Maja Hagerman: "Visual Typologies – A Nordic Type, Norwegian or Swede? Racial photography, collaboration and competition between Herman Lundborg and Halfdan Bryn"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausing Room)
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Julia Nordblad
  • Seminarium

Higher Seminar in the History of Science and Ideas

Maja Hagerman presents a chapter draft from her dissertation project "Racial Concepts and Visual Typology: Race biology, photography and collaboration over national borders within Herman Lundborgs scientific network for race biology from 1910 to 1935.”  


In Sweden, at the Uppsala University Faculty of Medicine a new subject of research, “race biology”, became established very early, already in the early 1910s. Its only representative at the university was Herman Lundborg; who got the title “senior lecturer in race biology” in 1915 as one of the world’s pioneers in this field. But the terms Lundborg used in Swedish, “rasbiologi” (race biology) and “rashygien” (racial hygiene), were originally coined in German by the physician Alfred Ploetz, who founded a society for racial hygiene in 1905 and a journal Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie, einschliesslich Rassen- und Gesellschaftsiene. A blond and blue eyed “Nordic type” was Ploetz ideal, and Lundborg aimed at giving a scientific definition of the Nordic man as a racial category, making this idealized type more precisely defined in relation to other people, whom he labelled “East-Baltic type” (like a Finn, a Pole or a Czech) or “Lapp type” (for the Sami). As the founder and first Head of the Swedish State Institute for Race Biology in Uppsala, from 1922 to 1935, he very effectively used photographs to underpin race biology a science built on clear visual evidence. Racial theories idealizing the “Nordic type” were spread among many academic institutions in the North, and between the North and other parts of Europe in the years 1910 to 1935. I examine the role of Herman Lundborg, and compare him with two other Nordic scientists with whom he collaborated; Halfdan Bryn in Norway and Harry Federley in Finland. I also look at how these three acted in the broader German speaking international network of racial hygiene; and in particular I look at how they used photography as scientific evidence in combination with concepts for racial categorization. My focus is to understand how photography was used in transnational relations, and what significance this had for the international development of race biology and the “Nordic type” as a visual icon.

Photo: Claes Gabrielson