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Roots of Contemporary Issues RCI

Matthew Unangst

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Matthew Unangst is a historian of modern Germany and East Africa. He completed his Ph.D. from Temple University in 2015 and is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Roots of Contemporary Issues Program at Washington State University, where he has been teaching since 2016. His research interests are in the intellectual history of empire and the history of geography, as well as in German and African intellectual history.

Dr. Unangst’s current manuscript project, The Geography of Empire: German Colonialism, Race, and Space in East Africa, 1884-1905, explores the conflation of ideas about race and space in the German colonization of East Africa. The manuscript argues that German colonists and local intermediaries developed new conceptions of East Africa’s geography between 1884 and 1907. German colonists conducted their debates over development in terms defined through the new discipline of cultural geography. These new geographies produced claims to territorial sovereignty based on a conception that race was the primary factor in East African history. Tensions existed between state projects of creating borders between political and economic units, often defined in ethnic terms, and private spatial imaginaries based around networks connecting people across space. This project, of creating ethnic territory through the movement and development of racially-defined populations, was the first German expression of a state project to racialize territory, a project that would develop further later in the century.

Research for this project has been supported by a Bernadotte Schmitt Grant from the American Historical Association and a Research Grant from the Central European History Society.

An article drawn from the project, “The Celebrity of Explorers and German National Identity, 1870-1895,” will be published in Central European History in September 2017.

For more about Dr. Unangst, download his CV.

Unangst headshot