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Alden Scholar Series

Dr. Matthew Unangst (February 2023)

Colonial Geographies book cover and Dr. Unangst smiling headshop

Colonial Geography: Race and Space in German East Africa, 1884-1905

Dr. Matthew Unangst, Department of History

About the Lecture

Dr. Matthew Unangst of the History department will use excerpts from his new book to illustrate the ways in which Europeans combined ideas about race and geography to establish and justify colonialism in Africa. The book, Colonial Geography: Race and Space in German East Africa, 1884-1905, charts changes in conceptions of the relationship between people and landscapes in mainland Tanzania during the German colonial period. In German minds, colonial development would depend on the relationship between East Africans and the landscape. The book argues that the most important element in German imperialism was not its violence but its attempts to apply racial thinking to the mastery and control of space. Utilizing approaches drawn from critical geography, Colonial Geography posits that the development of a representational space of empire had serious consequences for German colonialism and the population of East Africa. In this lecture, Dr. Unangst will demonstrate show how spatial thinking shaped ideas about race and colonialism in the period of New Imperialism for all European empires, not just Germany.

About Dr. Unangst

In his research, Dr. Unangst looks at how colonialism in today's Tanzania functioned and continues to shape the world to this day. His book, Colonial Geography: Race and Space in German East Africa, 1884-1905, looks at how ideas about race shaped German plans for economic development, and at how Africans accommodated, evaded, and resisted those plans. Another current project explores the legacies of German colonialism in Tanzania -- how people in Tanzania, West Germany, and East Germany tried to make sense of German East Africa's history and shape it to fit their own political goals. Dr. Unangst teaches classes in world, European, and African history. 

Colonial Geography Exhibits

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Exhibit of books and materials in a display case