Date of Award

Winter 12-2-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jared Poley

Second Advisor

Greg Moore


This work seeks to understand one specific relationship between the European human sciences as they developed in the second half of the nineteenth century and Enlightenment natural sciences as they existed at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I argue that ethnologist Adolf Bastian (1826–1905) maintained two forms of interpreting Humboldtian science that existed after the death of famed scientific explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). First, Bastian upheld an explicit interpretation of Humboldtian conceptions of civilization and Bastian explicitly used the Humboldtian comparative method of study. Second and most importantly, the transition from Humboldtian methods to Bastian's ethnology and psychic unity of mankind marks a moment of rupture. Humboldt's insistence on the subjective experience of nature as a form of scientific progress could only be condensed and objectified by Adolf Bastian's ethnological studies of “mankind.”


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