Public Statement on #BlackLivesMatter and Structural Racism in Germany

AG Public Anthropology (AGPA) – Public Statement

In Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and Call for Dismantling Structural Racism in Germany

Public Statement issued by the Working Group Public Anthropology, German Anthropological Association (GAA/DGSKA), 19.06.2020; published in Public Anthropologist Journal Blog

We, the AG Ethnologische Bildung (Working Group Anthropology & Education) of the German Anthropological Association, support this statement since we see the urgent need for an anti-racist and diversity-sensitive education.


Comment by the Working Group Anthropology & Education, German Anthropological Association

“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” (James Baldwin)

Quoting the statement from an educational viewpoint, we believe that Educational Anthropology – understood as an Anthropology of and for Education – contributes to the acknowledgement of “Germany’s homegrown racism, systemic oppression, and structural discrimination against BIPoC communities intersecting with other minorities, vulnerable and underprivileged people”. An Anthropology of Education critically scrutinizes German educational institutions and the assumptions on which they are based and is able to disclose existing discriminatory educational structures and practices. Anthropologically inspired educational work enables (young) people to identify discrimination, racist thought and action on a personal, institutional and political level. It raises awareness of the past and present implications of colonialism in German society and its institutions, such as lasting unequal power relations and institutionalized racial discrimination:

“Institutionalized forms of racism have, for instance, systematically excluded BIPoC communities from employment and subjected them to racial discrimination, which has endured in Germany since colonial times. Decolonization calls for attention that coloniality is not over – that it is not ‘post-’ but rather continues to permeate almost all aspects of our lives.” With its critical analysis of German educational institutions and their often exclusionist premises, by sensitizing (young) people for (post-)colonial continuities and by promoting anti-racist activities, Educational Anthropology can fulfil its part of the “call on the general public to intensify a critique and dismantling of white privilege maintained in Germany” and may serve as a tool to “reinforce the long-standing and unfinished project of decolonizing the colonial and imperial legacies”, by decolonizing mindsets, feelings and actions, thus ultimately fostering social and political commitment for a society based on respect and social equity.

As Working Group Anthropology & Education, we support the statement regarding the #BlackLivesMatter movement and would like to share our thoughts regarding the role of Educational Anthropology in uncovering racist attitudes and (post-)colonial structures and in building an anti-racist society that is based on the respect for difference and on equal rights and opportunities for all. Educational Anthropology contributes in two ways to a society based on respect and social equity.

First, we believe that it is essential to take a critical look at the educational institutions of German society and the underlying logics according to which they work. Anthropological studies of German schools, for example, have scrutinized textbooks for ethnocentric assumptions and colonialist and racist representations of the ‘Other’ (Müller-Mathis 2019). Other studies have pointed out the ‘white’ middle-class-oriented assumptions about education and its requirements on which the German school system is built (Vardar 2011, Bönkost 2018). Moreover, educational anthropologists have analysed how, in a context shaped by cultural (and other) diversity, ‘Otherness’ is produced consciously and unconsciously in the daily interactions of students, teachers and parents, and how this production of ‘Otherness’ combines with processes of exclusion and discrimination (Schiffauer et al. 2002, Schiffauer 2015, Wellgraf 2018) – an issue which is also addressed in pedagogical and interdisciplinary literature (Mecheril 2010, GEW 2018, Fereidooni 2019).

Second, we believe that a decisive move to criticize and dismantle racist structures in Germany is to establish an education that equips young people with the ability for reflection and self-criticism, with empathy, a sense of justice and openness to the world (Galuschek 2019). In our view, anthropology has a lot to offer when it comes to establishing an education that raises awareness of discriminatory and racist acts and structures, sharpens the view for injustice and opens up paths to counter it (Galuschek & Ott 2019). Even though anthropology as a discipline itself was entangled in the colonial endeavour, anthropological insights can contribute to critically question (post-)colonial legacies and may support initiatives to dismantle them in Germany and worldwide.

With a methodology that is based on approaching ‘the Other’ with an unbiased stance and on grasping the ‘emic point of view’, that is the perspective of the studied communities, anthropology teaches to change perspectives, to question taken-for-granted assumptions, to overcome ethnocentric viewpoints and to appreciate the wealth of cultural (and other kinds of) diversity (Schneeweiß 2019a). Moreover, anthropologists have dealt very intensely with core issues such as belonging, identity construction, demarcation, inclusion and exclusion, and power relations. This anthropological knowledge is fundamental to support learning processes on topics such as prejudice, discrimination, racism, and global and local entanglements of power and to break up the dichotomy between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Finally, anthropological insights into the ways people have taken action against injustice and exclusion provide examples for an education that aims at strengthening competences to actively contribute to a society with equal opportunities of economic, political and cultural participation (Schneeweiß 2019b).

By critically reflecting the existing educational system and contributing to an education that promotes critical self-reflection and multiperspectivity, Educational Anthropology opens up spaces for the views and voices of the marginalized, acknowledging and appreciating the plurality of identities, life styles and world views as different but equal.

We are well aware of the fact that “anthropology in Germany was rooted in colonialism, like elsewhere, and complicit with the Nazi regime supported by many German anthropologists and their unquestioned white privilege. […] Reworking our epistemologies and engaging in more collaborative forms of research are necessary steps” to make anthropology a truly inclusive undertaking. The Working Group Anthropology & Education is committed to making research and education processes more collaborative – including epistemologies of the South, promoting a ‘decolonial education’ (Andreotti 2011), as well as enhancing the cooperation both with those whose perspectives and narratives have been largely ignored in German society and with those who participate in educational activities as teachers and students.



Andreotti, Vanessa (2011): Actionable Postcolonial Theory in Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Andreotti, Vanessa & de Souza, Lynn Mario T.M. (2016): Critical Education and Postcolonialism. In: Peters, Michael (Hg.): Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer.

Bönkost, Jule (2018): Weiße Privilegien in der Schule. IDB Paper Nr. 6.

Fereidooni, Karim (2019): Racism-Critical Pedagogy for Teachers and Multipliers in the Education Sector / Rassismuskritik für Lehrer*innen und Peers im Bildungsbereich. []

Galuschek, Anita & Ott, Henrike (2019): Perspektiven–Wechsel – Wechsel–Perspektiven. Von wissenschaftlicher Theorie zum pädagogischen „Comic“. In: Klocke-Daffa, Sabine (Hg.): Angewandte Ethnologie. Perspektiven einer anwendungsorientierten Wissenschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. S. 349-363.

Galuschek, Anita (2018): Selfhood and Recognition: Melanesian and Western Accounts of Relationality. New York: Berghahn.

Gewerkschaft Erziehung & Wissenschaft (GEW): Rassismus im Alltag. Erziehung & Wissenschaft (E&W) 09/2018. S. 6-23.

Mecheril, Paul u.a. (2010): Migrationspädagogik. Weinheim & Basel: Beltz.

Müller-Mathis, Stefan (2019): Das Wissen über ‚Weltentdecker‘: Ethnologische Perspektiven auf Bildungsmedien. Vortrag beim Workshop „Kulturelle Diversität als Ressource: Ethnologische Bildungsarbeit im schulischen Kontext“, Universität Tübingen.

Schiffauer, Werner et al. (2002): Staat – Schule – Ethnizität: politische Sozialisation von Immigrantenkindern in vier europäischen Ländern. Münster u.a.: Waxmann.

Schiffauer, Werner (2015): Schule, Moschee, Elternhaus. Eine ethnologische Intervention. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Schneeweiß, Verena (2019a): Ethnologische Bildungsarbeit: globalpolitische und diversitätsbewusste Ansätze. In: Klocke-Daffa, Sabine (Hg.): Angewandte Ethnologie. Perspektiven einer anwendungsorientierten Wissenschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. S. 233-255.

Schneeweiß, Verena (2019b): Diversität – mehr als ‚alles so schön bunt hier‘: Ethnologische Beiträge zu diversitätsbewusster Bildungsarbeit. Vortrag beim Workshop „Kulturelle Diversität als Ressource: Ethnologische Bildungsarbeit im schulischen Kontext“, Universität Tübingen.

Vardar, Azra (2011): Die Beteiligung von Migranteneltern an einer deutschen Grund- und Hauptschule. In: Arbeitskreis Ethnologie und Migration (ArEtMi) e.V. (Hg.): Migration – Bürokratie – Alltag: Ethnographische Studien im Kontext von Institutionen und Einwanderung. Berlin & Münster: LIT. S. 119-142.

Wellgraf, Stefan (2018): Schule der Gefühle: Zur emotionalen Erfahrung von Minderwertigkeit in neoliberalen Zeiten. Bielefeld: transcript.


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