Research and Creative Coffees is a series of events aimed to be a platform for discussions about publications, projects and working papers of AAU Faculty as well as AAU students.

The upcoming event planned for Friday April 26, starting at 10.00am in Room 1.33 will be devoted to the Mark A. Brandon´s paper “What are the Czechoslovaks: Aleš Hrdlička and the Racial Reorganization of Central Europe”.

Please register at http://bit.ly/April26ResearchandCoffee (Only registered participants will receive the full paper.)

Abstract of the paper:

What are the Czechoslovaks: Aleš Hrdlička and the Racial Reorganization of Central Europe 

Mark A. Brandon

Anglo-American University, Prague

Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich 

In 1933 Aleš Hrdlička (1869–1943), the Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, was preparing an article to be published in a commemorative book for the Czechoslovakian Exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair. Hrdlička told the editor of the volume that his article, which he entitled “What are the Czechoslovaks Racially,” should be placed at the front of the book because “everyone would naturally like to know what the Czechoslovaks [are] before reading anything else about them.” He also asked the editor to print photographs of the book’s authors (all Czechs and Slovaks) to illustrate “the racial characteristics of our people.” This paper will explore what Hrdlička meant by the “racial characteristics” of Czechoslovakians. For Hrdlička, who specialized in anthropometry, physical traits were more important for determining human difference than language, political borders and citizenship. Yet finding distinct somatic markers of Czechoslovakian identity was a challenge he had difficulty meeting.

Anchored at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington for three decades (1910–41), Hrdlička played a key role in shaping the discipline of physical anthropology. Experts regard Hrdlička as one of America’s greatest early anthropologists, and he has recently received considerable scholarly attention, for example in Samuel Redman’s Bone Rooms (2016). However, no modern researcher has taken full account of the important role that Czech national causes played in molding his beliefs. In fact, Hrdlička wrote a hefty portion of his correspondence in Czech, he devoted a large part of his busy schedule to promoting Czechoslovakian issues in America, and he even donated much of his personal fortune to the cause of physical anthropology in Czechoslovakia. This little-studied yet prominent part of his life might just be the key to understanding his perplexing ideas about race and nation.