Gustave Le Bon in this land unaccustomed to civilization: journey to Tatra Mountains in 1879, scientific racism and 19th century

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SUMMARY

The following paper focuses on the racial politics of the account of renowned French sociologist and psy­chologist Gustave Le Bon’s 1879 journey to Tatra Mountains and Podhale region, published in 1887 by the Warsaw-based magazine “Wędrowiec”. The paper treats this lesser known episode as a showcase

stanowi interesujące studium z minionej epoki i ciekawy materiał do poznania sylwetki jednego z wielu zapomnianych i nieznanych badaczy Tatr” (por. W. Siarzewski, dz. cyt., s. 14). Secific type of racist travel discourse used by the 19th century Westerner to describe the Other. The purpose of this discourse is as well to get to know non-Western people as to make them seem more exotic and, by distancing those who observe from those who are observed, to dispute non-Westerners status as fellow civilized human beings. The paper examines fragments of Le Bon’s text and, by using Mary Louise Pratt’s idea of anti-conquest, shows how author deprives inhabitants of Podhale region of subjectivity by making them objects of natural history study. The following article presents Frenchman’s report as an example of travel narrative employing scientific racism to describe the Other, a type of text which was used as an intellectual justification for the European colonial endeavours.

Keywords: Gustave Le Bon, race, racism, scientific racism, Gorals (Polish Carpathian Highlanders), Tatra Mountains, Podhale, Zakopane, narrative of journey, traveler’s gaze

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