Accepted paper:

Continuities and ruptures in the history of anthropology in western Germany (1945-1990): a path-dependency perspective


Bernhard Martin (University Halle-Wittenberg)

Paper short abstract:

In a path-dependency perspective the long continuity and stagnation until the late 1960s of western German anthropology can be interpretated as path-continuity and lock-in situation. Strategic action of reformers (path creation) provoked the reform of the discipline.

Paper long abstract:

The history of anthropology in western Germany is characterized by a first long phase of continuity, but in which it lost the contact to the international evolutions of the discipline, and a second phase, beginning in the 1970s, of renewal of university teachers and an opening for international theoretical discussions. The paper aims to analyze this splitted evolution by using path theoretical concepts. In this perspective the first phase can be seen as path continuity, i.e. the widely unchanged continuation of the existing development path of the discipline, increasingly degenerating during the 1960s into a lock-in situation, i.e. a critical contraction of the development path. In the first part of the paper will analyze - according to the path dependency concept - the immanent self-reinforcing mechanisms and power structures of the path. In this theoretical perspective the transition from the first to the second phase can be understood as a path rupture realized by strategically acting agents, espacially students and young scientifistics, who became aware of the self-reinforcing mechanism and power structures of the existing paths and developed strategies to overcome them. At the same time it is important to stress the resistance of advocates of the existing path and the long-lasting persistence of existing structures. The beginning of second phase can be interpretated as path creation, i.e. the conscious creation of a new development path by strategically acting agents. The second phase itself can be seen as path plasticy, i.e. an established path that is nevertheless open for innovations and experiments.

panel P059
Topics in the social history of anthropology, in Europe and elsewhere (Europeanist Network)