Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Labeling People

Labeling People: French Scholars on Society, Race, and Empire, 1815–1848

Martin S. Staum
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Labeling People
    Book Description:

    While previous studies have contrasted the relative optimism of middle-class social scientists before 1848 with a later period of concern for national decline and racial degeneration, Staum demonstrates that the earlier learned societies were also fearful of turmoil at home and interested in adventure abroad. Both geographers and ethnologists created concepts of fundamental "racial" inequality that prefigured the imperialist "associationist" discourse of the Third Republic, believing that European tutelage would guide "civilizable" peoples, and providing an open invitation to dominate and exploit the "uncivilizable."

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7124-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 The Bell Curve and the Nineteenth-Century Organic Society
    (pp. 3-22)

    The impulse of humans to relate the physical appearance of their fellow beings to categories of intelligence and personality seems to flourish more than ever in times of social insecurity. So it was in nineteenth-century post-revolutionary France and so it has been more recently in the United States during the 1990s. The resurgence of interest in iq test results as guides to social policy is symptomatic of concern in the United States over inter-ethnic tensions, immigration, and high divorce and illegitimacy rates. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray inThe Bell Curveasserted the relative immobility of the iq during an...

  6. 2 The Facial Angle, Physiognomy, and Racial Theory
    (pp. 23-48)

    Classification in natural history preoccupied several notable eighteenth-century efforts to investigate the living world, and Michel Foucault has argued convincingly that the typical eighteenth-century discourse of representation relied on readable external signs and interrelations. Early nineteenth-century discourse shifted to internal significance, functional capacity, and historical development.¹ In the earlier period, external signifiers took precedence over internal function of organs. The arrangement of life forms, either by structural morphology or capacity to interbreed, was a static hierarchy of fixed species, rather than species open to transformation. Foucault’s model leads to oversimplification, particularly in considering human physiology, where notions of internal functioning...

  7. 3 The Ambivalence of Phrenology
    (pp. 49-84)

    Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828), born in the German state of Baden, studied medicine in Strasbourg and Vienna. A practising physician, he began lecturing in 1796 in Vienna on what he called “organology,” the cerebral localization of mental faculties. Others called his palpation of skulls to ascertain the prominence or deficiency of these organs “cranioscopy.” After the Habsburg emperor banned Gall’s lectures as a danger to religion in 1801, Gall in 1805 embarked on a tour of Europe and finally arrived to a sensational public, but mixed scholarly, reception in Paris in October 1807.

    From 1804 to 1812, his younger...

  8. 4 Human Geography, “Race,” and Empire
    (pp. 85-121)

    Phrenology, invented by Gall, was a short-lived, always contested anticipation of techniques of modern personality psychology. Geography had an ancient pedigree, with a disciplinary community already active in the eighteenth century. Phrenology aspired to assess individual dispositions, though its application to entire peoples emerged as a tendentious by-product. Human geography, the observation of peoples in relation to climate and landforms, had always been an integral component of studying the earth.

    In recent years historians of geography have recognized that the description of climate, physical geography, and human inhabitants of a region by European armchair geographers in the nineteenth century often...

  9. 5 Ethnology and the Civilizability of “Races”
    (pp. 122-157)

    While there were few common members among the Société phrénologique de Paris and the Société ethnologique de Paris (sep), the early effort by phrenologists such as Spurzheim to found a Société anthropologique in 1832 displayed a kindred approach to a science of humankind.¹ Both societies sought holistic explanations for the unique nature of human faculties as compared to merely “animal” faculties. Both placed great importance on the physiological and anatomical constitution of individuals. Both also wished to differentiate human varieties by mental capacities deriving from physical make-up. Phrenology accented the individual, but produced invidious distinctions among races as a byproduct....

  10. 6 Constructing the “Other” in the Early Social Sciences
    (pp. 158-190)

    The learned societies discussed so far each played a critical role in the formation of disciplinary domains of the early social sciences. The activity of the Société phrénologique de Paris anticipated at some crude, elemental level neuroscientific principles of cerebral localization, by aspiring to relate brain organs to intellect and personality. The reading of head shapes dimly foreshadowed the more sophisticated quantitative techniques of testing for intellectual and psychological dispositions. Of course, modern psychologists find phrenology extravagant, laughable, and unprovable. But in its cultural context, it both created a sensation and assumed the dimensions of a serious scientific activity. Thereby...

  11. APPENDIX 1 Active Members of the Société phrénologique de Paris or supporters of phrenology
    (pp. 193-194)
  12. APPENDIX 2 Société de géographie de Paris Founders
    (pp. 195-201)
  13. APPENDIX 3 Members of the Société ethnologique de Paris
    (pp. 202-212)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-246)