the race ideology. In 1942, Rudolf Hippius carried out a psychological study of German-Polish “half-breeds” in order to prove that the degree of “racial mixing” had an effect on the psychological structure of a person. He assumed that Germans and Poles had fundamentally different personality structures and that German rule over Poland was legitimate because they were only prepared to “use their forces regularly and in an orderly manner” under duress. He came to the easily predictable conclusion that “racial mixing” between Germans and Poles would lead to “character disharmonisation”. (421, 422)

Heinrich Himmler believed that “Nordic” children were more creative than “racial mongrels” and that the Poles had only joined Europe through “Nordic” Germans. He fantasized that “inferior foreign host peoples” such as the Poles would want to drain “Nordic blood” from the Germans, because all cultural and state-forming achievements would go back to the “Nordic race”. (421)

National Socialist racism as a visual ideology; picture panels

Table of nations, middle 18th century.

The term “racism” describes a specific relation of social oppression and violence in which the ruling groups differentiate a very large number of people according to physical and cultural characteristics. Allegedly typical character and behavioral traits are attributed to them, which imply an alleged “natural” hierarchy of people. The “racial” attributions of characteristics serve to justify unequal treatment of people in economic and political life.

From: Eugen Fischer, Grundlagen der Humangenetik und Rassenhygiene (1921/1923).

With regard to National Socialist racism in particular, there are certain communication problems due to the different perspectives on the facts. For most Germans under Nazi rule, racial ideology seemed to be insignificant, as people were not consciously aware of the resulting unequal treatment. From their perspective, the theory and practice of Nazi racial ideology seemed to diverge widely. Accordingly, a German whisper joke of the time said: “What does the ideal German look like? Blond like Hitler, tall like Goebbels, slim like Göring (…)”. The racial ideology in the Nazi state before the Second World War affected mainly minorities and marginal groups in German society. With the beginning of the war, however, racial ideology became more relevant for numerous people in German-occupied foreign countries, who were now declared “racially” inferior by the Nazi state. In occupied Poland in particular, it became apparent that it was directed not only against the Jewish minority but also against the Christian majority of the population. The racial ideology was of central importance for the moral legitimization of the NS crimes of murder against millions of people and formed the ideological core of the National Socialist policy of extermination.

Hitler Youth learning the definitions of “full Jew”, “half Jew” and “quarter Jew” (Nuremberg Laws), 1938.

Racial studies for school assistants, 1943.

[Plates 3, 4; Heredity and Racial Studies].

The concept of “race” is one of the core elements of Nazi ideology and was propagated linguistically, primarily in the guise of a scientific theory of heredity. In addition, the race ideology was also visually popularized to a considerable extent during the Nazi dictatorship. During this period, masses of widespread pictorial representations of so-called Nordic people and their supposed enemies, scientific racial anthropology and the “völkisch” utopia of a “racially pure” German nation merged into one another. The historian George Mosse described racism as a “visual ideology” and saw visuality in particular as one of its greatest strengths. However, the specifics of this visual ideology have not yet been sufficiently researched in relation to National Socialism.

Cover of the magazine “Neues Volk” with “Nordic” ideal types, 1938.

Poster of the exhibition “The Eternal Jew”, which was shown in several German cities in 1937/38.

[Plates 5, 6; “New People” and “The Eternal Jew”]

The Germans under the Nazi regime were educated in educational institutions and through the mass media controlled by the Ministry of Propaganda to a folkish-racial vision standard. They were to view their own nation in a “racial” way. They were continuously given a conventionalized visual idea of what Germans should look like by the government and the feeling that they should stay away from “foreign”, supposedly inferior “blood”.

Touring exhibition “Degenerate Art” (“Entartete Kunst”) – defamation of modern art with racist slogans.

Cover of the publication “Entartete Musik” 1938 on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition against “the penetration of brutal jazz rhythms into the German world of music”.

[Plates 7, 8; “degeneration” through “niggering” (“Verniggerung”)]

By means of Nazi pictorial propaganda and racial education, in which the use of pictorial material was common, an emotionally guided distinction between “Germans” and “foreigners” (“Fremdvölkischen”) was practiced, which further spread and consolidated the Nazi racial ideology.

From: Illustrierter Beobachter, July 1933, showing the scientists of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute Otmar von Verschuer (above) and Wolfgang Abel (below). [The title says: “The racial image in the family tree”.]

From: Märkischer Adler, 7 June 1936, comparison of antique and contemporary heads. At the top: Equating Augustus with the “Nordic race”. [The title says: “Race, unchanged throughout centuries”]

[Plates 9, 10; “Racial studies in the press”]

Looking at other people was broadly coupled with a process of distinguishing between “own” and “foreign” physiognomies, between norm and deviation, good and bad. The processes of exclusion initiated at the visual level related to easily recognizable external characteristics such as physical appearance, clothing and behaviour. On the basis of published photographs, aesthetic taste judgements about people of different cultural backgrounds were practiced, which were transferred to the social interaction with real people.

I would like to try to illustrate the self-image of the Germans propagated under National Socialism by means of Erna Lendvai-Dircksen’s “völkischen” portrait photographs. The photographer achieved a relatively high level of recognition under the Nazi regime through her photo albums on the “German” or also the “Germanic folk face” (“germanischen Volksgesicht”).

Erna Lendvai-Dircksen, photographs from the years 1933-1945.

[Plates 11, 12, 13; Lendvai-Dircksen]

Her “völkischen” portrait photographs have also been published since the 1930s in large mass magazines and racial-political journals in hundreds of thousands of copies. Lendvai-Dircksen’s portrait photographs usually follow a consistent concept: they show close-ups of faces, with all socio-cultural contextual information about the person in question being blanked out. Her photographic models were usually German farmers, initially older ones with faces marked by wind and weather, later younger ones with smoother faces. The photographer depicted the faces of the individual people like light, rigid masks against a dark background. Often they are photographed from a slight view from below, so that they appear slightly raised to the viewer. With her subject matter and stylistic features of the picture design, which were intended to remind of old German and folkloric-realistic paintings, the photographer underpinned the idea of a centuries-long “German” community of descent. Lendvai-Dircksen’s illustrated books, in which she summarized these portraits, served to illustrate a biologically and socio-culturally homogenous German or Germanic “Volkskörper”. The faces she presented met widespread ideas of the appearance of the Germans. At the same time, they were consistent with the National Socialist ideas of the “Nordic race”.

 

Winner of the competition for the best Nordic breed head of the magazine “Volk und Rasse” (1926).

[Plates 14, 15, 16, 17; winner of the competition for “Nordic heads”]

Lendvai-Dircksen’s portraits of German farmers and Nordic people [plates 11, 12, 13] corresponded to the preferences of the “völkischen” groups and the romantic agricultural and anti-government “blood and soil” ideology of the Weimar Republic. Under the Nazi dictatorship, the term “völkisch” denoted a “racially” understood national feeling, according to which Germans were a “blood and ‘species’ community” (“Bluts- und Artengemeinschaft”).

Lendvai-Dircksen’s photographs and illustrated books [plates 11, 12, 13] gave the public an aesthetic model of what a “German” physiognomy looks like and a visual sense of the so-called “German way”. According to the Physiognomy of the Zurich vicar Lavater, the head and face were the external expression of a person’s soul and morality. This idea from the 18th century was increasingly combined with the search for anthropological types in the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, therefore, pictorial representations of individual people often did not have the purpose of showing a particular individual, but were intended to represent an anthropological type. This led to the endeavor to identify a specifically “German” type of person. Erna Lendvai-Dircksen stylised a non-representative selection of German faces in the “völkisch” sense into a superordinate, de-individualised “folk face” (“Volksgesicht”). She illustrated physiognomies in the sense of a community that extended beyond Germany into northern Europe.

Legend of the race map (1925): pink “Nordic or white race”, brown “Westic or Mediterranean race”, orange: “Eastern Baltic race”, olive green “Ostic race”, yellow “Mongolian race”, light blue “Dinaric race”, violet “Armenian race”, dark blue “Arab or Oriental race”, at the bottom “Negro or Black race”.

[Picture plate 18; “race map” (“Rassenkarte”)]

The Nazi state saw itself as a “völkischer” state, whose basis was to be a “social unit” founded “in blood”. Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf” that the “völkische Weltanschauung”, the “völkische” worldview, denied the equality of people and assumed the existence of higher and inferior human “races”. He interpreted world history as a “racial struggle”.

At that time, people with the same physical and psychological characteristics were considered a “race”. In the tradition of European racial anthropology and against the background of Gobineau’s and Chamberlain’s racial theories, the outward appearance of a “race” was directly inferred from a supposedly “racially” conditioned mental and spiritual state and a certain cultural status. The National Socialists elevated the so-called “Nordic race” to the physical and mental ideal for the entire German people. In the tradition of the racial theoreticians, the so-called “northern race”, the “Germanic” and the “Aryans” were equated, because the Germans, and before them the Germanic people, were said to have preserved the “blood” of the “Aryans” in the purest possible way.

Adolf Hitler: “The ‘völkische Staat’ must place race at the center of general life”

Information- and Worksheets for ‘Reichskunde’, Magdeburg 1941.

[Plates 19, 20; worksheets on “racial studies”, Hitler quote: ethnic national state – race]

Information- and Worksheets for ‘Reichskunde’, Magdeburg 1941.

[Plates 19, 20; worksheets on “racial studies”, Hitler quote: ethnic national state – race]

German children in the Nazi state were taught “racial studies” (“Rassenkunde”) from adolescence onwards, and the use of visual material was common practice. I show two pages here from the “Merk- und Arbeitsblätter für Reichskunde” (Information- and Worksheets for Reichs-Studies) from 1941, which were aimed at young vocational school pupils. Why lessons in racial studies were given is clear from the Hitler quotation in the first line: “The entire educational work of the ‘völkische’ state must find its crowning glory in the fact that it burns the sense of race and racial feeling instinctively and rationally into the heart and brain of the youth entrusted to it.”

The text of the worksheet stated that all European peoples would be made up of six races, with the proportions of “races” varying in each case. Peoples would be always made up of several “races”, with one or two “races” leading the way. In the case of the German people, the “Nordic” and “Faelic” (fälische”) races would be dominant and decisive. The proportion of “Nordic” people would be higher among the Germans than among other peoples: 10% of Germans were “pure Nordic” and the majority of Germans had “Nordic blood”.

A table on the worksheet is to represent the six European “races”. Each one of the so-called “races” is assigned a portrait. In the following rows of the table you find information on the physical appearance of the “races”. Remarkably, only the skin of the “Nordic” and the “Faelic race” is described as light and rosy and the eye colors as “blue to grey”. All other “races” are described as more colorless or darker. The worksheet contains no information about the alleged “mental characteristics” of these alleged “races”. However, they can be found, for example, in Hans F.K. Günther and a devaluation of all non-“Nordic” and “non-Faelic breeds”. The text for the pupils is limited to the statement that in Germany “pure-bred” representatives of other European breeds were rare.

The authors emphasize that people of the “Nordic race” have excellent qualities and are therefore particularly promoted by the Nazi state. They were “gifted with imagination”, had a “sharp mind”, had a “sense of responsibility” and were “born to be leaders”. They had a “matter-of-fact and sober view”, a “good organizational talent”, “drive to action” and “creative urge”. In conclusion, the authors emphasize that it is not only physical appearance that is decisive for the assessment of a person, but also the “attitude” and “sort of display of oneself”, which would indicate the “racial soul”. Thus, even a person who looks “Ostic” (“ostisch”) could be “Nordic” in thought and action.

This restriction was necessary in order to be able to relativize the appearance of the Nazi top officials by referring to their “racial soul”. At the same time, however, the relativization of the visible appearance of a “race” also meant the opening of infinite discretionary scope for the so-called race experts of the Nazi regime. For the assessment of the relevance of the visible exterior of a human being was ultimately withheld from these racial experts in individual cases, which the “völkisch” state produced. For in the case of people discriminated against and persecuted by the Nazi regime, the racial argumentation modules were used specifically against those affected. For example, Poles could look “Nordic”, but in cases of doubt, the “racial soul” attributed to them was always considered “foreign”.

Another worksheet presents “The three race circles” and is introduced with the Hitler quote: “The völkische state must place race at the center of general life.” The text that follows explains that the people of the earth could be divided into three “race circles” “purely outwardly”: “whites, yellows and blacks”. The subgroups of these “racial circles” would be called “races”. A “race” would be a group whose members display a large number of the same physical and mental characteristics that were equally present in their descendants.

The three “race circles” are presented in tabular form for comparison. They are distinguished according to the criteria: “important representatives of the race circle”, “physical characteristics” and “mental characteristics”. In the line “important representatives” the faces of a “White”, a “Yellow” and a “Black” are shown. The “White” is represented by a young man in a white shirt, tie and suit jacket; he looks – photographed from a slightly lower perspective – beyond the viewer into the distance. The “Yellow”, on the other hand, is depicted as a male child in nature-loving and poor-looking clothes, looking past the viewer at the side of the picture. The “Black” is presented as an adult man without clothing. His head is photographed from above, so that it appears that the man is looking up at the viewer. In the next lines the “race” subordinated to the “race circles” and their “residential areas” are listed: The “white race circle” is assigned the supposed six European “races”, the “yellow race circle” is assigned the Chinese and Japanese, Lapps, Eskimos and Indians, as well as Turks, Arabs and Iranians. The “black race circle” includes Africans and Afro-Americans, Australian natives and South Sea Islanders.

In the line on “physical characteristics”, there is surprisingly little information on the “white race circle”, which is only described as “fair-skinned”, and relatively much information on the other “race circles”. However, these only mention characteristics of individual sub-groups, which are then transferred to the entire “race circle”. Accordingly, “the Yellow” have a yellow to reddish skin color, a flat, broad face, “slit eyes”, a stocky figure and “short limbs”. According to this, “Blacks” have a “broad, flat nose”, “bulging lips”, curly hair, a “slender figure” and “long limbs”. The implied hierarchy of the “racial circles” among themselves is mainly based on the “mental characteristics” attributed to them. The “Whites” would be “spiritually” leading, “cultural creators” and “state-forming”; the “Yellows” were “empathetic”, “stuck on old cultural levels” but receptive, and the “Blacks” were “little capable of development” and had “low intellectual abilities”.

After confrontation with this table, students should apply what they have learned in an exercise and draw the distribution areas of the three “race circles” on a small map of the world. Those who do this will inevitably get the impression that the “yellow ones” pose a threat to the “white ones” because of their spatial extension and developmental capacity.

Anti-Semitic graphics in “Stürmer” style.

Jews in Poland, before 1939.

[Plates 21, 22, 23, 24; NS graphics “Jews” and photos of Polish Jews before 1939].

The doctrine of race offered a pattern of interpretation of apparently great explanatory power, as it provided a key of interpretation for the different manifestations of people in the world. Interestingly, the two sheets just presented do not contain any statements about Jews, who during the Nazi dictatorship were often classified “racially” as “Middle Eastern” types, although they had lived in Europe since Roman times at the latest. One reason for this is that the National Socialists propagated the principle of “racial purity” (“Rassereinheit”) and stylized Jews into a counter-principle of “racial mixing” (“Rassenmischung”). This figure of thought was not new, but already pre-formulated by Houston Stewart Chamberlain. On the visual level, the Nazi state produced various enemy images of Jews, some of which propagated the supposedly “Middle Eastern” (“vorderasiatisch-orientalische”) appearance, others the danger of “racial mixing” and others anti-Semitic fantasies. In addition to the very striking images of the enemy, relatively subtle photopublicistic depictions were also created, whose contemporary anti-Semitic significance is difficult to recognize for today’s viewers without knowledge of Nazi racial theory.

Photofreund-Yearbook 1939: “Work Break” (“Werkpause”).

Photofreund-Yearbook 1939: “Philosophers of doing nothing” (“Philosophen des Nichtstuns”).

[Plates 25, 26; picture pair “Photofreund” 1939]

An example of this are pairs of pictures consisting of an “Aryan” and a “Semitic” page, which appeared repeatedly in the yearbooks of the magazine “Photofreund” at that time.

As a generalization of the racial ideological Nazi image propaganda, it can be said that it linked an aesthetic judgement of taste about the appearance and visible behaviour of people very closely to political meanings.

Photofreund-Jahrbuch 1942: “Study” (“Studie”).

Photofreund-Yearbook 1942: “The Thoughtful One” (“Der Nachdenkliche”).

[Plates 27, 28; picture pair “Photofreund” 1942]

The conformity of a person’s appearance and behaviour with the “Nordic” racial ideal was considered “beautiful”, whereas the deviation from this ideal was considered “ugly”. All physique types and mental impulses considered “foreign” were to be intuitively and emotionally excluded by the German “Volksgenossen”. Under the Nazi dictatorship, the so-called “instinctive” recognition of the “foreign folk” (“des Fremdvölkischen”) was regarded as proof of the so-called “healthy folk soul” (“gesunde Volksseele”). The process of social exclusion under the Nazi regime, which was initiated on the basis of aesthetic taste judgements about the visual appearance of a person, can also be partially proven existent in the scientific-medical field. The biologist Konrad Lorenz, for example, wrote in 1940 that the so-called “species-specific (‘arteigene’) perception of beauty and ugliness” allows a correct distinction between valuable forms of life and so-called “degenerative mutations”. The term “degeneration” leads into the field of eugenics, which unfortunately cannot be dealt with further here for reasons of time. Eugenics, like racial ideology, attributed all violations of the normative concepts of the ruling elites to supposed biological deficiencies of the ruled, which were regarded as hereditary and unchangeable. Also in the context of National Socialist “hereditary and racial hygiene”, “the sick” and “the foreign” were excluded by aesthetic taste judgments in the guise of medical expertise. The overlap between the eugenic and racist dimensions of National Socialism is also reflected in the pictorial world.

Press photo of the propaganda companies of the German Wehrmacht, 14.8.1941. Caption: “The Soviets used such criminal types to fight German soldiers.”

“Scum of humanity” (“Abschaum der Menschheit”). Page from the report by Jürgen Stroop on the suppression of the 1943 uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

[Plates 29, 30; Soviet war prisoner of war / Hähle, and “degenerated” Jewish bodies / Stroop].

Under the Nazi regime, visual representations of “abnormal”” or “degenerated” human bodies were repeatedly used to evoke fear, disgust and contempt in the viewers.

The propagandistic success of the dissemination of the Nazi racial ideology is partly due to the fact that it was an elite ideology that was already widespread among many German and “Western” academics before 1933. The widespread effect of the racial ideology is – apart from the aforementioned school indoctrination of German youths – very probably due to the aggressive image propaganda of the Nazi regime. In the 1930s, the number of photographs published in newspapers, magazines and books increased in Germany.

Press photo of the SS propaganda company (“SS-Propagandakompanie”) of the German Wehrmacht, no date, caption: “On the Soviet front. The gaze of this Kradmelder, a young Dane who fights as a volunteer in the Waffen SS on the Eastern Front, is clear and certain.”

Press photo of the propaganda companies of the German Wehrmacht, 7.6.1944, caption: “The battle rudder man has a very important function to fulfil on the ship. He cannot and must not leave his place during an attack. (…).“

[Plates 31, 32; press photos of “Nordic” soldiers]

While the Germans and their supposed “Artverwandten” were stylized in the visual mass media of the Nazi state towards the so-called “North-Racial” (“nordrassischen”) ideal, Jews and Soviet Russians in particular were presented as unhuman-like enemies who seemed to be standing on a lower level of cultural development. The Germans, on the other hand, were portrayed in the photojournalism of the Nazi state as “sympathetic” as possible in the sense of the racial ideology.

Two German press photos of the propaganda companies of the German Wehrmacht, ca. 1941/42, caption:

„Figures from the ‘Sowjet-Paradise’. In the prison camps, the types of criminals we remember from the worst times of the ‘commune’ are now multiplying. Among the Jews in uniform of the Soviet Army there are also types who are seen to be capable of all kinds of murder, but who nevertheless fail as soldiers at the given moment. – On the right, a pockmarked Mongolian who fits worthily into the ranks of the Bolsheviks.”

[Plates 33, 34; press photos “Asians”]

German press photographs of Russians from 1941 onwards show them in a way that the German public was supposed to find “unsympathetic”. Very interesting and so far unexplored are the iconographic parallels between the anti-Soviet and anti-American Nazi image propaganda of the last years of the war. The Nazi regime accused both states of being a “mixture of races” (“Rassengemisch”).

Press photograph of the propaganda companies of the German Wehrmacht, 6.3.1944, caption: “As prisoners in Rome! Chicago and New York types in Rome as prisoners of German paratroopers and grenadiers.”

Press photograph of the propaganda companies of the German Wehrmacht, 5.7.1944, caption: “After a short fight in German captivity. The American soldiers in a collection camp are glad to have escaped from the ‘hell of the Atlantic Battle’ at least with their lives. (…)“

[Plates 35, 36; press photos “Americans”]

This accusation can only be understood if the Nazi ideal of “racial purity” is included in the analysis.

In the course of research for my dissertation I was able to prove in regard to Poles in the Reichsgau Wartheland, that German Nazi photojournalism did not produce a tangible visual image of the “Pole” in this area, which would have visualized deviating human physique types. If possible, the Poles in this area were not depicted at all. In this way, Nazi propaganda informed the Poles in the Gau non-verbally: you do not exist. What is interesting in this case is above all the political tactical use of National Socialist race research. For during the non-aggression pact with the Nazi state, the Poles were characterized by German race researchers as rather “Nordic”, whereas after the beginning of the war, German race research tended to judge the Poles as “instinctive” and “uncultured” and brought so-called “Ostic” and “Mongolian” race shares of the Poles to the foreground. During the war and occupation years, the tenor of German racial researchers was that no predominant “racial types” could be identified among the Poles, but only a high degree of “mixture” of many “races”, whereby the negative influence of “Asian races” was particularly emphasized.

Wolfgang Abel, picture panel on research into “mixed-race”/”hybrids” (allegedly physically and psychologically “degenerated” Moroccan-German and Vietnamese-German people), 1937.

Alphonse Bertillon (Paris Police Prefect), survey of physiognomic features, around 1895.

[Plates 37, 38; photos Mischlingsforschung / “mixed-race studies“]

The Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler believed that “Nordic” children were more creative than “racial hybrids”. In order to give this belief greater prominence, the Nazi regime produced numerous German contributions to “research into hybrids” (“Mischlingsforschung”), which would have had no right to exist without the racial ideology. Such research was carried out on various people from bi-national couples. In 1942, German-Polish “Mischlinge” amongst others, were psychologically researched in the Gauhauptstadt of the Wartheland Posen, to prove that “racial mixing” led to psychological instability. Empirical data were interpreted in such a way that the political cause of the discomfort of those people who were now classified as “half-breeds” was completely ignored. And this was due to the fact that the National Socialist occupying power subjected the multi-ethnic population of Poland to a radical segregation according to “völkisch-rassischen” criteria, thus constructing a supposed “mixed race” problem.

A large amount of research has shown that in the case of “racially” motivated discrimination, it is not the actual characteristics of the person discriminated against that are decisive, but rather those characteristics that are ascribed to him or her by the discriminator – depending on his or her self-image. From a scientific – and especially biological – perspective, racial theory is obsolete. It would be very desirable if the historiography of National Socialism would emphasize more strongly that racial theory does not say anything reliable about the people defamed by it, but primarily something about the political strategies and methods of legitimation of such elites who systematically mistreated and murdered other people.

About the author

Miriam Yegane Arani did her doctorate at the UDK in Berlin under the supervision of the photo historian Prof. Diethart Kerbs. Her work focuses on the survey and analysis of photo-historical materials from the NS period. Her dissertation dealt with the Reichsgau Wartheland, where the Nazis implemented “exemplary” oppressive measures against the native Polish population, which were soon to be used in the old Reich territories in further increased brutality against the antagonized parts of the German, especially the German Jewish population.

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Yegane Arani, Miriam (2020). Presentation: NS racism as a visual ideology. TIERAUTONOMIE, 7(2), http://simorgh.de/tierautonomie/JG7_2020_2.pdf.

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Miriam Yegane Arani: Der NS-Rassismus als visuelle Ideologie

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Jahrgang 7, Nr. 1, Art. 1, ISSN 2363-6513, Mai 2020

Der NS-Rassismus als visuelle Ideologie

Eine Präsentation von Miriam Yegane Arani

Dieser Text als PDF

Hintergrund: Diese Präsentation von Miriam Yegane Arani einer einleitenden ikonographischen Analyse des nationalsozialistischen Rassismus bildet einen guten Einstieg in Yeganes Grundlagenforschung zu einer sozialwissenschaftlichen und fotogeschichtlichen Methodik der Analyse von Bildmaterialien, und dabei insbesondere fotografischer Quellen, aus der NS-Zeit. Es ist auffällig, dass die unter dem NS-Regime publizierten Bilder einem gewissen Programm folgten, das zwischen idealisierten Körpernormen und Abweichungen davon polarisiert. Das Propagandaministerium kontrollierte die Fotopublizistik wahrscheinlich darauf hin, dass nur Fotografien veröffentlicht wurden, die der Rassenideologie entsprachen. Zu vermuten ist, dass es unter dem NS-Regime zu einer immer rigideren Polarisierung zwischen den Leit- und Feindbildern des von der Regierung gesteuerten Bildprogramms kam. Während der Vorkriegszeit scheint die Propagierung des „nordischen“ Leitbilds im Vordergrund gestanden zu haben, dessen visuelles Pendant in den „rassisch“ pejorativen Feindbildern der Kriegsjahre zum Ausdruck kommt. Besonders auffällig ist dabei die Einübung einer Unterscheidung von Menschen nach ihrem äußeren Erscheinungsbild in zeittypischen Bildpaaren, die einen rassischen Antagonismus veranschaulichen sollten.

Schlagworte: NS-Rassismus, Nationalsozialismus, Propaganda, Bildsoziologie

TIERAUTONOMIE, Jg. 7 (2020), Heft 1.

Miriam Yegane Arani: Der NS-Rassismus als visuelle Ideologie (für die komplette Fassung bitte diesem Link zur PDF Version folgen)

Kontextinfos

Die in den Klammern angegebenen Seitenzahlen beziehen sich sämtlich auf: Miriam Y. Arani: Fotografische Selbst- und Fremdbilder von Deutschen und Polen im Reichsgau Wartheland 1939–45 (2008).

Nach 1945

Nach 1945 verschwand die Rassenideologie nicht, einerseits wegen der personellen Kontinuitäten, die in den Nachkriegsgesellschaften möglich waren, und andererseits wegen dem längerfristigen Niederschlag dieses Denkmodells im Alltagswissen der breiten Bevölkerung. (426) Aus streng naturwissenschaftlicher Sicht gilt die Rassentheorie schon länger als nicht haltbar. (426)

Schon bald nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg stellte der physische Anthropologe Juan Comas im Auftrag der neu gegründeten UNO in einer Schrift mit dem Titel „Rasse als Mythos“ klar, dass die nationalsozialistische Rassenlehre sachlich falsch ist. Menschliche Vererbung hat nichts mit dem Blut zu tun. (426) Außerdem lassen die Erkenntnisse der physischen Anthropologie in keiner Weise den Schluss zu, dass „Rassereinheit“ zu Kulturentwicklung und „Rassenmischung“ zu Kulturverfall führe. (427) Die Ergebnisse der internationalen anthropologischen, sozial- und geschichtswissenschaftlichen Forschung lassen sehr viel mehr darauf schließen, dass nicht die verschiedenen Körperformen, Hautfarben usw. die Ursache von Konflikten sind, sondern vielmehr Interessenskonflikte verschiedener sozialer Gruppen, durch die sichtbare Unterschiede (Körper, Kleidung, religiöse Sitten usw.) erst als Zeichen von Differenz bedeutsam werden. (427)

Insbesondere innerhalb der Biologie ist die Klassifizierung von menschlichen Rassen wissenschaftlich obsolet, weil es sich um kein geeignetes Konzept zur Erfassung der Variabilität des Homo Sapiens handelt. Menschliche Populationen können mit der Kategorie „Rasse“ nicht angemessen erfasst werden. Eine korrekte biologische Klassifikation als „Rasse“ ist noch nicht einmal auf natürliche Populationen von Tieren anwendbar, weil eine exklusive Zuordnung zu einer einzigen „Rasse“ erforderlich wäre, die bei Menschen nicht möglich ist. Der einzige Bereich in der Biologie, in dem von „Rassen“ gesprochen werden kann, ist die Haus- und Nutztierzucht. Nur unter den von Menschen domestizierten Tieren gibt es ‚biologisch korrekt‘ als „Rassen“ bezeichenbare zoologische Formen. (427)

Rassismus als visuelle Ideologie

Es ist auffällig, dass die unter dem NS-Regime publizierten Bilder einem gewissen Programm folgen, das zwischen idealisierten Körpernormen und Abweichungen davon polarisiert. Das Propagandaministerium kontrollierte die Fotopublizistik sehr wahrscheinlich darauf hin, dass nur Fotografien veröffentlicht wurden, die der Rassenideologie entsprachen. (430) Ich vermute, dass es unter dem NS-Regime zu einer immer rigideren Polarisierung zwischen den Leit- und Feindbildern des von der Regierung gesteuerten Bildprogramms kam. Während der Vorkriegszeit scheint die Propagierung des „nordischen“ Leitbilds im Vordergrund gestanden zu haben, dessen visuelles Pendant in den „rassisch“ pejorativen Feindbildern der Kriegsjahre zum Ausdruck kommt.

Besonders auffällig ist die Einübung einer Unterscheidung von Menschen nach ihrem äußeren Erscheinungsbild in zeittypischen Bildpaaren, die einen rassischen Antagonismus veranschaulichen sollten. Um die hohe Relevanz dieser „Kontrastbilder“ genauer einzugrenzen, ist es hilfreich sich zu vergegenwärtigen, dass Adolf Hitler in seiner Wiener Zeit durch die Ostara-Hefte von Adolf Land eine christlich-religiöse Rassenlehre kennengelernt hatte, die als ein „Rassenkampf“ zwischen blond-blauäugigen „Ario-Heroikern“ und dunklen „Sodoms-Äfflingen“ dargestellt wurde. (408)

Der NS-Ideologe Alfred Rosenberg behauptete, die schöpferische Kraft Europas gehe allein auf die Germanen zurück und deren größte Bedrohung seien die „Schlammfluten der Mischlinge Asiens, Afrikas, des gesamten Mittelmeerbeckens und seiner Ausläufer“. (408)

Die Vorläufer der NS-Rassenideologie

Die Rassenideologie war keine Neuschöpfung der NSDAP, die lediglich bereits existierende Rassismen in den Humanwissenschaften zusammenfasste und sie dann mit unglaublicher Radikalität in praktische Politik umsetzte. (381, 382)

Seit dem 18. Jahrhundert und das 19. Jahrhundert über wurden die Menschen der Welt von europäischen Anthropologen vorwiegend anhand äußerer, sichtbarer Merkmale wie Hautfarbe, Körperbau, Schädelform, Haarfarbe und –beschaffenheit, Augenform, Nasenform usw. klassifiziert. Anhand der sichtbaren Merkmale bildeten die Gelehrten „Rassetypen“ und deuteten deren Äußerlichkeiten als Anzeichen für ihre moralischen, seelischen und intellektuellen Eigenschaften. (381f., 394)

Im 19. und im frühen 20. Jahrhundert war die wissenschaftliche Anthropologie in weiten Teilen Rassenanthropologie. (395) Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts erlangte die Rassenlehre den Rang eines wissenschaftlich legitimieren Dogmas, das politische Herrschaft mit „naturwissenschaftlichen“ Argumenten zu rechtfertigen suchte. Den europäischen Gelehrten dienten dabei hauptsächlich sichtbare Merkmale, die meist nur längerfristig veränderlich sind (Verhaltensmuster, Kleidung, Spuren spezifischer Lebensumstände), als Anhaltspunkte bei der Konstruktion unterschiedlicher „Rassen“. (382) Die anderen Rassen zugeschriebenen Eigenschaften entsprachen üblicherweise den sozialen Vorurteilen der involvierten Forscher über die fremden Völker. (382) Die europäischen Anthropologen setzten sich zugunsten der Normen ihres soziokulturellen Milieus wiederholt über empirische Fakten hinweg und die den anderen „Rassen“ zugeschriebenen Eigenschaften legitimierten vor allem den Führungsanspruch der eigenen, „weißen Rasse“. (395)

Das rassenanthropologische Ordnungsmodell hat bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts auf einer Auswahl äußerlich sichtbarer Merkmale aufgebaut (Hautfarbe, Körperbau, Schädelform usw.). Mit den Anfängen der modernen Genetik lösten sich die biologischen Theorien vom Menschen in der Wende zum 20. Jahrhundert vom sichtbaren Äußeren des Menschen. Die sichtbare Erscheinung wurde nun „Phänotypus“ genannt und auf das Zusammenwirken von Erbanlagen und Umwelteinflüssen zurückgeführt. Die nicht direkt wahrnehmbaren Erbanlagen dagegen wurden als „Genotypus“ bezeichnet. Damit löste sich auch die humanbiologische Rassentheorie großteils von der konkreten Erscheinung zugunsten abstrakter Überlegungen, die von der Öffentlichkeit nicht mehr nachvollzogen werden konnten. (395)

Seit Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts klassifizierten und hierarchisierten europäische Gelehrte innerhalb einer naturgeschichtlich verstandenen Anthropologie Menschen als „Rassen“ und interpretierten das körperliche Erscheinungsbild eines Menschen als Veräußerungsform von bestimmten geistig-seelischen Eigenschaften, die für erblich und unveränderlich gehalten wurden. (391) Zum politischen Kampfbegriff wurde die „Rasse“ im Kontext der aristokratischen Gegenrevolution Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts im „Streit der zwei Rassen“, in dem die „Reinheit“ der „Rasse“ erstmals als Legitimationsgrundlage für den Herrschaftsanspruch der Aristokratie dienen soll. (391)

Die Rassentheorie war bereits im deutschen Kaiserreich zu einer Eliten-Ideologie geworden. (390) Etwa seit Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts entwickelte sich die Rassentheorie zur Eliten-Ideologie der deutschen akademischen Mittelschichten. Zu ihren wichtigsten Trägern zählten Biologen, Anthropologen und Ärzte. In der Zwischenkriegszeit nahm insbesondere die Zahl der Anhänger „rassenhygienischer“ Ideen (Eugenik) zu. (    ) Die Rassentheorie war während der NS-Diktatur ein von renommierten deutschen Wissenschaftlern vertretenes Denkmodell, von dem keineswegs alle nach 1945 abrückten. Dies hängt auch damit zusammen, dass dieses Denkmodell auch in anderen westlichen Gesellschaften etabliert war. (426)

Im NS-Staat wurde die eugenische Ideologie als „Erb- und Rassenhygiene“ propagiert. (430) Darüber hinaus wurde die Rassenideologie argumentativ mit Theoremen der eugenischen Bewegung verbunden, woraus sich ein angsterregendes Schreckensszenario vom drohenden Aussterben der „nordischen Rasse“ ergab. (430)

Inhalt der NS-Rassenideologie

Der NS-Rassenideologie zufolge konnten Menschen aufgrund ihres äußeren Erscheinungsbildes in „Rassen“ aufgeteilt werden, die ihren Nachkommen nicht nur körperliche Eigenschaften, sondern auch eine „Rassenseele“ vererben würden. (380)

Innerhalb der NS-Rassenideologie wurde vorausgesetzt, dass eine direkte Beziehung zwischen bestimmten physischen und psychischen Eigenschaften besteht und dass vom körperlichen Erscheinungsbild eines Menschen auf seine Seele und sein Verhalten schließen könne. (381) Die Rassenlehre bezog sich nicht nur auf den sichtbaren Körper, sondern auch auf das sichtbare Verhalten. (430)

Die NS-Rassenideologie läuft auf eine vollständige Biologisierung sozial und kulturell erworbener Merkmale eines Menschen hinaus. Charakteristisch ist die Darstellung von sozialen Interessenkonflikten als Verstoß gegen eine „naturgegebene“ Gesellschaftsordnung. Das biologistische Menschenbild negiert historische, kulturelle und gesellschaftliche Einflüsse auf das menschliche Dasein. (380)

Die Vielfalt der Menschen wurde durch die Rassenlehre auf wenige, statisch gedachte „Rassetypen“ reduziert, so dass sehr große Zahlen von Menschen gedanklich zusammengefasst und internationale politische Konflikte mit vermeintlich biologischen Anlagen der betreffenden „Rassen“ rational erklärt werden konnten. (382) „Rassen“ wurden als verabsolutierte überindividuelle Struktur zum vermeintlichen Subjekt von Geschichte (382).

„Nordische Rasse“

Die NS-Diktatur erhob die „nordische Rasse“ zum körperlich-seelischen Ideal für das gesamte deutsche Volk. Die der „Nordrasse“ zugeschriebenen Eigenschaften wurden als vorbildlich propagiert: ein schlanker und kräftiger Körper, ein langer, schmaler Schädel, blonde Haare und blaue Augen. Die rosig-weiße Haut galt als hellste aller „Rassen“ und deshalb sollte nur sie als „weiß“ bezeichnet werden. (405)

Der NS-Rassenlehre nach setzte sich das „deutsche Volk“ aus 6 Rassen zusammen, wobei der „nordische“ Anteil durch „Rassenpflege“ auf 50% gesteigert werden sollte. Zu diesem Zweck sollten die wertvollsten „rassischen“ Bestandteile in der Bevölkerung gesammelt und in beherrschende Stellungen gebracht werden. (380)

Schon zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts nahmen Teile der deutschen Gesellschaft den Norden Europas als unberührte Gegenwelt zu der sich modernisierenden Gesellschaft im eigenen Land wahr. Nordeuropa wurde zur Projektionsfläche für eine rassenbiologistische Utopie: die nordeuropäischen Völker wurden zu „germanischen Blutsverwandten“ erklärt und zu „Edelmenschen“. (405)

Die Verherrlichung der „Nordrasse“ bezog sich nicht allein auf den Körperbautypus eines Menschen, sondern auch auf seine vermeintlich direkt damit verbundene „Rassenseele“. (406) Der Rassekundler Hans F. K. Günther führte folgende seelische „Führereigenschaften“ der „nordischen Rasse“ an: herausragend seien die „Urteilsfähigkeit, Wahrhaftigkeit und Tatkraft“. Der „nordische“ Mensch beherrsche sich und zeige „eine sachliche, abwägende Haltung, die ihn oft als kühl und steif erscheinen lässt“, sein „Wirklichkeitssinn“ treibe ihn in Verbindung mit seiner „Tatkraft“ zu großen Unternehmungen an. Er entfalte „sachliche Leidenschaft, während ihm Leidenschaftlichkeit (…) fern liegt“. Im sozialen Umgang zeige er „wenig Neigung zur Einfühlung in das Wesen anderer Menschen“. (406) Günther beschrieb damit einen zeitgenössischen bürgerlichen deutschen Habitus und setzte diesen in direkte Beziehung zu einem bestimmten Körperbautyp, der als vorbildlich beurteilt wurde. (407)

Gleichsetzung von „Nordisch“ und „Arisch“

Die NS-Ideologie verband die visuelle Vorstellung von der „nordischen Rasse“ mit dem rassentheoretischen Geschichtsbild in Tradition von Houston Stewart Chamberlain, dass sowohl die von den deutschen Eliten als vorbildhafte Kultur der griechischen Antike als auch die vor noch längerer Zeit vermuteten „Arier“ als „nordisch“ interpretierte.

Obwohl die Ursprünge des Arischen zweifellos im Mittleren Osten zu suchen sind, fungierte der Begriff „Arier“ bereits seit der Kaiserzeit als ein Synonym für „christlich-deutsch“ und wurde in den Lexika der NS-Zeit ausdrücklich nur auf nordisch-germanische Rassetypen beschränkt. (407)

In der NS-Diktatur wurde zwischen höher- und minderwertigen Menschenrassen unterschieden und behauptet, nur „nordische“ Menschen würden über ein geistiges und schöpferisches Kulturpotential verfügen. Den anderen Menschenrassen wurde eine Kulturfähigkeit mehr oder weniger deutlich abgesprochen. (380)

Hitler führte die Mehrzahl der Fortschritte in Kunst und Wissenschaft auf die „Arier“ als einzig kulturschöpferische Rasse zurück, alle anderen Rassen hielt er für kulturlos und kulturzerstörerisch. Er behauptete wie die rassentheoretischen Vordenker, die kulturschöpfende Potenz der „Arier“ sei durch „Rassenkreuzung“ und „Blutsvermischung“ bedroht, denn dies führe zu Degeneration und Kulturzerfall. (407)

Der NSDAP-Ideologe erklärte genauer, das antike Griechenland als „nordische“ Hochkultur sei durch die „Rassenmischung“ zwischen Griechen und Türken zerfallen. (408) Hitler meinte, das deutsche „Blut“ müsse „rein“ gehalten werden, weil „Blutsvermischung“ zur „Senkung des Rasseniveaus“ führen würde. (407)

Rassenmischung

Der französische Graf Arthur de Gobinau vertrat Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts in seinem Essai „Über die Ungleichheit der Menschenrassen“ die Auffassung, die Menschen auf der Welt seien in drei Hauptrassen aufteilbar und die „weiße arische Rasse“ sei die Krönung der Schöpfung. „Rassenmischung“ führe zum Kulturverfall, weil eine „Mischrasse“ zu keinen höheren Kulturleistungen fähig sei. Er meinte, die „Germanen“ seien der letzte „rein erhaltene Zweig“ der „Arier“ und durch „Vermischung“ mit fremden Völkern bedroht. (391f.) Die von Richard Wagner ins Leben gerufene deutsche Gobineau-Gesellschaft ergänzte diese Behauptungen um die Idee, den vermeintlichen Verfall der „arischen Rasse“ durch „Züchtung“ entgegen treten zu können. (392)

An Gobineau anknüpfend behauptete Houston Stewart Chamberlain in „Die Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts“ (1899), die „Arier“ seien „reinrassige“ Kulturträger und stünden seit der Antike in einem „Rassenkampf“ mit den „Juden“ als „Mischlingsrasse“. Seine rassentheoretische Geschichtsklitterung wurde im Deutschen Reich breitenwirksam, das Kaiser Wilhelm II. Chamberlains Veröffentlichung zur Pflichtlektüre in der Ausbildung deutscher Oberlehrer machte. (392) In dieser Zeit war die Rassenideologie auch ein konstitutives Element der Weltanschauung des deutschen Kaisers. (392)

In der NS-Diktatur schließlich wurde schon den Schulkindern beigebracht, die Kultur eines Volkes sei abhängig von seiner „Rasse“ und die deutsche Kultur stehe in der Tradition der Germanen, denen die „Juden“ völlig wesensfremd seien. (358)

Das deutsch-germanische „Volksgesicht“

In der öffentlichen Bildwelt der NS-Diktatur stand – wie in der dazugehörigen Politik – nicht das Individuum im Zentrum der Aufmerksamkeit, sondern das vermeintlich körperlich und seelisch Typische großer Gruppen. (430)

Erna Lendvai-Dircksen schloss mit ihren Büchern zum „deutschen Volksgesicht“ an die agrarromantische und großstadtfeindliche Ideenwelt an, die unter der Parole „Blut und Boden“ bekannt wurde und von den „völkischen“ Gruppierungen der Weimarer Republik und dem agrarpolitischen Apparat der NSDAP getragen wurde. Dahinter stand die Vorstellung von einer auf eine „heimatliche Scholle“ bezogenen sozialen und biologischen Einheit der Deutschen, die durch „Entwurzelung“ bedroht werde. (358)

Das „völkische“ Verständnis von der deutschen Nation wurde schon im letzten Drittel des 19. Jahrhunderts zur vorherrschenden Ideologie im preußisch dominierten deutschen Kaiserreich. (359)

Die „völkischen“ Gruppen in der Weimarer Republik hingen auch der Vorstellung von einer „rassischen Hierarchie“ an, die mit der „Volksgemeinschafts“-Ideologie verbunden war. (379)

Das völkische Verständnis von der deutschen Nation widerspricht dem demokratisch-republikanischen Nationsbegriff, demzufolge „Nation“ eine politische und „Volk“ eine ethnische Kategorie ist, so dass sich eine Nation aus demokratisch-republikanischer Perspektive auch aus mehreren Völkern zusammensetzen kann. (359)

Das „Durchschnittsbild“ als Vorläufer des „Volksgesichts“

Die ikonologischen Wurzeln des im NS propagierten deutschen „Volksgesichts“ liegen in der Kaiserzeit und der zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch elitären rassenanthropologisch-eugenischen Ideenwelt. (430) Lendvai-Dircksens „Volksgesicht“ gingen die „Durchschnittsbilder“ voraus. (386)

Die preußische Regierung errichtete 1871 einen nicht-demokratischen Staat in Gestalt eines Kaiserreichs. Nun machten die an der Herrschaft beteiligten Eliten „von oben“ ein vermeintliches „Wesen“ des deutschen Volkes zum Knotenpunkt der nationalen Identitätsbildung und suchten dies im Christlichen, im Arisch-Germanischen und im Biologischen. (396)

Seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts finden sich „Veranschaulichungen“ eines neuen Denkstils der westlichen Eliten in Gestalt von „Durchschnittsbildern“ oder „composite photographs“. Sie wurden innerhalb eines länderübergreifenden Netzwerks von Gelehrten etwa 1890-1920 diskutiert. Überliefert ist u.a. ein Durchschnittsbild sächsischer Soldaten, das aus den Hinterlassenschaften des ersten Professors für Fotografie an der TH Dresden (Robert Luther) zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts zählt. Er hatte das Bild von dem Kunstwissenschaftler Georg Treu erhalten, der nachzuweisen versuchte, dass die klassische griechische Kunst das reinste Schönheitsideal aufweise, das zeit- und ortsunabhängig gültig sei. (385) Für seine Forschungen nutze er auch Durchschnittsbilder, auf die er durch Veröffentlichungen von Henry Pickering Bowditch von der Harvard Medical School aufmerksam geworden war. Bowditch hatte in den 1890er Jahren von General von Funcke in Dresden sächsische Soldaten als Foto-Objekte zur Verfügung gestellt bekommen. Aus zahlreichen Aufnahmen von unterschiedlichen einzelnen Köpfen wurde schließlich durch Mehrfachbelichtung dieser Aufnahmen auf ein- und dieselbe Fläche ein Durchschnittsfoto der Soldaten hergestellt. (386) Die Durchschnittsfotografie sächsischer Soldaten sollte mit einem auf gleiche Weise hergestellten „Durchschnittsgesicht“ slawischer Soldaten verglichen werden. Treu und Bowditch behaupteten, der „germanische“ Kopf sei runder und der „slawische“ eckiger. (386)

In der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts wurde es in Preußen üblicher, von einer Überlegenheit der Deutschen den Polen gegenüber auszugehen. Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts wurden insbesondere die Polen in Posen zu Objekten eines zunehmend kolonialen Selbstverständnisses des deutschen Kaiserreichs. (396) Die anhaltende Migration aus dem geteilten Polen nach Westen in das Deutsche Reich hinein und darüber hinaus wurde zu einem Politikum, das rassentheoretisch argumentierende Deutschnationale als „Überschwemmung“ der Deutschen durch „die Slawen“ darstellten. (398) Das deutsche Kaiserreich strebte imperiale Weltgeltung an und betrieb nach innen und außen Kolonialpolitik. (399) Die in der antipolnischen Publizistik der Kaiserzeit einsetzende Polarisierung zwischen „Germanen“ und „Slawen“ war eine gedankliche Abstraktion und Imagination, die den politischen Wirklichkeiten vor Ort nicht gerecht wurde. Die „Durchschnitsfotografien“ sächsischer und wendischer Soldaten waren nicht nur eine Synthese „naturwissenschaftlicher“ Menschenbilder mit ästhetischen Wertvorstellungen. Sie repräsentieren auch eine abstrahierende bildliche Vorstellung der kaiserzeitlichen Eliten von ihrem „Volk“ in einem rassenideologisch-eugenischen Kontext. (402)

Der Erfinder der Durchschnittsbild-Methode war Sir Francis Galton, von ihm stammte auch die von den beiden zuvor genannten übernommene Hypothese, die Durchschnittsbilder würden Schlussfolgerungen über die Nationalität, Rasse und Intelligenz der betreffenden Gruppe gezogen werden. (386)

Galton gilt als Begründer der „Eugenik“ (engl. Eugenics). Er wollte mit quantitativen Methoden die Grundlage für die soziale Selektion von Menschen schaffen, um die Qualität der „britischen Rasse“ zu verbessern. Mit seinen Publikationen zur Erblichkeit von Intelligenz und Begabung legte er die wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen für ein Konzept zur „Veredelung“ der Gesellschaft, das er seit 1883 als Eugenik bezeichnete: die vermeintlich zu hohen Geburtenzahlen von Schwachen, Kranken und Armen sollten reduziert und die angeblich zu niedrigen Geburtenzahlen von Intelligenten, Gesunden und Reichen sollten gesteigert werden. (386f.) Die Eugenik gewann vor allem durch die neue, „biologische“ Perspektive auf den Menschen an Bedeutung. (387) Sie komplettierte das Arsenal der Argumentationsfiguren der Sozialdarwinisten, die Darwins Evolutionstheorie auf das gesellschaftliche Leben zu übertragen trachteten und die Auffassung vertraten, Menschen seien biologisch zu bestimmten Positionen in der Gesellschaft determiniert. (387) Die eugenische Bewegung etablierte sich gegen Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts auch in den wirtschaftlichen und politischen Eliten des deutschen Kaiserreichs und wurde an den deutschen Universitäten unter dem Begriff „Rassenhygiene“ institutionalisiert. (390)

Die Definitionsmacht einer Minderheit von Wissenschaftlern wurde zu einem Machtinstrument zur Beherrschung einer Mehrheit. (388)

Visuelle Feindbilder

Die Physiognomik lieferte v. a. Erklärungen zur Binnenstrukturierung der äußerlich durchaus verschiedenen Deutschen. (361) Die Rassenlehre diente dagegen primär zur wissenschaftlich rationalisierten Ausgrenzung und Abwertung von „Juden“ und „Fremdvölkischen“. (361)

Feindbilder „Degenerierte“

Seit Darwins Evolutionstheorie erschien die Grenze zwischen „Mensch“ und „nichtmenschlichem Tier“ fließender zu werden. Europäische Rassenanthropologen knüpften daran an und meinten, die außereuropäischen „Rassen“ hätten den Prozess der Menschwerdung noch nicht abgeschlossen und auch die Europäer könnten „degenerieren“ und auf „tierische“ Lebensformen zurücksinken. „Geisteskranke“ wurden nun auf einer Entwicklungsstufe zwischen Mensch und Tier angesiedelt. (387f.)

Die nationalsozialistische „Erb- und Rassenhygiene“ lief auf einen die deutsche Gesellschaft betreffenden Zuchtgedanken hinaus. Ausgegrenzt werden sollten zunächst „Erbkranke“, „Asoziale“ und „Juden“. Die entsprechenden Gesetze zur Legalisierung entsprechender staatlicher Ausgrenzungsmaßnahmen werden Mitte der 1930er Jahre verabschiedet (Gesetz gegen Gewohnheitsverbrecher 1934, Erbgesundheitsgesetz 1935, Blutschutzgesetz/Nürnberger Gesetze 1935). (428)

Der visuelle Ausgrenzungsprozess wurde in der NS-Diktatur sogar zu einem Bestandteil des staatlichen Gesundheitswesens. Im Kontext der staatlichen „Erb- und Rassenpflege“ wurde das „Fremde“ und „Kranke“ durch ästhetische Geschmacksurteile im Gewand der medizinischen Expertise ausgeschlossen. „Arisierte“ deutsche Ärzte beurteilten die ihnen anvertrauten Menschen bezogen auf ein Leitbild vom „erbgesunden“, überindividuellen deutschen „Volkskörper“ mit „nordischem Rasseideal“. Das ästhetische Geschmacksurteil über den Körper eines Menschen wurde im medizinischen Bereich zu einem ärztlichen Urteil über den „rassischen“ Erbwert eines Menschen für den „Volkskörper“ und einem nur darauf aufbauenden Lebensrecht. (409) Diese Vorgänge schlagen sich auch in der visuellen Kommunikation nieder: Unter dem NS-Regime wurden wiederholt visuelle Darstellungen „abnormer“ oder „degenerierter“ menschlicher Körper dazu eingesetzt, um bei den Betrachtern Ängste, Ekel und Verachtung hervorzurufen. Der „abnorme“ Körper galt als ein Anzeichen für einen „kranken“ Geist. (409)

Die unter dem NS-Regime popularisierte Ikonografie des „abnormen“ Menschen schloß an die schon 1876 von dem italienischen Arzt Cesare Lombroso Auffassung an, es gebe „geborene Verbrecher“, die sich in ihrem Körperbau von anderen Menschen unterscheiden. Sein Schüler Hans Kurella erklärte 1893, „zum Verbrechen geborene“ Menschen würden typische körperliche Merkmale aufweisen: einen zu kleinen oder zu großen Schädel, dichtes und dunkles Haar, ein asymmetrisches Gesicht, deformierte Ohren, große und breite oder lange und dünne Nasen. (409)

Unter dem NS-Regime gingen das ästhetische Geschmacksurteil, die „Rassenhygiene“ und die Kriminalanthropologie fließend ineinander über. (409) Dementsprechend wurden die Häftlinge des KZ Dachau in der NSDAP-Parteizeitschrift „Illustrierter Beobachter“ präsentiert als „Missgestalten“ mit tiefliegenden Augen, hohlen Wangen, schiefen Mündern, abstehenden Ohren, Narben usw. (410).

Feindbilder „Fremdvölkische“ und „Fremdrassige“

Von Bedeutung für die beabsichtigte Ikonografie der „völkischen“ Porträtfotografie ist die von der Herstellerin mitbeabsichtigte Ausgrenzung „undeutscher“ Physiognomien. (364) Erna Lendvai-Dircksen sprach sich 1933 ganz ausdrücklich für eine Ausgrenzung von ästhetischen Gestalten „fremden Stils“ aus der deutschen Bildwelt aus, weil damit „keine Volksgemeinschaft möglich“ sei.

Feindbilder / Juden

Das regierungsamtlich gesteuerte visuelle Selbstbild der Deutschen unter dem NS-Regime erschließt sich primär in Bezug auf das auch visuell zum Ausdruck gebrachte Feindbild „Jude“. Die NS-Pressepropaganda benutzte während des Zweiten Weltkriegs Juden als zentrales Feindbild, mit dem weitere Feindbilder assoziiert wurden. Beispielsweise wurde auch die antipolnische NS-Propaganda wiederholt eng mit antisemitischer Propaganda verknüpft. (384)

Feindbilder / Polen

Um die visuelle Darstellung der Polen in der nationalsozialistischen Bildwelt des Zweiten Weltkriegs zu verstehen, ist es sinnvoll, sich bewusst zu machen, dass die gedankliche Grenze zwischen Europa und Asien zu Beginn des Zweiten Weltkriegs vom NS-Regime an die Westgrenze der Sowjetunion verlegt wurde – und damit durch das zuvor polnische Staatsgebiet verlief. (420)

Rassekundliche Forschung

Im NS-Staat untermauerte die rassenkundliche Forschung die Ideologie und Politik der NSDAP wissenschaftlich. Auch die polnische Zivilbevölkerung wurde zum Gegenstand der deutschsprachigen Rasseforschung. (420)

Insbesondere im Reichsgau Wartheland entstand ein sich professionalisierendes und radikalisierendes Zentrum rassekundlicher Selektion von Menschen. Rasse- und Volkstumsexperten der SS versuchten hier in Zusammenarbeit mit der deutschen Zivilverwaltung und der Reichsuniversität Posen ihre „volkstumspolitischen“ Maßnahmen auf eine wissenschaftliche Grundlage zu stellen. (422f.) Mit der Einführung des DVL-Verfahrens in allen „eingegliederten Ostgebieten“ 1941 wurde im Warthegau eine „rassische Musterung“ der Einwohner nach Maßgabe des RuSHA der SS durchgesetzt, die auch in anderen deutsch besetzten Gebieten Osteuropas angewandt wurde und im Warthegau 1943 zu einem vorläufigen Abschluss kam. (426) Die Anthropologen Egon von Eickstedt und Ilse Schwidetzky rechneten mit „Rasseformeln“ vermeintlich prozentgenaue „Rasseanteile“ einzelner Menschen in den eingegliederten Ostgebieten aus. (420f.)

An der „Reichsuniversität Posen“ wurde anwendungsorientierte Rasseforschung für die NS-Diktatur betrieben. Hier führten beispielsweise der „Völkerpsychologe“ Rudolf Hippius und der Biologe Konrad Lorenz in Kooperation mit SS-Funktionären rasse-relevante Untersuchungen an der Zivilbevölkerung durch. Hierzu zählte insbesondere auch die „Mischlingsforschung“ als ein spezieller Forschungszweig, der ohne die Rassenideologie keinerlei Existenzberechtigung gehabt hätte. Rudolf Hippius untersuchte 1942 deutsch-polnische „Mischlinge“ psychologisch, um nachzuweisen, dass die der Grad der „Rassenmischung“ auf die psychische Struktur eines Menschen auswirke. Er setzte voraus, das Deutsche und Polen grundsätzlich verschiedene Persönlichkeitsstrukturen aufweisen und dass eine deutsche Herrschaft über Polen legitim sei, weil diese nur unter Zwang zu „einem regelmäßigen und geordneten Kräfteeinsatz bereit“ seien. Er gelangte zu dem leicht voraussehbaren Ergebnis, dass „Rassenmischung“ zwischen Deutschen und Polen zu „charakterlicher Entharmonisierung“ führe. (421, 422)

Heinrich Himmler glaubte, „nordische“ Kinder seien schöpferischer als „Rassemischlinge“ und die Polen hätten nur durch „nordische“ Deutsche Anschluss an Europa gefunden. Er fantasierte, „minderwertige fremde Wirtsvölker“ wie die Polen würden den Deutschen „nordisches Blut“ abringen wollen, weil alle kulturellen und staatenbildenden Leistungen auf die „nordische Rasse“ zurückgehen würden. (421)

Link zum Weiterlesen der kompletten Präsentation:

Mit dem Begriff „Rassismus“ wird ein bestimmtes gesellschaftliches Macht- und Gewaltverhältnis bezeichnet, in dem die herrschenden Gruppen eine sehr große Zahl von Menschen nach körperlichen und kulturellen Merkmalen unterscheiden. Ihnen werden vermeintlich typische Charakter- und Verhaltensmerkmale zugeschrieben, die eine angeblich „natürliche“ Hierarchie der Menschen implizieren. Die „rassischen“ Eigenschaftszuschreibungen dienen dabei dazu, eine Ungleichbehandlung der Menschen im wirtschaftlichen und politischen Leben zu rechtfertigen … weiterlesen als PDF

 

Gertrud Kolmar: Tierträume


Gertrud Kolmar

Eine faszinierende Sprache. Im Kontext mit unserem Interesse an “Erzälliteratur, Dichtung und Tierrechten” haben wir die Gedichte: Tierträume von G. Kolmar entdeckt und wollen daraus einige gerne den Leser_innen, die noch nicht mit G. Komlar vertraut sind, vorstellen. In diesem Zusammenhang empfehlen wir unbedingt auch sich diesen Blogeintrag anzusehen: A. Marie Houser: Literaturkörper: Erzählliteratur ist Aktivismus.

Aus: Getrud Kolmar – Tierträume. Quelle: LiteraTisch.de. Eine sehr empfehlenswerte Seite, die sich mit den im Nazi-Regime verbotenen Schriftsteller_innen befasst und ihrer gedenkt.

Trauerspiel

Der Tiger schreitet seine Tagereise
Viel Meilen fort.
Zuweilen gegen Abend nimmt er Speise
Am fremden Ort.

Die Eisenstäbe: alles, was dahinter
Vergeht und säumt,
Ist Schrei und Stich und frostig fahler Winter
Und nur geträumt.

Er gleitet heim: und mußte längst verlernen,
Wie Heimat sprach.
Der Käfig stutzt und wittert sein Entfernen
Und hetzt ihm nach.

Er flackert heller aus dem blinden Schmerze,
Den er nicht nennt,
Nur eine goldne rußgestreifte Kerze,
Die glitzernd sich zu Tode brennt.

Der Drache

So will ich liegen – da die Hand mir schweigt,
Da sich die volle Schale zu mir neigt,
Ein einz’ger Tropfen aus der Schale fällt,
Doch mit dem Tropfen die gekrönte Welt
Der Stille.

Es schwillt, es bildet sich und nimmt Gestalt.
Das Auge leuchtet tausend Jahre alt,
Und nun ihm brauner Fetzenflügel wächst,
Der Glanzschweif sich um Sternenespe hext,
Erkenn’ ich’s.

Schon kriecht es duckig, erzgeschuppt die Haut,
Den Klumpfuß meinem Teppich eingeklaut;
Aus seiner Pferdenüster, rundgebläht,
Tanzt Flammensense auf, die Träume mäht
In Schwaden.

Mit seinem Maule zückt es manches Wort,
Und wenn es redet, heb’ den Kopf ich fort;
Denn was es weiß, ist alles seltsam wahr,
Ist, wie der Mond von totem Froste, klar
Und scheinend.

»Sie haben aus den Höhlen mich gebannt,
Sie haben mit den Büchern mich verbrannt,
In finstren Napf gestellt ihr weißes Licht;
Es steigt an meiner Glut und will mich nicht
Erschlagen.«

»Und bin ich dienstbar nicht wie Stuhl und Tisch
Und minder selbst als Fittichtier und Fisch,
Doch bin ich Kap, daran dein Schoner birst
Und das du leugnest, bis du scheitern wirst
In Stürmen.«

»Du nennst die Inseln: Tod, Unsterblichkeit.
Hörst du das Leben, das aus Steinen schreit ?
Siehst du die Zuckungen des Staubgesichts ?
Du glaubst: Hier Gottes Himmel – dort das Nichts.
Ich bin ein Drittes.«

Aquarium

Immer wieder an ein Glas zu stoßen,
Immer wieder sich im Kreis zu drehn,
Statt geschmückt in wunderbaren, großen,
Lebenden Gewässern hinzuwehn.

Immer wieder sich an schalen Happen
Wohlzutun im laulich dumpfen Tang,
Statt mit kleinem, buntem Maul zu schnappen
Grünes Licht und kühlen, frischen Fang.

Immer wieder Härte anzufühlen,
Fahlen Sandes eine dünne Schicht,
Statt dem tiefen Grunde sich zu wühlen
An das braune, wärmende Gesicht.

Immer wieder Strand mit bösen Dingen,
Da das Fischlein krank und kämpfend liegt,
Wenn es heftig, unbedacht im Springen,
Seine karge Heimat überfliegt;

Nur ein rasch gehemmtes Auf und Nieder,
Kurze Blitze, links und rechts geschnellt,
Immer wieder, ach, und immer wieder
Kennt ein Ende diese kleinste Welt!

In den Fernen lagern schwarze Teiche,
Stirbt ein regenbogener Quellenfall,
Führt das weite Strömen seine Leiche
In ein Grab von fliehendem Kristall.

Auch die Fische mögen heimlich träumen,
Was ihr Herz wie Menschenbrust befreit:
Klare blaue Welle und das Schäumen
Süßer Meere der Unendlichkeit.

Der Rosenkäfer

Es ist ein elend Sein, es ist ein Ding der Dinge,
Der Splitter, abgefeilt von Gottes Siegelringe.

Ihr nennt es Junistern, der blauen Tagen gleißt,
Ich nenn’ es Zaubertier, gezeugt im Blumengeist,

Den uns kein Kräutermann noch Wunderarzt verhandelt,
Den höchste Alchimie allein erkennt und wandelt;

Denn dies, der Rose Licht und Blut, davon es zehrt,
Ist, was sich ihm zu grün und braunem Golde kehrt.

Die Rehe

O Frauen, die in Nacht zerrinnen!
O Männer, die an Weisern stehn!
Euch bleibt ein kurzes Sichbesinnen,
Dann müßt ihr wenden und vergehn.
Mag sein, in traurigem Vergeben,
Mag sein, in trotzigem Sichheben:
Ihr sinkt doch waldwärts mit den Rehn.

Die Rehe suchen reinre Pfade
Durch Indischmoos, an Brombeerwand;
Des Waldes lieblichste Ballade
Hegt Vogelnest, spielt Buchenhand,
Doch ihnen wachsen manchmal Träume
Aus Häuptern, kleine braune Bäume
Auf einem braunen Fleckchen Land.

So sanfte Augen. Drinnen dämmert
All ihrer Monde Zug und Hauch.
Ein Quell erklingt. Ein Blauspecht hämmert.
Ein Grünes gilbt am Haselstrauch.
Dann leiden sie Geflock und Winde,
So leiden Mütter still am Kinde,
So leiden sie die Kugel auch.

Sind hingestürzt und tot gefunden
Mit stumm zerbrochenem Gesicht.
Wer löschte achtlos ihre Stunden
Und hütet seine als ein Licht ?
Ist dieses Wesen denn so nichtig,
Nur euer Leben gar so wichtig ?
Ach, wüßtet ihr’s. Ihr wißt es nicht.

Quelle – eine empfehlenswerte Seite:
https://www.literatisch.de/gertrud-kolmar-tiertraeume.html

Links: 30.11.2019

Ein geteilter Raum

Ich lese diesen Kommentar hier vor für Menschen mit Sehbehinderung (MP3)

Ich glaube, dass jeder Mensch nicht weniger mit einem Gegenstand, den er betrachtet, in Zusammenhang zu setzen ist, als mit einem anderen – unabhängig davon, wie sehr, wie viel oder wie wenig er sich mit einer Sache befasst. Menschen setzen sich mit Tieren auseinander, in passiver oder aktiver Weise, konstruktiv, destruktiv, ignorant oder empathisch oder irgend etwas dazwischen. Ich glaube insofern nicht, dass wir gesonderte, segregierte Bereiche für die Belange von Tieren und gleichermaßen für die Mensch Tier-Beziehung benötigen. Ganz im Gegenteil, ich glaube es gilt statt segregierter Räume zu schaffen (> pigeonholes für Tier- und Naturthemen), sinnvollere, kontextualisierende neue Perspektiven zu erlangen.

Mir fällt in diesem Zusammenhang immer wieder auf, wie wenig ein moralisches oder ethisches Bewusstsein sich nur partiell äußern kann. Wenn ein Mensch sich seiner Umwelt gegenüber verantwortlich fühlt, dann ist das in der Regel immer eine Art ganzheitlicher Prozess. Moral und Ethik funktionieren in der Praxis nicht ausschnittsweise, wenn auch in der Theorie.

Es ist schwer sich in diesen Tagen mit eigener Kreativität, eigenen Gedanken und Aktionen in den aktuellen aktivistischen Diskurs, der Tierrechte mit umfasst, mit-einzubringen und nicht nur in gedankliche Chöre mit einzustimmen. Ich denke das ist genau deswegen so, weil ständig gesonderte Räume für den nichtmenschlichen Bereich geschaffen werden. Mein menschlicher Belang, so wie er mich tagtäglich anbetrifft, gliedert faktisch den Alltagsspeziezismus aus, und meine menschliche Subjektivität soll den subjektiven Realitätsebenen der Tierheit nicht begegnen. Weshalb ist es sonst so schwer eine Brücke zu schlagen zwischen meinen menschlichen subjektiven Erlebnissen in dieser Gesellschaft und denen der Tiere und der Diskussion über sie? Segregation, die noch mehr Segregation schafft.

Durch eine Segregierung von subjektiven Räumen findet eine wenn auch theoretisch-ethische Objektifizierung statt (‘ich begegne den Tieren als Subjekten nicht selbst als Subjekt‘). Das Tierthema wird behandelt, es steht aber nicht im unmittelbar gelebten Zusammenhang mit meiner ethischen Alltagspraxis, was meine subjektiven Denk- und Erlebnisstrukturen anbetrifft. Alles, was mein Menschsein betrifft darf ich subjektiv durchstreifen, aber das Tierthema untersteht allgemeiner Definitionshoheit. Wir befragen und überlassen die Diskursräume denen, die sich dazu autorisiert fühlen. Wir wollen auch nicht hören, was Hinz und Kunz dazu zu sagen haben. Aber wenn es um uns Menschen geht, um uns selbst, dann wie bereits gesagt spielt die subjektive Urteilskraft eine ganz zentrale und befähigende Rolle.

Der Aktivismus ist eingeschränkt auf segregierte, getrennte Räume. Manche sprechen von der Problematik der Binäre ( > Mensch versus Natur, etc.). Die Trennungen und Zuordnungen sind aber noch komplizierter als die eines Binärs und sie sind auch nicht durch theoretische Standpunkte und punktuellen Aktionismus alleine zu überwinden, sondern durch eine Auflösung der Konstrukte, die solche Denkweisen überhaupt erst aus sich heraus generieren:

Ein zentrales Beispiel dessen wäre die stetige biologistische Zuordnung von Tierthemen auch unter Tierrechtsaktivist_innen, statt einer Bewusstmachung der Ursachen und möglichen Motivationen für solche kategorischen Zuordnungen auf menschlicher Seite. In der Theorie wird keine Lösung gefunden, weil die vorgefassten Argumentationsstränge teils nicht zur Hand sind, nicht formuliert werden oder teils nicht bis ins allgemeine Bewusstsein von Aktivist_innen vorrücken oder in die Praxis umgesetzt werden.

Wie durchbricht man sozial-geistige Konstrukte, die das Denken von Menschen, auch unser eigenes, beeinflussen? Im mindesten indem man selbstständig beobachtet und kanonisierte kollektive Haltungen kritisch zu hinterfragen bereit ist. Trotz allen eigenen Denkens ist es aber ungleich schwer gegenwärtig in einem allgemein als nicht-subjektiv verstandenen Raum selbst-denkend mitzuwirken.

(Ich glaube wir können “den Menschen” nur ertragen, wenn er nicht selbst denkt. Menschen schließen sich lieber allgemein formulierten Glaubenssätzen mit Teilüberschneidung zu ihrem Denken an, das durch eine Gemeinschaft gefiltert worden ist, als in einer sozialen Welt unverstanden zu bleiben weil sie allein-denkendes Individuum sind. Viele Menschen sind durch kollektivistische Ideale beeinflusst und bestimmt – auch wenn sie es sich selbst oft nicht wirklich eingestehen wollen, weil man hat ja seine eigene Meinung!)

Für mich bleibt eine Fragen offen, und das ist genau die, an der mein Aktivismus und meine eigene Meinung ansetzt, und zwar:

Wie soll unsere theoretische Ethik im Bezug auf die von uns geschaffenen compartmentalized subjects, die wir eben auch im Aktivismus reproduzieren, zu fundamentalen Veränderungen führen? Eine fundamentale Veränderung wäre für mich gegeben, wenn wir Denkstrukturen der Segregation grundsätzlich aufbrechen und im Bezug auf Tiere und die Umwelt hat das Segregierende eine ganz eigene Bedeutsamkeit und Tragweite.

“Segregation” in terms of Nonhumans and Humans implies segregated ethics, segregated subjectivity, segregated attributions, segregated environmental comprehension.

“Segregation” im Bezug auf Nichtmenschen und Menschen beinhaltet eine segregierte Ethik, eine segregierte Subjektivität, segregierte Attribuierungen und ein segregiertes Verständnis der Umwelt.

Text: G. Yegane Arani

An Interview with Syl Ko

kts8

Jahrgang 6, Nr. 1, Art. 1, ISSN 2363-6513, Februar 2019

An Interview with Syl Ko

This text as a PDF

Activism in terms of an epistemological revolution

Palang: You have phrased and drafted a comprehensive philosophical and sociological approach to crucial questions of nonhuman animal and human oppression and the oppression of the natural in Aphro-ism. The fundamental approach supports an, as you call it epistemological revolution. How do you think can each one of us bring ourselves into action and discourse an become visible in context with newer approaches that seem to not be fitting the predominant patterns of the discussions so far? Not everyone feels able to write what she/he thinks and yet the individuals have awesome critical and constructive approaches, in other words I feel people who would endorse a fundamental revolution stay invisible particularly in terms of Animal Liberation (in context with the human and nature complex) since the majority the AR/AL movement still hold up the humanity-animality-binary view by not (yet) making the very epistemological ethical leaps or moves that are necessary. How could we tackle invisibility in these mainstreams or how could we become more distinct, in other words which approaches in activism do you think seem helpful to go the path of an EPISTEMOLOGICAL REVOLUTION?

Syl: Thank you, palang, for your incredible and insightful questions. The reader should be aware that you and I are corresponding in two different languages so there may be a few minor translation errors. I haven’t noticed any that disrupt the core content of our conversation. Also,  I should mention from the start that I’ll address each of your questions on my own behalf as I cannot speak for Aph. (1)  As you can see in Aphro-ism, we don’t agree on a few points, so my words here should be taken to represent only my own views on these matters. With that being said, let’s talk a little about the epistemological revolution.  Epistemology is a word not used in ordinary talk, so I’d like to take a step back and briefly fill out the picture a bit.

Everyone has some familiarity with epistemology even if you’ve never heard or used that word before.  For instance, everyone has wondered at some point:  how do I really know if I’m not dreaming right now?  Is there some infallible test that would tell me whether I am awake or dreaming?  That is one of the most famous and enduring epistemological questions ever asked, most famously by the philosopher Rene Descartes. Descartes did not pose this question as an empty exercise in mental flexing. Rather, he was trying to save science! In his time, the prevailing scientific view was that of the Scholastics, a school of thinkers influenced by Aristotelian thinking. Very crudely put, the Scholastics believed that explaining the behavior of physical phenomena, such as an apple falling to the ground, involved something more than what we now call physical laws. They thought the apple possessed its own soul-like substance that “willed” the apple to the ground.

Descartes was rightly concerned about such claims. He believed it was silly to think the apple moves toward the ground due to its having a willing soul and, more importantly, was concerned that such a claim was grounded in speculation as opposed to something that is true and justifiable. The kind of claims the Scholastics were making were not certain, and uncertain claims make for a bad science. (By the way, the word ‘science’ comes from the Latin ‘scientia,’ which means an indubitable truth. The natural sciences and philosophy emerged as one project.) We don’t want to build scientific laws on shaky foundations for the same reason we don’t want to build our homes on sand. So, Descartes set out to determine whether there was anything one could really ever know and start from there. If we can find at least one thing for which we can say we have true and justified belief, we can use that case to determine what are the criteria for having true and justified beliefs – knowledge- in general. And that is why he started with questioning the very foundational claim we take for granted every day that is the assumption that ordinary, perceptual experience is real! (2)

For another easy example of our familiarity with epistemology, just think of a time you’ve been in a squabble with someone and they told you, well, that’s just your opinion!  And you responded with, it is not just my opinion- I know it to be true! Here we have a clear epistemological distinction being set out that, despite the disagreement at hand, both participants will clearly agree on: first, there is a discernible difference between having an opinion and knowing something and, second, knowing something is superior to merely having an opinion about it. Every time you are dealing with these kinds of fundamental questions and discussions about the very nature of knowledge, you are doing some epistemology, even if only informally. I take great pains to go into these details because I want to impress that epistemological questions are not pointless, mental masturbatory fodder. Rather, they carry immense weight and have informed most, if not all, major cognitive shifts throughout human history.  So, I want your reader to understand why that is.

But many things that can be known are actually fictions of our own making. As a result, they are not fixed or static over time.  We tend to think of reality as that which the natural sciences give us information about. But many thinkers disagree. Understanding or knowing something about reality boils down to gathering information not only about the physical world but also the social world, which is purely fictional but, because we all participate in it, it is also real in a different way. Some thinkers, especially in the decolonial tradition,  stress that if it is true that physical and social reality work together to give us the objective world, then different social realities in the same physical world give us different objective worlds. What is it know something is contingent upon one’s social world. Therefore, what it is for something to be a true and justified belief is not an individual achievement, but a collective one.(3)

Consider the following example. The scholar Ramon Grosfoguel notes in his article “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities:  Epistemic Racism/ Sexism and the Four Genocides/ Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century”, within hours of arriving at what he thought was India, the explorer Christopher Columbus concluded that the indigenous people living there lacked a religion.(4)(5) Columbus was not evil to draw this conclusion; rather, he did what we do all of the time: we think within the terms of the social world that we know. In Columbus’ social reality (which was a fiction specific to his region), what it was to possess a religion looked a specific way. For instance, religion was probably monotheistic, associated with particular rituals that would call to mind worship, having certain codes of dress, and so on.  The very conception of religion Columbus was working with in general was very provincial. If the people he encountered in the Americas had a religion, he would not have even known it, unless he would have taken the time to gain internal access to their practices.

There’s another thing worth mentioning. Why did it matter whether the indigenous people had a religion? Well, in Columbus’ social world, all humans had a religion because all humans had a soul. (Notice this is another huge epistemological leap. But from the internal perspective of his world’s way of knowing it was completely logical.) Maybe some of the religions were the wrong religions (in those days, Judaism and Islam were wrong religions and Christianity was the right religion) but religion must appear wherever humans appear. So, when Columbus and his team concluded that the people he encountered were without a religion, it made sense- it was truly logical- to draw the further conclusion that there is something not human about these people. According to his social world, and the epistemology that molded it, it was a true and justified belief. Do you know what the very first philosophical debate was in the “new world”? You probably guessed it: whether or not the indigenous people should be thought of as having souls, or, in other words, whether or not they were properly “human.”  For this reason- and this is going to sound strange- Columbus was extremely progressive for his time: he thought anyone in our species could be converted to Christianity, which means that, unlike many of his peers, he thought all humans were properly “human.” (6)

Grosfoguel tracks the subtle but disastrous epistemological shift that occurred during these debates: facts about one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, were transformed into facts about the degree of one’s humanity. Do you see what happened there? What was once knowledge about, say, the status of Judaism or Islam in the 15th century- namely, that they are “inferior” religions- now, in the 16th century, was knowledge about the people who practiced those religions– namely, Jews and Muslims are inferior degrees of ‘human.’  He refers to this epistemological shift as one that moves from the theological mode to the anthropological mode.

Thus, for context as to what is an epistemological revolution, here we have the first *epistemological revolution* that occurred in the “new world.” The western European explorers were not merely seeking to conquer land all over the planet. More importantly, they wanted to epistemologically conquer all people in the world. That translates to: what will be true for the indigenous people is what is true for people in Columbus’ world.  (Columbus was explicit about this: he wanted the whole world to practice Christianity. In fact, he was fanatical about it.) You can see why this is a problem. What was true for Spain was not true for the indigenous people. As decolonial scholar Walter Mignolo notes, the indigenous people surely did not understand themselves as subhumans on the day that Columbus and his team arrived.(7) Their world, and so their epistemology, was starkly different. To conquer people, you cannot just take away their land. You must also rip from underneath them their very ways of knowing the world, themselves, and others. And you must ensure that people’s future generations are indoctrinated into your way of understanding and knowing the world, themselves, and others. This is why Grosfoguel and so many other scholars/activists emphasize the always-present practice of book burning in the conquest of lands and people, or, as they call it epistemicide. (And for scholar Silvia Federici, the burning of women, who transmitted knowledge orally rather than through books, so their bodies/minds, as the houses of that knowledge, were burned.) With genocide comes epistemicide. If you can control how a people understand the world and themselves (and you!), and you ensure that control is replicated in the future ad infinitum, you have conquered them.(8)

We’re now in a position to connect the discussion to the general agenda in Aphro-ism in which a micro- epistemic revolution is spelled out. We’re not simply pointing out that different kinds of people are missing in the conversation about what’s happening to nonhuman animals. That is one construal of invisibility, but it is not one I focus on. There is an invisibility missing from the conversation about invisibility. All of this talk about ‘humans’ and ‘animals’ that we take for granted in discussing the horror of what is happening to nonhuman animals assumes a particular formulation of reality that is specific to only a very small group of people. According to their worldview, “human,” “animal,” and related terms are assumed to refer to literally biological human beings and biological nonhuman beings. At most, such terms may have some symbolic import as well. And, so, according to this worldview, the “right” way to understand animal oppression and the constant disregard for animal bodies and lives is simply a matter of “speciesism,” or our species exercising species-supremacy.

But for those of us positioned in the social world radically differently, most of us with histories in which our kin was/are not considered “human” or were/are considered “animals,” in which we are not really considered “human” or are considered “animals,” this mere biological rendering of these terms rings false. We know that terms like “human, “”animal,” and related terms are above and beyond biological specifications and that our modern usage of these terms are internal to a global project that sought to claim human beings exist in degrees.(9) That means, if we want to participate with the mainstream criticism of animal a/buse, we have to pretend the world as we know it does not exist. We have to pretend that we don’t know being considered “human” matters morally even for beings who are members of the species homo sapiens. We have to pretend that outgrouping many groups of human beings as “subhumans” or “nonhuman” is not really that bad because, hey, being “human” isn’t special anyway. . . and appealing to “humanity” is speciesist. Do you see what’s going on here? Our way of understanding the world is completely invisible such that we cannot even discuss this issue in our own terms without everyone taking up arms to ask, what does this have to do with animals??  They are not asking this question out of interest. They are asking because we are stepping outside of the epistemic lines that have been drawn that parallel their worldview. As they see it, if they do not understand the world in such a way, it cannot be true.

The epistemic revolution, then, is taking this invisibility to be a site of productive knowledge. That is, instead of shying away from or suppressing our way of understanding and knowing the world- and ourselves and others in it- to fit in with the “normal” way of understanding and doing things, we use this invisibility to produce an account of whatever phenomenon we’re interested in to convey an aspect of reality that the “normal” way of doing things has not and cannot reveal. That is why I describe this kind of invisibility as a superpower. We have access to a part of the objective world by way of our position in it that others, no matter how privileged, do not and cannot have. So, we have something novel to say because of the way these words- human, animal, etc.,- operate in the world as we have experienced them.

My advice, then, is don’t divorce yourself from your own worldview. (*) What would happen if we constructed an account of animal torture and murder- which is our food/ medical/ beauty/ etc. industries- using the resources at our disposal? What if we, as black and brown people, constructed an animal ethic generated from our experience of being cast as the antithesis of the ideal human, (“the Human”)? What would it look like to resist the narrative of the “Human” with the added advantage that we are already the farthest thing from “Human” there is in our social world? We have a very different understanding of the terms at play here and we have access to the subjective experience of being ‘animalized’. What would happen if we took those as positive tools to not only liberate ourselves but also to lend our aid to another group of beings at the same time in a way different than what the mainstream route can offer? Black Veganism is my way of trying to provide an answer to these kinds of  questions. . . (I return to Black Veganism in a later answer below) but I’m sure there are other approaches too. I don’t care so much about there being different kinds of people representing veganism as much as I care about there being different kinds of veganism.

If you happen to be one of the few that is positioned as a member of the norm, you are welcome to join us. There is nothing about Black Veganism that is exclusive to black or brown people.(10)  It is not an identity movement. We use “Black” to signify the structure of anti-black racism since race is a structure, not a mere skin color or identity. But if it makes sense to you to stick with the mainstream way of doing things, that is fine too. The mainstream grasp of animal oppression is fine and good. I am only pointing out that it does not capture every aspect of why “the Animal” is an inferior notion, and so it helps nonhuman animals to encourage the development of more and more views that aim to highlight other sides of animal oppression, and so other ways of understanding animal oppression, that have not yet been made visible. Some of our readers have the ridiculous idea that we want people to stop reading Peter Singer or that we want to denounce advocates who are going down a more traditional route, such as fighting to gain legal rights for nonhuman animals, etc. I suggest no such thing. I have immense respect for anyone using whatever means at their disposal to address this problem. As I stress in Aphro-ism, we have to get over the idea that there is only one way of doing things or that we will agree every time on either a philosophical or practical level about what is the best way to lend our aid to our fellow beings. This problem stretches across every aspect of our society so we need people fighting from every corner.

How to “fit in” or “not fit in” as an activist

Palang: Plurality and empowerment have a lot to do with the emancipation of thought, i.e. with the fact that we are not dependent on intellectuals or any groups of people who seem to be regarded as thinking elites within our societies. We all need to think for ourselves and we are the most powerful resource for a plural fruitful discourse. Yet a comprehensive empowerment of each one of us (as activists) seems not to be asked for in the structures of many groups and organizations, at least there seems to be little space that people grant each other for standpoints, observations and experiences. Many activists even give up on their activism, because they feel no one is interested their individual contributions. Do you think the “classical” group dynamics (hierarchical thinking, for example) can pose a problem in activism and does it make sense in your point of view to go one’s paths at least partly alone too? And finally: is individual activism equally valuable in your eyes, when someone doesn’t find a constructive basis with fellow activists?

Syl:  I’d advise against basing your beliefs and life projects on whether others value it. If you look at history, most world-changing ideas were not appreciated in their time and the people behind those ideas kept on trucking anyway. They really believed in what they were doing. No amount of derision or humiliation from either their peers or those whose minds they were trying to change could stop them. In fact, the more revolutionary your project is, and the more potential it has to really change things, the less likely you’ll find many friends or supporters. That makes sense. People are scared of change, even those who say they want it. Many people do not realize that one minor change they want cannot occur unless lots of major changes are made too, and that makes them uncomfortable. So, they will make a pretense of making change when really things stay the same. But of course they are celebrated because they didn’t make anyone challenge anything about themselves or their world. Most of all, the activist did not challenge him/herself. Everyone gets to stay comfortable.

Also most people think in the same patterns or they draw on the same ideas. Great people who make change, even in just small ways, tend to think outside the box. Such thinking usually strikes others as weird or irrelevant because they don’t understand it. It’s too different. You can pretend to be excited by what everyone is saying so that you are included in their projects. Or you have to accept that you’ll probably have to work mostly alone if you don’t want to abandon your ideas or if you want to adopt new ideas outside of the ones the group already relies on.

If you want to make big change and you’re zealous about it, people might even think you’re crazy. You could lose your friends or your job. You may even go to jail. Socrates, who is now considered the exemplar of a great critical thinker, was imprisoned and given the death penalty. That’s right: Socrates was a criminal. Why? Because he “corrupted the youth.” He thought in a different way and wanted other people to change how they think too. He influenced young men who were supposed to care about continuing in their father’s footsteps in prestigious careers and adding to their family’s wealth to care instead about being good people. So, Socrates was sentenced to death. He didn’t care. He gave a lecture about the very things that brought about his criminal charges during his defense trial. Even when he was on death row waiting for his final day, he gave lectures to his students who came to visit him. He lectured literally up until he had to drink the poison.

Socrates never received material rewards or positive recognition in his day for relentlessly trying to influence his fellow citizens to change their lives toward the search for the good. Socrates wore the same clothes every day, was considered annoying by all of the eminent thinkers of his time, and with the exception of a handful of followers (the equivalent of a small entourage of undergraduate students!) had no one who wanted to engage with his ideas. His project was to gain knowledge of the good and this became a very of his very character so his reputation or fitting in did not matter to him.

I think that is a more useful image of activism to follow than what we have floating around today. As I see it, activism- if you must use the word-  should be a kind of obsession with trying to be a good person, which has little to with your image, how anyone receives you, or if you belong to a group, or whether you witness any change from your efforts. It is a self-sufficient enterprise. All you need is the desire to be good and if you allow that to consume you, you will not care anymore about whether or not you are recognized, respected, or if anyone listens to you. That goes for life outside of activism as well, by the way.

So, I do not look at the output as what is reflective of good activism, whether that output is from the individual or from a group/organization. Even if an activist or group of activists succeed in accomplishing a mission, without good hearts and souls in society that mission can easily be reversed in  a short amount of time. The emphasis should be on making sure we are right on the inside, nurture the moral sensibility that is vital for a meaningful existence, and allow that energy to flow into and shape the world, whatever that will result in. What may resemble progress now may really be a nightmare in the long-term and vice versa. We don’t know what’s going to work or what is best. We can only operate from good intentions and leave it at that.

And if you’re considered a loser throughout your lifetime because of your mission, even by your more “accomplished” activist peers, you can’t get funding, and no one pays attention to you, don’t feel bad. Socrates was considered a loser too. You’re in good company. Just stay the course!

The new discourse itself in the general public

Palang: Your and Aph’s thoughts, your approach is full of deep insight in ethical, political and social clarity and you are making the epistemical revolution that you speak about reality with the discourse you initiated. As an activist inspired by your theses and thoughts I gather the impression that your ideas bear great relevancy for the discourse with people outside of the Animal Right/Animal Liberation and vegan movement. Could you imagine that a plurality in the discussion about Animal Liberation etc. can be inspired in the general public independent of dynamics of a ‘mainstream reception’ in the AR/AL vegan movements itself? Is the movement itself always really the best informed and most open minded place when it comes to dismantle narrowminded views about animality and humanity?

Syl: I firmly believe discussions surrounding nonhuman animals, particularly ethically/ politically/socially, can be paired with any ethical, political, and/or social discussion, and so whether those discussions occur within a space devoted explicitly to nonhuman animals or whether self-identified “animal advocates” approve of such discussions is irrelevant. This isn’t about them. This is about how do we successfully get the public to, first of all, acknowledge that what animals face is a legitimate problem for animals (and for us), and second, have that acknowledgment somehow dramatically materialize into action that changes the conditions in which animals are forced to exist.

Aphro-ism proposes that discussing animal liberation within the confines of the terms of “the movement” is nonsensical. The movement is focused on a small sliver of the wide range of ideas that sustain animal ab/use. Ideas of humanity and animality, however they are construed, are central to literally every present human oppression. And, in turn, ideas surrounding what we ordinarily take to be human oppressions are present in animal oppression. All of these things are linked. So, it stands to reason that if we want to see the big picture in any of these oppressions, which is really the same picture from different angles, we will need to connect these dots.

The way we connect the dots in Aphro-ism is by showing everything leads to the construction of the Human. Not humans, but the Human, the presumed “ideal” manifestation of what it is to be a human being, its most recent iteration being that invented in 16th century Spain. Some of the best literature I’ve read in the last few years that I think can work on the side of animals is not coming from people or fields focused on nonhuman animals. We must continue branching out of the box if we will ever wrap our minds around what is really going on. It is beyond a mere species prejudice. This is huge.

I think Black Studies and other ethnic studies programs are where I see the most potential in terms of expanding the discussion. You have to remember that black and brown people came to represent the “opposite” of that which is Human, subhumans. For a long time, that was a bad thing. Being “Human” was supposed to be the pinnacle of existence while being “subhuman” was to your disadvantage. But after years and years of clawing our way out of the hole that was dug for us, the white western empire is starting to lose hold of its control, not to mention the planet is in peril because of that empire and its influence across the globe. Now I see it as a good thing that we- as black people- were forced for so long to stand in opposition to the Human. We did not become them because we could not be them. By definition, we were excluded from the category as its contrary. We are by definition already anti-Human. So, it is no surprise that the most exciting stuff coming out that has incredible potential for pivoting our ideas about humans and animals and resisting the toxic narrative of the Human will come from works born from that contra-Human psyche. For those of us on the side of nonhuman animals, we need to keep our minds open and draw on that literature to apply to our advocacy instead of assuming the only works that are applicable are those that explicitly mention nonhuman animals or come from the mainstream “Human” tradition.

Oppression and History

Palang: Is the “problem with humanity” a consequence of colonization and our inner colonization and of white supremacism? What role do oppressive cultures in the antique and ancient times play in context? How does the history of oppression that dates back connect with the system of white supremacy, arrogance and ignorance; in other words can we contextualize oppressive forms in cultures to understand different mechanisms of oppression?

Syl: Is the problem of humanity the consequence of colonization/ white supremacy? Yes and no. Obviously, western colonization did not cause human beings to start using and abusing nonhuman life nor is western colonization responsible for a particularly exclusive moral conception of being human. Anyone who asserts that western colonization caused animal oppression or introduced for the first time a morally exclusive idea of ‘the human’ is completely oblivious to the history of our species and should stop talking immediately and read more history. Go read some Aristotle if you don’t believe me. . . he existed long before Spain decided to expand its empire.

But, as I see it, western colonization did determine the problem of humanity, and so, the a/buse of nonhuman animals. We must tread the water carefully now because this assertion seems to suggest that a later event (western colonization) is bringing about an earlier event (nonhuman animal subjugation), which is impossible. I do not investigate the situation of western colonization for the purpose of explaining or interpreting attitudes and actions that occurred prior to western colonization. Rather, I wish to explain that attitudes and actions prior to western colonization transformed into drastically different things with the onset of colonization, despite their (superficially) identical manifestations.

The persecution of Jews and Muslims occurred before Columbus and his team arrived in the Americas. So, the subsequent colonization of the Americas, which gave rise to an epistemological order that submerged the native “beneath” the western European man on the scale of Humanity could not have caused the persecution of Jews and Muslims. A later event cannot cause a prior event. However, the new epistemological order whose chief operation was to rank degrees of Humanity, in turn, came to determine what the persecution of Jews and Muslims would come to mean and what being a Jew or a Muslim would become. That is, how one would come to understand Jews and Muslims was directly shaped and informed by the new knowledge system being crafted in the “new world.” As I mentioned in my answer to your first question, following Grosfoguel, the persecution of Jews and Muslims was initially understood to be a matter about practicing the wrong faith. Jews and Muslims were murdered, exploited, and pushed from their homes to foreign lands if they did not convert to Christianity because of the presumed inferiority of their religion. But after Columbus and the debates surrounding the Humanity of the indigenous people, disagreements about religion (or the lack therof) were no longer simply about theology. Now, this was about whether or not you were a “full” human!  Of course, Jews and Muslims were still being persecuted but now it was a matter of their being persecuted because they were subhumans on account of their religion. On the surface, the exploitation, expulsion, and murder of these groups looked the same pre- and post- “new world.” But really they were substantially two different things. Jews and Muslims were no longer simply people who practiced the wrong faith. They were not people. And *that* then was the ground for their subjugation. Grosfoguel describes these events as a “boomerang effect.” So, even though the events occurring in the “new world” did not cause the subjugation of Jews and Muslims, they determined what the subjugation of Jews and Muslims consisted in and determined the new identity of “Jew” and “Muslim” moving forward. What it is to be a Jew or a Muslim is, post-new world, to be a different sort of being altogether.

So, again, analyzing the events in the “new world,” which is the starting point of the social world we inherited, cannot explain the persecution of Jews and Muslims, say, in the 15th century per se. That is not the object of the analysis anyway. Rather, analyzing these events helps us glean why their persecution today differs substantially from the 15th century and, thus, gives us the tools we need to address their persecution, and anti-semitism and Islamophobia generally speaking, today. Thus, a useful distinction here is that between logical and temporal order or priority. There is no doubt that the subjugation of a group of beings over time is informed by the conditions of the subjugation they suffered in the prior time period. But that is not to say the subjugation of a group of beings over time is necessarily informed by the logic of the subjugation they incurred in the prior time period.

This sets the stage for my view, Black Veganism, which argues that nonhuman animals are raced and we should understand their subordination as a racial phenomenon. As I said, I am not trying to take stock of the entire history of human beings ab/using nonhuman animals. That is one crucial difference between the ethic I propose and views you’re probably more familiar with, which makes my position quite heterodox and- unfortunately- subject to massive misinterpretation. I don’t deny it is necessary to look at the history of human beings ab/using nonhuman animals, but to conceptualize their current condition and a roadmap leading to an escape from that condition, demands recognizing that their current condition is a property of the logic of the current, modern world, which is the logic of race. To think otherwise is to dilute their condition in the haze of history.

Again, the logic of the current, modern world emerges when the debate about the humanity of the indigenous people in the Americas starts and is concretized when African slaves appear on the scene. Race came to be “epidermalized,” as Franz Fanon puts it, but race is fundamentally a globally instituted system that tracks degrees of Humanity and is necessarily reflected in the institutional makeup of the world. It is not true then that race and racism have always existed. Prejudices based on identity have always existed. Discrimination based on the same has always existed. But race is a novel idea.  Race is a very specific system that did not and could not exist prior to a small group of people declaring they wanted to literally take over the whole planet and homogenize it under their self-image. That is key. Race-thinking is the global foisting of a local self-conception, for in order to succeed at such an aim, one must colonize the very concept of ‘human’ in one’s favor.

Now, what happens when you have a very small group of people declare they are the true humans (“Humans”)? This is where some work by Sylvia Wynter is crucial and I build on her account by adding considerations about the animal. (11) One must have analogous groups that come to embody what it is to fail to be Human, lest the banner of “true humanity” leads to a vacuous doctrine. But to fail to be Human is not to be a nonhuman animal. There are two reasons for this. First, nonhumans cannot successfully embody the failure of the Human to deploy because they are not human beings to begin with. So, they can never be proper Others. They can’t fulfill the demonstrative role needed to puff up the status of the Human. Nonhumans can be, at most, derivative Others. (12)

But more importantly, nonhuman animals cannot subjectively experience a lack of humanity, whatever that is. Again, nonhuman animals are epistemically resilient and epistemically closed to us so we cannot override their subjective perspectives such that we could program them to suffer what it is like to feel less than human. Wynter cleverly homes in on that aspect of Fanon’s work, the subjective experience of being black, or of being a colonized person, precisely because self-hating and other “autophobic”, negative features of internal racism are central to keeping in place the invention of the Human. The Human is parasitic on not just the category of the anti-Human, but especially on the felt inferiority of the anti-Human. (13)

The failure to achieve Humanness, then, must be found in another human being that presumably lacks what true humans (“Humans”) possess. This is the second key point that will distance Black Veganism from ordinary views. On my view, the human-animal binary or divide does not refer to literal human beings and literal nonhuman animals. My position is that the beings in the human-animal binary refer to “The Human” and “The Animal”, which are not biological abstractions that represent, in general, “all humans,” and correspondingly “all nonhuman animals.” Rather, they are social categories that represent what it is to be a “true” human and what it is to be the “opposite” of that, respectively. And, again, the opposite of a true human (“Human”) is not a nonhuman animal but other humans, the figure of “the anti-Human.” (14) So, the the Animal and the anti-Human should be understood as identical figures, which leads us to the astounding revelation that nonhuman animals are so invisible, they do not even form the basis on which we represent the general category of The Animal.  The general category of the Animal is a Human disappearing act.

Many find my view upsetting. They believe:

  1.  I am trying to cut animals out of the scene by making the binary about only  human beings.
  2. Regardless of who “Human” and “Animal” refer to in the binary, that “Human” is the superior category and “Animal” is the inferior category has to do with the human tradition of speciesism.
  3. This racial construal of the human- animal binary seems to have no application to actual nonhuman animals. Shouldn’t an account that purports to be a kind of veganism be *about* actual nonhuman animals?

All of these objections are perfectly reasonable and touch on parts of your questions so they are worth addressing, though I’ll do so out of order.

To begin with, this racial construal of the human-animal binary (the Human/ the Animal (a.k.a anti-Human)) is immediately applicable to non-human animals. It’s important that we frame their struggle within the terms of the general project to invent the Human, so that we can identify who they are and in what their condition consists post- “new world.” As people rightly point out (and set forth in objection #2 immediately above) the figures of ‘the human’ and ‘the animal’ have historically been positioned as not merely different but as contraries, so it stands to reason that if we invent a logic that reconfigures what the human is (now, “the Human”), we must also attend to the necessary reconfiguration of what the animal is (now, “the Animal/ anti-Human.”) Prior to Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, it is impossible to summarize the multitude of social worlds that existed that – under their own terms- made nonhuman animals (or at least some nonhuman animals) their victims. Many of those worlds we may never understand given we do not have internal access to those languages, ways of knowing, belief systems, cosmologies, etc., and so cannot know the rituals that involved nonhuman animals as well as other human beings. However, we can safely say that at least Columbus and his team came from a social world in which nonhuman animals were deemed morally inferior due to the belief that they lacked souls. This was explicitly communicated time and time again and, in fact, the conclusion they drew regarding the native people’s likeness to animals was derived from the premise that animals do not have souls and, so, cannot practice religion. It’s true that there has been a biological separation between human beings and all other animals conceived in moral terms, and not just in western Europe. Some scholars will go so far as to argue that human moral life emerged in virtue of conceiving ourselves as separate from all other animals and cultivating a specifically human life. For instance, my former adviser, Douglas Maclean, makes a point along these lines in his Is “Being Human” a Moral Concept?, though one could think both “human” and “animal” are moral concepts, such as Cora Diamond suggests, or more recently Alice Crary in her wonderful book Inside Ethics. (15) (They are all philosophers.) As I said before, I am not trying to deny the reality that nonhuman animals have been subjugated throughout the history of our species and seemingly for as long as our species has existed.

What was to become the core of race-thinking, the Human/Animal (a.k.a anti-Human) binary, then, certainly owes its roots to the biological separation we experience between us and all other animals that most human systems have interpreted morally. People are right to highlight this. But Black Veganism asserts that that is only one half of the story. I hold that a feedback loop has led the Human/Animal (Anti-Human) binary to amplify the very assumptions that brought it into existence.

In other words, we think of beings- many in our own species and all members of other species- through the concept “the Animal/ anti-Human.” Nonhuman animals are no longer subjugated beings simply because they lack souls. Rather, they have become different kinds of beings and their subjugation is of a different kind, even if their subjugation manifests itself as (superficially) identical to what existed before.

We’ve arrived at a sort of explanatory limit because how does one describe the contents of a concept? It’s the same kind of explanatory wall you hit if you try to describe any other morally loaded concept, such as “mother” or “pet.” I think it can be done but this interview is probably not the place to try!

Instead I’ll just say this: the absence of nonhuman animals in our social and moral imagination makes much more sense to me when I think of it through Black Veganism. Black Veganism presents the binary as a principle that is really about human beings and represents two poles which signify the presence of being human (articulated through its ideal manifestation, “the Human) and the disintegration and thus absence of being human, of literally being anti-Human (articulated through “the Animal.”) So, the space of the anti-Human is the space where morality loses its structure and sense since there is no being there sutured to it. The paradox is indispensable: you need humans who are not Human for these concepts to gain their moral purchase in the way they possess today. We conceive nonhuman animals through that paradox- the very structure of their being is patterned on anti-Humanness. If you think about what’s really going, it’s quite horrifying. Black Veganism reveals that the situation of nonhuman animals is, in fact, worse than we might have thought, at least on the conceptual level. We don’t simply operate on the assumption that nonhuman animals are morally negligible. .. We disappear them the very moment we conceive of them as animals.

Before, at least in the world that informed our current world- Columbus’ world, nonhuman animals were beings that lacked souls (or if they have souls, they have “lower,” non-rational souls). But the emergence of the Human transformed animals from beings that lacked souls to beings that just were essentially a derivative opposite of the Human. (**) So, what we have here is a monumental move.(16) Nonhuman animals were catapulted onto a scene that was invested in making claims about the nature of humanity. (17) Thus, nonhuman animals were *humanized*. Before they were inferior but altogether different beings. Now they came to represent a limit in the scale of humanity.  They were now playing in our game. The feedback loop took the information from the biological divide between human beings and animals conceived in moral terms and filtered that information through the Human/ Animal (anti-Human) binary it helped to create in the “new world”, only to now reinforce the abject inferiority and invisibility of nonhuman animals but in new, and more tragic, terms.

So, to objections #1 and #3, no, I am not trying to cut nonhuman animals out of the picture. On the contrary. Unless we are discussing very practical matters, we cannot talk about nonhuman animals if we do not also talk about race. And we cannot talk about race if we do not talk about nonhuman animals. I do not think anti-racism is effectively mobilized if we leave out billions of beings who we view through racial thinking. To do so is to dismiss a significant portion of the narrative of race. Thus, you are not really analyzing race. The black (anti-Human) is the template through which we think the modern conception of the animal. If we want to tackle racism and rid ourselves of racial thinking, which means disposing of this social world, we have to look at all areas in which race thinking operates, and one of those areas is right there in front of us on our plates.

It also brings to light the stark recognition that the mechanism that allows for our society to remain unperturbed by the widespread torture and murder of nonhuman animals, usually used to make food, is made possible through the very same mechanism that makes us shrug at the persistent assault on black and brown Life and life. People do not realize their unwillingness to challenge themselves about nonhuman animals is a mark of the gigantic hole that race-thinking burrows into our souls. We know that nonhuman animals are being harmed. That’s not the issue. The issue is that they fall through the hole so their pain is not felt. We are literally untouched.

Veganism ought to address not just literal non-human animals, but also and especially the narrative of animality that is responsible for all of the ideas we form about anything we think of as an animal. Since the 16th century, the narrative of animality (or rather, “Animality”) has been directly constructed as an analog to the narrative of Humanity- the propping up of the western white man as the ideal manifestation of a human being. That stacks of literature has been investigating the situation of the animal while overlooking this obvious fact speaks volumes about how oblivious most people are to the far reaches of race.

Ways of coming together practically in new spaces

Palang: The gain of deconstructing the human-nonhuman animal binaries in terms of a full-spectral decolonization will be so fundamental, that a complete new insight about animality and humanity will result in terms of all the relevant variables and influencing factors. Do you think society can already develop islands of new understandings of social justice, involving annonhumanity in terms of dismantling colonial claims and definitions. Can we already built spaces being human in radically ‘clarified’ ways were we includingly encounter nonhumanity differently and appreciatively for their – the nonhuman – cultural contexts? Is the time there for breaking up the human-animal antagonism, if not what hinders us still and what could we contribute to really change the dominant toxicities of colonization and of other blocking oppressive factors?

Syl: I think some parts of my other answers speak to this question. Black Veganism is a post-Humanist theory. Following the work of scholar Zakkiyah Iman Jackson, I identify a particular conception of human to be the culprit in this story, not the concept of human. (18) If anything, I am hoping to recuperate begin human by saving us from the Human narrative. It follows that my diagnosis of the condition of nonhuman animals is 180 degrees away from the kind of diagnosis we’re used to hearing. The ordinary diagnosis is that we have been mythologizing ourselves on the basis of our species. This mythologizing has gotten in the way of the “facts”; namely, we too are animals and we are not special in any way. So, the inclination is that dismantling the human/animal binary must mean deflating the human for the sake of elevating the animal. That’s why Peter Singer talks about “desanctifying” the human. A lot of this is fueled by an appeal to science, of course. If you look at science, humans don’t possess anything at least one other nonhuman species doesn’t also possess.

But, as I argued in my chapter on “Revaluing the Human as a Way to Revalue the Animal,” I’m not convinced by that reasoning. If the human (conceived as a biological category) has been morally weighted to disadvantage the animal (again, as a biological category), then deflating the human in order to elevate the animal is not a suitable corrective. This is still binary thinking, except you’ve adjusted the weight on each side. What it would be to dismantle the binary has to be more than shifting the weights. Dismantling requires disambiguating the moral connotation of one term from the other. Perhaps they mean they want to shift the emphasis to our shared animal “nature,” though I am never sure what such a phrase means.

There’s more. Theoretically speaking if the binary were truly dismantled, you could still have a morally weighted conception of human. . . you just wouldn’t need animals to give that conception its weight! Family terms operate that way. I would do things for my sister that I would not do for my neighbor but it is not because my sister has certain capacities or properties to which I am responding that my neighbor lacks. That I think of her as my “sister” alone lends moral weight to her interests. That is, just saying she is my sister does the work for me. I don’t need to go further and everyone gets it. But that doesn’t mean I can just do what I want to my neighbor. I still have moral obligations to him too, just of a different sort. That is one easy example of a morally loaded conception that is okay since it does not exist within a binary. If it existed within a binary, that would mean my privileging my sister must come at the expense of any one that is not my sister (or rather, whatever is constructed as the “opposite” of my sister).

The example illuminates a disconnect in the very way mainstream advocates understand the category of species and the way I see the category represented in my favorite decolonial literature. Mainstream advocates draw a parallel between species and categories like race and sex whereas the decolonial thinkers I draw on present the category of species as a family category. The former thinks a parallel exists between all of the cases because they think an identical mechanism brings them about. Namely, a morally arbitrary trait is being made to have moral relevance: race, sex, and species, respectively. This parallel doesn’t work for many decolonial thinkers of a certain strand (not to mention most ordinary people!). What makes racism and sexism bad for these thinkers is that members of the community are not considered members of their community, the community being humankind. It is only by thinking of the category ‘human’ as a family term, and so morally loaded,  that we can say what gives racism and sexism its badness. The weight of humanness isn’t derived by tracing a trait or capacity that is exclusive to human beings. It is not a thing you find with the natural sciences. Rather, its weight comes from the aspect of reality that is social, that is a function of our subjectively experiencing ourselves existing as a specific species.

In an essay I’ve been working on for the past two years I elaborate on this difference in terms of “species-objectivism” and “species-subjectivism.” (Black Veganism is under the species-subjectivist label. I explore it as a “subspecies subjectivism.”) Both views are claims about the objective world, and both claims are on the side of nonhuman animals, but from two different vantage points. Species-objectivists sketch out being human by looking at human beings from the outside. From this vantage point, there is no morally relevant difference between us or, say, bats. To invoke this category is no different than to invoke a category like race or sex. To use an everyday example, this methodology would similarly reveal that the man I called my “dad” is actually just one man among billions and there is nothing really distinct about him from an outside perspective. Or another useful example is to consider “being alive” to simply be a statement about breathing, having a beating heart, and so on.

But species-subjectivists describe being human from standing in the shoes of the human. From this vantage point, being human is definitely different than being a bat because you are the human, not a bat. While it is true that my dad is one man among billions, I feel a different sort of way about him than I do the billions of other men. .. because he’s my dad. It’s not because I think there is something different about him. And it would be silly for you to try to convince me I am wrong in my feeling about him based on the fact that there is nothing discernible about him compared to the billions of other men in the world. Or, for another useful example, to “be alive” is not simply a statement about breathing, having a beating heart, and so on but is about having a particular gusto or to live with oompf. (So, one could be “alive” but not really be alive.)

Species-objectivism and species-subjectivism differ in degrees of distance: one is talking about a world that is far and the other is talking about a world that is local. Since we are usually looking for answers as to how to navigate our local lives, we cannot dismiss the species-subjectivist perspective as “speciesist” nor should we dismiss it as a world-guiding view. It would be like looking at the Voyager image of the Earth to figure out a bus route to your new job. The Voyager was not designed to give us information to get around the streets of downtown. If you want to get around downtown, you need to go on Google maps instead.  While it is useful to have the “pale blue dot” perspective of Earth, as Carl Sagan beautifully put it, one must always remember we do not float in the universe and understand the Earth that way. We have our feet planted firmly on Earth.

If an account misses that the category of species membership can function as a local, family term, then it won’t be a good account, and it certainly won’t be very convincing. I emphasize the distinction between “human/ human being” and “Human” in Black Veganism to capture that dual aspect. We know that the Human is a bad idea because it eclipses that aspect of humanness that has great potential to play a positive bonding role. The Human needs to be disposed of and I agree with Wynter that if such a feat can be achieved, we are on the horizon of a new mode of human existence, one that would not require an Other. (19) (20)

I don’t think humans coming together on account of their humanity is in tension with animal liberation. I see the two projects going together. So, I’m afraid I don’t agree with mainstream advocates about what it will look like to dismantle the antagonism between the members of the binary, as you nicely phrased it, at least not the logic of it. They’re working with a really different view of moral life altogether, one I find impoverished. I think we will always have a social conception of what it is to be human along with a bare empirical conception. I believe the social conception of being human is like an indexical marker, a group version of a name. Indexical markers are native to our psychology and I don’t see them as problems in and of themselves. We may always hold the social conception of being human in moral regard and that does not mean there must be a human-animal binary in place, nor does it mean that we have more moral weight objectively speaking. Several thinkers have dominated the direction of thought in animal advocacy and it is their theories that get us twisted into unnecessary knots. As philosopher Bernard Williams said, it’s one thing to say humans are important to the universe but it’s quite another thing to simply say humans are important to each other. (21) I am confused why so few people will grant that sentiment.

But all of that doesn’t get in the way of the possibility of immediate practical change that all of us on the side of nonhuman animals can probably agree on even if we don’t agree on the logic. I have a friend who is studying urban planning doing exciting work in design with a mind on designing the space around the needs of several different kinds of animals that exist in the community and neighboring communities. The independent researcher Sue Donaldson and philosopher Will Kymlicka published Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights a few years ago, which considers different kinds of animals positioned in different kinds of relationships with us and discusses which animals could rightfully qualify as citizens, etc. It’s beautiful and creative and respects all of the myriad differences between us and different kinds of animals and their needs and potential contributions. In the legal realm, here in the U.S. we have the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is comprised of a group of dedicated lawyers who literally challenge the conception of personhood operational in the courts. They have argued on behalf of chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants thus far. In terms of general changes in lifestyle, I know lots of people who welcome different kinds of animals into their homes and yards to create micro-sanctuaries, as the activist and writer Justin van Kleeck describes it. (22)The most exciting thing I’ve come across is work by the scholar Anat Pick, who does work in “vegan cinema.” (23) Contrary to what you might think,  vegan cinema is not propaganda to get people to go vegan. Rather, Pick demonstrates the very ethos of violence and consumption present in an audience’s gaze of a film in general.  So, she is approaching the idea of veganism from a really interesting, abstract perspective. You mentioned in a question not listed in this interview the lack of good work being done on speciesism in the media. Well, Pick is one person definitely doing interesting work in that field. She is challenging what it is to coexist with nonhuman animals (and nonhuman life in general) from the very point of the gaze. All of these are good examples of ways we can slowly push forward to make life with nonhuman animals realizable in a non-exploitative, and mutually beneficial fashion.

However, I’m not sure what to say about difficult cases in which we are dealing with nonhuman animals that are not easy to live with or even impossible to live with. The case of rodents strike me as particularly perplexing. The philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, who promotes an ethical pluralism when it comes to different kinds of animals, much like Donaldson and Kymlicka’s political pluralism, suggests animals with whom we can imagine some sort of life, either together or as close/distant neighbors, deserve heavier moral consideration than those with whom we cannot imagine such a life. (24) Rodents count as one such an example. Lindgren (Johnson), one of the authors I mentioned earlier, recently told me birth control for some rodents has been developed to lower their population in infested areas. That’s obviously a more compassionate method of handling infestation but raises a moral quandary nonetheless. So, I’m sympathetic to Anderson’s argument that a parallel should not be drawn between categories like race/sex and species because race/sex create differences where there are none (theoretically, we could all learn to live in peace with one another) while species membership tracks a real difference (it is not likely that we can live in peace with every other species, even as distant neighbors).

 

Starred content:

(*) I would not give this advice when you are encountering a foreign social world. That is a different case. But I give this advice when you are in your own world and your vantage point is overlooked or inferiorized because of your social location in that world. When highlighting the reality of social positionality, one should be careful to highlight not just the external/ institutional/ structural ways in which one is positioned, but also the subjective experience of what it is to be positioned a certain way.

(**) Be careful not to confuse the process through which all nonhuman animals were changed with the change in the particular role attributed to the ape. In the medieval period, apes came to represent the image of the degenerate human, especially due to committing some sin for which they must be punished  (see the famous De Mundi Universitate by 12th century writer Bernardus Silvestris). The ape already played the role that it would later come to play in the post-Darwin social imagination, except in natural scientific rather than theological terms. Sylvia Wynter discusses the iconography of the ape-as-degenerate-human in “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/ Power/ Truth/ Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, It’s Overrepresenation–An Argument” CR: The New Centennial Review, Volume 3, Number 3, Fall 2003, pp. 257-337, which can be found here: https://law.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/2432989/Wynter-2003-Unsettling-the-Coloniality-of-Being.pdf. The role of the ape is a very early example of the humanization of a particular nonhuman animal. Note that I focus more on the humanization of nonhuman animals at the level of the very concept of ‘Animal.’

Endnotes:

Endnotes:
(1) See Aph’s chapters “Why Animal Liberation Requires an Epistemological Revolution” and “Creating New Conceptual Architecture: On Afrofuturism, Animality, and Unlearning/ Rewriting Ourselves” in Aphro-ism for Aph’s direct thoughts on the subject.
(2) If you’ve never read his Meditations, I highly recommend doing so now that you know what he was up to. It’s one of my favorite books.
(3) I’m oversimplifying but the oversimplification will suffice.
(4) Published in Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self- Knowledge: Vol. 11: Iss.1, Article 8.
(5) Just stop for a moment and think about that. Think about what kind of mindset one must have to draw such a conclusion before having any substantive interactions with this population and, further, to then assume with no qualms that now this land (and these people) are yours for the picking! In a chapter of his popular Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the historian Noah Yuval Harari recounts the exploratory voyages of Admiral Zheng He of the Chinese Ming dynasty, which started in 1405 and ended around thirty years later. In fact, one of the armadas carried around thirty thousand people. Yet, Zheng He merely visited different countries, he did not attempt to “conquer” them. Harari notes that the Romans and the Persians too had the technological ability to attempt to conquer foreign lands but did not do so. It’s worth quoting him in full: “There was nothing peculiar about that. The oddity is that early modern Europeans caught a fever that drove them to sail to distant and completely unknown lands full of alien cultures, take one step on to their beaches, and immediately declare, ‘I claim all these territories for my king!’” See page 291. I have to thank philosopher Martin Gibert for enthusiastically encouraging me to read this book. See his interview with the author: https://lamorce.co/dou-vient-la-domination-humaine-entretien-avec-yuval-noah-harari/

Also: the lack of anything resembling religion among a group of people is not a lack in general. It may just mean they have something else that your own world does not have. Walter Mignolo argues this point about philosophy in his chapter “Philosophy and the Colonial Difference” in Latin American Philosophy: Currents, Issues, Debates, ed. Mendieta, Eduardo (2003).
(6) That’s not to say Christian missionary itself is progressive. I am just commenting on Columbus’ mindset compared to his peers regarding what the unification of the globe could look like: “I, that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see. (110) and “They do not know any religion, and I believe they could easily be converted to Christianity, for they were very intelligent. “ (119) See Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus from the Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Library and Archives here: http://www.americanjourneys.org/pdf/AJ-062.pdf. The simultaneous presence of beauty and horror in these first interactions between Columbus’ team and the native people cannot be denied when reading excerpts from his journal.
(7) See his chapter “What does it mean to be Human?” in Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick.Duke University Press (2015)
(8) There are lots of interesting things to say here about one major difference between the subjugation of human beings and the subjugation of nonhuman animals. My good friend, the Finnish artist Terike Haapoja, who, along with Laura Gustafsson, is responsible for The Museum of Nonhumanity, noted that nonhuman animal resistance to human subjugation might always be stronger than our own subjugation to one another precisely due to our inability to exhaustively control how they perceive the world, themselves, and their perception of us. That is, they have epistemic resilience.
(9) When U.S. President Trump described Latinos as “animals,” he was not being a good biologist. He was making a social claim.
(10) For instance, see Lindgren Johnson’s Race Matter, Animal Matters: Fugitive Humanism in African America (1840-1930) Routledge (2017). Lindgren and I consider her text to be in line with the spirit of Black Veganism.
(11) See Wynter’s article “Towards the Sociogenic Principle: Fanon, The Puzzle of Conscious Experience, of “Identity” and What it’s Like to be “Black”” for her discussion on human Others: http://coribe.org/PDF/wynter_socio.pdf. By the way, this is the greatest article I’ve read in the past ten years. I think this is the article to read if you want to get into Wynter because she explains why Fanon is so important and understanding her obsession with Fanon and the hard problem of consciousness puts her work, big picture, into perspective.
(12) Occasionally people of color joke that it is more likely that nonhuman animals will be morally recognized before they are. I don’t think that’s correct but from a theoretical standpoint it is true that the Human doesn’t need nonhuman animals to constitute its Other- it needs only other human beings to do so.
(13) I borrow the terminology of the ‘anti-Human’ from the Afropessimist tradition, though I don’t claim to represent the tradition.
(14) For an alternative view, see Claire Jean Kim, who argues instead that we should think of the Human, Animal, and Black as a triad instead of a binary. I don’t agree because I think this is forcing the entire-tradition-of-using-animals approach with the current-modern-world approach, and so overlooks the redundancy in listing the Animal and the Black. Otherwise, though, our work is in the same spirit. See her article “Murder and Mattering in Harambe’s House” in Politics and Animals, Vol 3. (2017).
(15) For Maclean’s article, see Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly 30 (3/4):16-20 (2010); For Diamond see “Eating Meat and Eating People.” Philosophy, Vol. 53, No. 206 (Oct., 1978), pp. 465-479.; For Crary see Inside Ethics, Harvard University Press (2016).
(16) As Mark S. Roberts notes, “the animal is placed squarely within the human.” See his The Mark of the Beast: Animality and Human Oppression (New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond), Purdue University Press (2008): 20.
(17) The theory of evolution was indispensable to this major taxonomic shift. The theory of evolution was not responsible for the shift, but the governing social dynamics guaranteed that once Darwin gave compelling evidence to collapse the distinction of human and animal, animals would play a role in establishing a point about humans.
(18) See her “Animal: New Directions in the Theorization of Race and Posthumanism.” Feminist Studies 39, no.3 (2013)
(19) Some of our readers assumed this means we should stop referring to ourselves as humans. I don’t think that at all. I just meant I don’t think we should strive to be or think of ourselves as “Human.”
(20) The story is more complicated than how I put it. What will allow us to escape the loop of yet another but new an equally harmful “Human” premised on an Other is familiarity with the law that governs our consciousness, which she believes is the sociogenic principle, her interpretation of Fanon’s notion of sociogeny. She argues that our discovering what this law is gives us the power to use it to our advantage, much like discovery of physical laws. See the article I cited earlier by Wynter. I will not discuss the matter further in this interview, but the sociogenic principle is the heart of my essay in progress.
(21) See his chapter “Theory and Prejudice” in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Harvard University Press (1985): 118.
(22) See his “Microsanctuaries: A Micro-Manifesto”: https://strivingwithsystems.com/2016/08/06/microsanctuaries-a-micro-manifesto/
(23) ‘Vegan Cinema’, Thinking Veganism in Literature and Culture, ed. by Emelia Quinn and Benjamin Westwood. Oxford: Palgrave, 2018, pp. 125-146. I’m grateful to Lindgren for bringing Pick’s work to my attention recently.
(24) See “Animal Rights and the Values of Nonhuman Life.” in C. Sunstein & M. Nussbaum (Eds.), Animal Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2004a)

Contact

Syl Ko can be contacted at ‘sylko [at] protonmail [dot] com’.

Tierautonomie

Editor-in-chief: Gita Yegane Arani, www.simorgh.de – ‚Open Access in der Tier-, Menschen und Erdbefreiung’. Revised 02/2019.

Citation

An Interview with Syl Ko (2019). TIERAUTONOMIE, 6(1), http://simorgh.de/tierautonomie/JG6_2019_1.pdf.

TIERAUTONOMIE (ISSN 2363-6513)

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