„Boas Walks“: Revisiting the Key Venues of a Pioneer of Modern Anthropology in Kiel

Boas Walks

The “Boas Walks” is a student initiative aiming to show the participants of the “Boas Talks” colloquium (18-21 November) and everyone interested in the history of Kiel or cultural anthropology, the most crucial places that Franz Boas would have frequented in Kiel. The excursion is organized and will be led by two students of Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology – Hannah Keller and Wiebke Mainusch.

During the walk, we will be visiting the key places and commemorating the events of two distinct time phases:
1. Boas’ years of study in Kiel, at the end of the 19th century
2. The period of National Socialism in Germany.

Postcard of main building of Kiel University fom 1905

Postcard of a colorized photo showing the main building of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in the Schlosspark with a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm in the front and the library on the left, ca. 1905 (Fotoarchiv des Stadtarchiv Kiel, Sign. 98.491)

In 1879 Franz Boas moved to Kiel to work on his dissertation in physics under the supervision of Prof. Gustav Karsten; within his dissertation, which he finished in 1881, Boas was researching the optical properties of water. However, he also chose to move to Northern Germany in order to stay with his sister Toni, who was being treated here by Dr. Friedrich Esmarch - one of the most acknowledged medical experts of the time.
Later, in 1931, Boas returned to Kiel to hold a speech in honour of the 50th anniversary of his dissertation. At that time, he was already speaking as a famous researcher. Franz Boas’ talk was devoted to “race and culture”, a topic he returned to again and again during his professional life. Just two years later, his writings were listed to be burned in the fascist book burnings, which were organized and celebrated by right-wing students and citizens in Kiel.
The Boas Walks will start on November 18th, 15:00 h at the Bus stop "Hospitalstraße". Starting at this point is no coincidence – it is the exact location where Franz Boas must have headed when first coming to Kiel since it is the place where his first flat and the hospital were located.
Although Kiel might look very different today than when Boas stayed here, we are confident that tracking along these various focal points will give us a glimpse of the experience he might have had. When Franz Boas arrived in Northern Germany for the first time, it was around the same time of the year. And even though most of the actual buildings he visited do not exist anymore, we will be providing various historic pictures, maps, and other additional information to take a deep look into the city’s turbulent history through the lens of Boas’ stays here.

 Franz Boas
Franz Boas during his studies in Kiel (Cole 1999, 94)

Map of Kiel 1869Map of Kiel, 1869 (Gustav Ludolph Martens, Verlag der Universitätsbuchhandlung Kiel, 1871)

View of the old city ca. 1865
View of the old city, ca. 1865, this photo was taken in the Brunswiker Straße and should be quite similar to the view Boas would have had from his first flat in Kiel (Fotoarchiv des Stadtarchiv Kiel, Sign. 80.696)


"Boas Walks"
Date: 18 November 2021, 15:00-17:00h
Meeting point: Bus stop "Hospitalstraße"

Boas Walks is part of the "Boas Talks" colloquium
Date: 18-21 November 2021 at Kiel University
For futher information about the conference "Boas Talks" click here


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions