In: KulturPoetik 2007, Heft 2


Thomas Schwarz


Inszenierung von imperialer Macht im Erstkontakt. Theodor Koch-Grünbergs Amazonas-Ethnographie und Robert Müllers Tropen-Roman




This essay compares travelogues from German ethnographer Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1872–1924), regarded as an expert on native American groups in Guyana, with Robert Müller's (1887–1924) novel Tropen on the Amazonian tropics. It focuses on both texts' representations of practises adopted to establish imperial power in situations of first encounters with natives. Koch-Grünberg as well as the protagonist of Müller's novel, Hans Brandlberger, represent the alliance of science and military hardware that is significant for early 20th century's projects of European expansion. On closer examination Müller's novel turns out to be an ironic comment on ethnographic discourse. Its hyperbolic rhetoric and paradoxical combination of contradictory practices quoted from travelogues functions as a critique of imperial rationality.