HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article in French on Julius Lips, the German anthropologist exiled to the U.S. after fleeing Nazi Germany with his wife Eva.
Villar, Diego, 2021. “Julius Lips, précurseur de l’anthropologie inversée” [Transl. “Julius Lips, Forerunner of Reverse Anthropology”], in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Julius Lips (1895-1950) was a German ethnologist trained under the diffusionist school who studied material culture and non-Western art from a comparative perspective. Professor at the University of Cologne (1929-1933) and director of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (1928-1933), he organized controversial exhibitions together with his wife Eva Wiegandt (1906-1988), such as Masken der Menschen (The Masks of Men) in which African ritual masks rubbed shoulders with expressionist paintings, Melanesian skulls, and the death masks of Beethoven and Napoleon. Accused of subversive relativism, he left Germany one year after Hitler’s rise to power and went into exile in the United States. He was supported by Franz Boas at Columbia University (1934-1936) and was a visiting professor at Howard University (1937-1939).
In North America, Lips consolidated his professional career, carried out ethnographic fieldwork among Algonquian-speaking communities, and published – in 1937 – his most important anthropological contribution: The Savage Hits Back, or the White Man through Native Eyes, with a preface by none other than Bronislaw Malinowski. Villar’s article reviews the trajectory of Lips before and after WWII and pays special attention to the collection of ethnographic objects and pictures gathered by Lips in The Savage Hits Back to document the ways in which “savage art” represented the “White man.” While unveiling the ambiguities of his work, Villar considers that Lips anticipates “reverse anthropology,” namely the Indigenous capacity to objectify foreign observers. In 1948, Lips returned to Germany (GDR) where he wanted to promote an ethnology compatible with socialism. He directed the Institute of Ethnology, founded the Institute of Comparative Legal Sociology, and became rector of Leipzig University in 1949. He died in 1950, but Eva Lips continued his work and defended his/their anthropological legacy to the end.
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