The Legacy of Alexander von Humboldt's Encounter with the Americas
in the Twenty First Century
The social and political unrest since summer 2020 has launched a large public debate about colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and their afterlives. In this discussion, we aim to debate how, where, and if the famed Alexander von Humboldt fits within the politicized and impassioned discourse on the removal of statues of imperialist icons, indigenous rights, and Eurocentric historical narratives.
Most famous for his journeys to Spanish America, Humboldt narratives describe him in different roles over the centuries. Depending on whom you ask, he was a great discoverer and naturalist, a spy and traitor, a humanist and visionary, or an abolitionist and a freedom fighter.
In order to contextualize these varied interpretations, we invite Humboldt expert Dr. Sandra Rebok to present and discuss her findings in conversation with esteemed historian Professor Manisha Sinha, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Rebok built her career studying the original works of Humboldt in German, Spanish, and French. She has examined and analyzed the many Humboldt narratives articulated over the centuries, while taking account of the primary sources, historical documents, and socio-economic context during his time. Collaborating with researchers worldwide, Dr. Rebok has presented her work at universities, conferences, and public events in South America, Europe, Mexico, the US, and Canada.