German Missionaries and Australian Anthropology

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    In their primary task of converting Indigenous Australians to Christianity, German missions active in various parts of Australia through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century recorded relatively few successes. On the other hand, their endeavours in observing and recording Aboriginal languages and cultures have left a rich–and yet frequently overlooked–anthropological legacy. A common element in that legacy is their work in the area of linguistics, which they understood to be a necessary foundation for their evangelical work. Nonetheless, caution must be exercised in evaluating the German missionary contribution to Australian anthropology according to either national or religious paradigms. German anthropology, as practised within the community of missionaries and outside, evinces a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. Moreover German anthropologists, including missionaries, were by the late nineteenth century connected into international knowledge networks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-208
    Number of pages12
    JournalAnthropological Forum
    Issue number3
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


    • German anthropology
    • indigenous Australians
    • linguistics
    • missionaries


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