Nuance Lost in Translation

Interpretations of J. F. Blumenbach’s Anthropology in the English Speaking World
Artikel/Articles

Abstract

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach has been called ‘The Father of Physical Anthropology’ because of his pioneering publications describing human racial variation. He proposed a racial typology consisting of five ‘major varieties/races’ of humanity. Since the 1990s, Londa Schiebinger and other Anglophone scholars have argued that Blumenbach’s writings on race show evidence that he was significantly influenced by nineteenth-century race supremacist beliefs which held Europeans/Caucasians to be the highest ranked and most beautiful race. However, these modern authors relied largely on Thomas Bendyshe’s 1865 English translations of Blumenbach’s Latin and German texts. As documented herein, Bendyshe’s publication includes numerous translation errors which form a pattern indicating that he employed two translators. The first translator was consistent with five earlier English translations. The second translator was not consistent with the earlier translators. This second translator also used English terms that denigrated extra-Europeans while adulating Europeans. Furthermore, Bendyshe’s1865 translation regularly used the term ‘beauty’ to translate different Latin words that Blumenbach used to express his nuanced view of aesthetics and structural symmetry. Given the inconsistency and errors in Bendyshe’s 1865 translations, they should not be unquestionably accepted as an accurate reflection of Blumenbach’s views.

Keywords

Blumenbach Bendyshe Anthropological Society of London Race Race supremacy 

Nuancen, die in der Übersetzung verloren gegangen sind

Interpretationen von J. F. Blumenbachs Anthropologie in der englischsprachigen Welt

Zusammenfassung

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach wird wegen seiner wegweisenden Arbeiten über menschliche Populationen als „Vater der physischen Anthropologie“ bezeichnet. Er entwarf eine Typologie, die fünf Hauptvarietäten der Menschheit unterschied. Seit den 1990er Jahren haben Londa Schiebinger und andere englischsprachige Autoren argumentiert, dass Blumenbachs Schriften über menschliche Populationen zeigten, dass er von Rassentheoretikern des 19. Jahrhunderts beeinflusst worden sei, die Europäer bzw. Kaukasier als höchste und schönste Menschen-„Rasse“ betrachteten. Die neueren Autoren bezogen sich hierbei jedoch weitgehend auf die englische Übersetzung von Blumenbachs ursprünglich lateinischen und deutschen Texten durch Thomas Bendyshe. Wie ich zeigen werde, enthält Bendyshes Ausgabe zahlreiche Fehler, die einem bestimmten Muster folgen und die dokumentieren, dass er auf zwei Übersetzer zurückgriff. Während der erste Übersetzer im Einklang mit fünf früheren englischen Übersetzungen stand, fehlte diese Übereinstimmung bei dem zweiten Übersetzer. Doch auch dieser gebrauchte englische Begriffe, die Nicht-Europäer abwerteten und Europäer hervorhoben. Zudem verwendete Bendyshes Übersetzung von 1865 durchgängig allein den Begriff „beauty“, um unterschiedliche lateinische Worte zu übersetzen, die Blumenbach gebrauchte, um seine differenzierten Ansichten über Ästhetik und körperliche Symmetrie auszudrücken. In Anbetracht der Widersprüchlichkeiten und der Fehler in Bendyshes Übersetzung von 1865 sollte sie nicht unhinterfragt als eine zutreffende Wiedergabe von Blumenbachs Ansichten akzeptiert werden.

Schlüsselwörter

Blumenbach Bendyshe Anthropological Society of London Rasse Rassische Überlegenheit 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West ChesterUSA

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