Paper short abstract:
In 1884 the ethnologist Karl von den Steinen made the first scientific expedition to the Amazonian Xingu River, financed by the Brazilian Emperor, to which the indigenous issue was central. This paper aims to explore the relationship between ethnology and the Brazilian imperial policy.
Paper long abstract:
The beginning of ethnology in Brazil can be attributed to the German psychiatrist Karl von den Steinen, who in 1884 led the first scientific expedition to the Xingu River in the Amazon. After the publication of his book "Durch Central-Brasilien" (1886), which presents the results of this trip, he became the world's largest specialist of his time on the South American indigenous peoples. This book, plus "Unter den Naturvölkern Zentralbrasiliens" (1894), about the expedition from 1887 to 1888, are fundamental to ethnology until today. Despite the importance and originality of Karl von den Steinen work, it can be analyzed in the light of the Brazilian imperial interest in his researches considering that the indigenous issue was a key issue in the imperial policy. The Brazilian monarch Dom Pedro II is especially important, since it was he who largely financed the research of von den Steinen in the Amazon. Based on these two Americanist works of the author (the first was even dedicated to the Brazilian Emperor), in the lectures he delivered on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Society of Geography (which was founded by the Emperor himself) and the reports of the Presidents of the Provinces of Brazil, this paper seeks to explore the relationship between incipient ethnology and the Brazilian Empire. Although the relationship between anthropology and colonialism is well analyzed in English and French cases, the case that this paper exposes is sui generis: a German ethnologist funded by a South American empire in the 19th century.
Themes in the history of anthropology