The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Social Science - 608 pages
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Germany’s overseas colonial empire was relatively short lived, lasting from 1884 to 1918. During this period, dramatically different policies were enacted in the colonies: in Southwest Africa, German troops carried out a brutal slaughter of the Herero people; in Samoa, authorities pursued a paternalistic defense of native culture; in Qingdao, China, policy veered between harsh racism and cultural exchange.
Why did the same colonizing power act in such differing ways? In The Devil’s Handwriting, George Steinmetz tackles this question through a brilliant cross-cultural analysis of German colonialism, leading to a new conceptualization of the colonial state and postcolonial theory. Steinmetz uncovers the roots of colonial behavior in precolonial European ethnographies, where the Hereros were portrayed as cruel and inhuman, the Samoans were idealized as “noble savages,” and depictions of Chinese culture were mixed. The effects of status competition among colonial officials, colonizers’ identification with their subjects, and the different strategies of cooperation and resistance offered by the colonized are also scrutinized in this deeply nuanced and ambitious comparative history.
 

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Contents

Ethnography and the Colonial State
1
SOUTHWEST AFRICA
73
Southwest Africans in German Eyes before Colonialism
75
German Southwest Africa
135
SAMOA
241
The Creation of the Samoan Noble Savage by Way of Tahiti
243
German Colonialism in Samoa 19001914
317
CHINA
359
German Views of China before Kiautschou
361
Qingdao as a Colony
433
Colonial Afterlives
509
A Note on Sources and Procedures
519
Head Administrators of German Southwest Africa Samoa and Kiaochow
525
Bibliography
527
Index
605
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

George Steinmetz is professor of sociology and German studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Regulating the Social: The Welfare State and Local Politics in Imperial Germany, the editor of State/Culture: State Formation after the Colonial Turn and The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences: Positivism and its Epistemological Others, and codirector, with Michael Chanan, of the documentary film Detroit: Ruin of a City.

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