HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This paper, in English, is about a forgotten figure in Afro-Brazilian studies, Rüdiger Bilden.

Pallares–Burke, Maria Lúcia G., 2020. “An Intellectual Portrait of Rüdiger Bilden, Forgotten Forerunner of Gilberto Freyre,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

In her touching portrait of a forgotten figure in Afro-Brazilian studies, Maria Lúcia Pallares-Burke brings to life German anthropologist Rüdiger Bilden (1893-1980), disciple of Franz Boas and colleague of Melville Herskovits at Columbia University. As early as 1929, Bilden coined the expression which identified Brazil as a “laboratory of civilizations,” a concept that has been highly controversial ever since. Bilden’s analyses of the effects of slavery on Brazilian society and culture are little known, however, in comparison to the thesis of his lifelong friend, the famous Brazilian anthropologist Gilberto Freyre. Bilden did not finish his Ph.D. at Columbia in the 1920s, published little and was unable to build a career. At a broader level, Bilden’s most important contribution concerned the question of race relations in the United States, a cause to which he gave increasing attention as the prospect of finishing his ambitious volumes on Brazilian slavery was diminishing. 

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