Anthropology and Race in Belgium and Congo (1839 - 1922)


Maarten Couttenier’s latest book, Anthropology and Race in Belgium and Congo (1839-1922), examines the history of physical anthropology in Belgium throughout the 19th century and shows how the notion of ‘race’ shaped various forms of European nationalism as well as imperialism in earlier and later Belgian (attempts at) colonization. Anthropologists not only collected human remains, but also took measurements, photographs, and plaster casts. Attempts to determine well-defined races using these methods turned out to be vain, but these efforts contributed to the rise of stereotypes and the segregation of people based on physical characteristics such as skin colour. The effects are still being felt to this day.

Maarten Couttenier is an anthropologist and historian with the AfricaMuseum History service and is the author of several works, including Als muren spreken. Het museum van Tervuren/Si les murs pouvaient parler. Le musée de Tervuren 1910-2010 (2010) and Congo tentoongesteld. Een geschiedenis van de Belgische antropologie en het museum van Tervuren (1882-1925) (2005). He was one of the curators of Human zoo. The age of colonial exhibitions (2021-2022).

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