Demeaning cultural hybridization

Canton / Guangzhou, January–February 1930

The spread of European ideas, knowledge, and technologies unbalances Asian and African cultures, Ross claims.

Strolling through a Chinese city (most likely Canton), Ross is bothered by the traces of a strong, if undigested European influence, from the clothing of the people in the streets to a nightclub that reminds him of “a third- or fourth-rate Munich carnival bar” [999] to, worst of all, a theatre playing Ibsen.

This cultural hybridization Ross terms “Verniggerung”, which roughly translates as “niggerfication” [p. 999]. In his text, this doesn’t denote a black African influence, but rather a loss of cultural integrity under foreign (here: European) influence. Today, this term is remembered most prominently as a Nazi fighting word against European art declared un-German or degenerate. Here and elsewhere, Ross uses “nigger” as a slur that demeans not one racial group, but rather every non-white who, in his opinion, has lost their cultural roots through foreign influence.1

“The Europeanization of the world may be the biggest problem of our time”, Ross claims [p. 1000]/ While certainly not directed against colonization itself, this still reads as a surprisingly frank attack on European trade and cultural dominance in Africa and Asia. But rather than political emancipation against European interests, Ross claimed their interests to be best served by his ideal of cultural purity. His ethno-pluralist appreciation for Chinese culture’s endangered sophistication is based on the power calculations of German geopolitics. Not only might the new, inchoate mixture of cultures engulf China in a crisis. Europe’s sharing of knowledge, ideas, and technologies, especially with Soviet Russia as an important emissary, might also leave Europe vulnerable to the rise of Asia sometime in the future.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Die Verniggerung Chinas. Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. 1931 Jun 14;Jg. 40(Nr. 24); 999–1000.

Topic: Clash of Continents
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

See also


1 See: Colin Ross. Die Welt auf der Waage: der Querschnitt von 20 Jahren Weltreise. 29. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1937; 151. See Library.

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