1st Edition

Images of Savages
Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture

ISBN 9780415188555
Published December 22, 1998 by Routledge
320 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

In Images of Savages, the distinguished psychologist Gustav Jahoda advances the provocative thesis that racism and the perpetual alienation of a racialized 'other' are a central leagacy of the Western tradition. Finding the roots of these demonizations deep in the myth and traditions of classical antiquity, he examines how the monstrous humanoid creatures of ancient myth and the fabulous "wild men" of the medieval European woods shaped early modern explorers' interpretations of the New World they encountered. Drawing on a global scale the schematic of the Western imagination of its "others," Jahoda locates the persistent identification of the racialized other with cannibalism, sexual abandon and animal drives. Turning to Europe's scientific tradition, Jahoda traces this imagery through the work of 18th century scientists on the relationship between humans and apes, the new racist biology of the 19th century studies of "savagery" as an arrested evolutionary state, and the assignment, especially of blacks, to a status intermediate between humans and animals, or that of children in need of paternal protection from Western masters. Finding in these traditional tropes a central influence upon the most current psychological theory, Jahoda presents a startling historical continuity of racial figuration that persists right up to the present day. Far from suggesting a program for the eradication of racial stereotypes, this remarkable effort nevertheless isolates the most significant barriers to equality buried deep within the Western tradition, and proposes a potentially redemptive self-awareness that will contribute to the gradual dismantling of racial injustice and alienation. Gustav Jahoda demonstrates how deeply rooted Western perceptions going back more than a thousand years are still feeding racial prejudice today.
This highly original socio-historical contextualisation will be invaluable to scholars of psychology, sociology and anthropology, and to all those interested in the sources of racial prejudice.


'Gustav Jahoda's new book provides a rich historical review of how Europeans have presented the images of the others to themselves over the last three centuries ... a thorough, provocative, empirically rich and theoretically promising book. It opens many alleys for new ways of thinking, as well as for new kinds of empirical research.' - Jan Valsiner, Clark University, Culture & Psychology

'This book is a worthwhile addition to cultural history and anthropology ... the subtlety of its argument notwithstanding, the book is written with the same matter-of-fact clarity that typifies all of Jahoda's work. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of anthropology, European expansion, and, as the title says, the roots of prejudice.' - Deborah Kaspin, Yale University, American Anthropologist

'This might just be the most important piece of work he has done.' - Graham Richards, Staffordshire University

'It's fascinating and I could not stop until I reached the last page.' - Guida de Abreu, University of Luton, UK.

'Provides excellent coverage of several crucial issues surrounding the topic of race, and it does so with an engaging and easy style.' - Peter Collett, University of Oxford

'A theme of classical, fundamental importance throughout the social sciences. This is a remarkable book on several counts.' - Albert Pepitone, University of Pennsylvania

'Extremely impressive, admirably lucid and readable.' - Ioan Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science

'This is an arresting and brilliant analysis by a psychologist with a background in anthropology ... An eye-opening book that deserves a wide readership.' - Network