Rethinking the history of the Aryan paradigm

History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences

Christopher Hutton
University of Hong Kong

My involvement with this topic began when I observed that the notion of a superior ‘Aryan race’, which functions in the English-speaking world as a near-universal shorthand for Nazi ideology, has no clear counterpart in the actual theories of Nazi ideologues. The term arische Rasse (‘Aryan race’) is not to be found in Nazi-era sources; the term used is arisches Volk (‘Aryan people’). In fact both academics and officials in the Nazi state rejected categorically the idea that ‘Aryan’ could be used to designate a racial identity. While the term arisch had immense ideological power in the public sphere in Germany between 1933 and 1945, it belonged, as far as race theorists were concerned, to the study of language and culture (Hutton 2005). The use of the phrase ‘Aryan race’ in English language sources derives from translating Volk (‘people’) as ‘race’, and then reading…

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