Cover image from The Humboldt Foundation.

During fall 2022, I took a class at Columbia called the Modern State and Colonial subject, taught by Prof. Mahmood Mamdani. For the final paper, I analyzed the personal diaries of Alexander von Humboldt.

I. Introduction

The popular travel diaries of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci gave Europeans their first portrait of the Americas – the “New World.” Their writings told of the savage Indian and the heroic European. These early travel writings built up a justification for European colonization of the resource-rich and supposedly underutilized American landscape. While Alexander von Humboldt is a descendant of this scholarly tradition, his work sits a unique moment in the history of travel literature; he embarks on a colonial voyage during the decolonization of South America.

In this essay, I will explore Humboldt’s three-volume Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, During the Years 1799-1804 – which documents his travel through the Americas. I will argue Humboldt’s Personal Narrative marks the beginning of a “reinvention” of the Americas in the colonial imagination, setting up the groundwork for a future of South American settler-colonialism and racialized rule of multi-cultural states. Humboldt’s redefinition of America – and the subsequent scholarship and expeditions he inspires – pave the way for the Spanish Empire to have an extractive, neo-colonial role in the newly independent South American states.

II. Background and Influences

Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist, Romantic philosopher, biogeographer, traveler, and author, born in Prussia in 1769. He is regarded as one of the most prolific European naturalists, credited with pioneering the fields of botany, biogeography, and American anthropology, as well as making significant contributions to astronomy, ecology, and other fields. Throughout his career, Humboldt published over fifty volumes and essays documenting his voyages to the Americas and Central Asia and his subsequent scientific findings.1

Humboldt’s writings have influenced some of the most prominent thinkers in Western science, including Charles Darwin, Henry Thoreau, and Ernst Haeckel. Darwin even “said that his career was a consequence of reading Humboldt’s Narrative of Travels.”2 American revolutionaries – such as Simon Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson – have also partially credited Humboldt with inspiring their leadership in independence movements from the Spanish and British empires.3 4 Arguably, Humboldt’s most influential work is his Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, During the Years 1799-1804, Volumes 1, 2 & 3 – the subject of this paper – as it was more digestible than his other more technical writings and was thus consumed widely by the general European public. It was quickly translated from its original French to English, Spanish, and other languages.5

In the five-year long voyage Personal Narrative documented, Humboldt traveled with his companion, Aimé Bonpland, through Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. They stopped at several islands on their way to the Americas – including the Canary Islands. They explored the Llanos (grasslands) in Venezuela, the Andes mountains, the plains of Mexico, and other natural landmarks. On the way, they collected tens of thousands of plant specimens and scientific measurements.6

Unlike other early European explorers, Humboldt had more power to personalize his scientific voyages. He was raised by a wealthy, noble family, and he did not explicitly work for any European empire, often canvassing for funding from whoever would offer it. He was not religious either, which helped him avoid any pressures from the Church.7 However, this did not mean his scientific travels were not guided by imperial motives. Humboldt’s voyage to the Americas was funded entirely by the Spanish government. He implored the Spanish King that his research would serve Spanish colonial interests, citing the past successes of explorers Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan. Ultimately, Spain agreed, due to Humboldt’s vast knowledge of natural resources and minerals that could potentially be profitable to the empire.8 This agreement between Humboldt and the Spanish government was exceedingly rare as, typically, “the Spanish government kept its colonies completely shut off from contact with the outside world.”9 In fact, Humboldt himself revealed, “Never had so extensive a permission been granted to any traveller, and never had any foreigner been honored with more confidence on the part of the Spanish government.”10 Consequently, Humboldt’s South American voyages were explicitly completed with Spanish interests in mind.

III. Situating Humboldt in the Scholarly Tradition of Travel Literature

Humboldt’s research sits in a centuries-long tradition of European expeditions to the “New World.” He sets sail for the Americas more than three hundred years after Christopher Columbus’s 1492 journey.

Humboldt’s writings deviate from the egotistic lineage of European travel literature. His narrative is noticeably less self-absorbed than other explorers – who were more often interested in the fame and glory they would receive upon return to Europe. In addition, his work is more ambitious than his predecessors.11 Mary Louise Pratt comments, “Unlike the disciples of Linnaeus or the employees of the African Association, he [Humboldt] did not write or travel as a humble instrument of European knowledge-making apparatuses, but as their creator.”12 Humboldt aspired to create new colonial knowledge.

Humboldt sharply differed from earlier travel writers in his descriptions of the natural beauty of the Americas. Early explorers regarded American nature as underdeveloped and inferior to European nature.13 In contrast, Humboldt glorifies the American landscape. Humboldt is often quite over the top in his veneration. In volume 1 of Personal Narrative, Humboldt laments it is almost impossible to express his admiration of the land without boring his audience:

It is a difficult task, to describe those sensations…produced by the immensity of the space as well as by the greatness, the novelty, and the multitude of the objects, amidst which we find ourselves transported. When a traveller attempts to furnish descriptions of the loftiest summits of the Globe, the cataracts of the great rivers, the tortuous varies of the Andes, he is exposed to the danger of fatiguing his readers by the monotonous expression of his admiration.14

Humboldt’s wonderment with the natural beauty of the Americas sets him apart from his condescending 16th and 17th Century forebearers.

Another distinctive aspect of Humboldt’s journey is its historical context. As Humboldt undertook his voyage, the Spanish-American colonies were undergoing significant social and political upheaval. The American-born Spanish elite (the criollos) were seeking independence from the Spanish Empire, as they became the primary landowners in South America and gained political and economic influence.15 Simultaneously, the oppressed majorities – African slaves and indigenous Americans, whose labor “had produced the wealth of Spain, and indeed of Europe” – were beginning to form alliances in protest of their violent conditions.16 Humboldt’s journey thus happened at an incredibly crucial point in Spanish colonial history.

Consequently, Humboldt’s journey served as Spain’s attempt “to reaffirm its grip on its American colonies.”17 In order for the Spanish to retain political and economic influence on its soon-to-be former colonies, America had to be reimagined in the European political and scientific conscious.18 Mary Louise Pratt explain, “For the elites of Northern Europe, the reinvention is bound up with prospects of vast expansionist possibilities for European capital, technology, commodities, and systems of knowledge.”19 Humboldt was assigned this momentous task.

IV. Exploring the Personal Narrative

In the following sections, I will explore three ways in which Humboldt reinvented America to ensure Spanish control. In section A, I will argue that Humboldt manipulated scientific measurement to reinvent South American terrain in a way that underscored European superiority. In section B, I will show how Humboldt appropriated the language of early explorers like Columbus to set the stage for a colonial resource grab. Finally, in section C, I will show how Humboldt redefined native American pasts to relegate natives to historical stagnation.

A. Measurement: Imposing a European Order

Humboldt was obsessed with measurement. He brough almost fifty measuring devices on his American voyage, some recognizable to a modern reader – such as the compass, pendulum, barometer, telescope, and microscope – but others alien – such as magnetometers, hygrometers, electrometers, sextants, and cyanometers.20 Everywhere he went, he would take measurements and theorize their meanings. He attributed heightened sensations of cold and heat on the South American coasts to humidity, since his thermometer reads the same temperature21; he attributed a lack of vegetation on a tall volcano to “scorified lava” rather than “perpetual snow”22; he attributed increased dryness measurements in Venezuelan trees to increased frequency of earthquakes.23 Often his theories lacked thorough explanation. While some theories (such as his ideas about humidity) seemed grounded in reason, others seemed more dubious.

Humboldt was also particularly interested in measuring population data. He directly correlated population density “with [the] success and potential” of a village.24 He expressed disappointment when he encountered a beautiful town with “solidly built” houses, that was seemingly “deserted.”25 He would directly compare populations of indigenous villages to European countries, calling the village populations “inconsiderable” in contrast to entire states.26 When considering demographics, Humboldt evaluated native and European populations “according to the same standards…inherently those of the West,” which led to him making incorrect assumptions about precolonial and colonial social dynamics.27

In addition to comparing South America to the West, Humboldt was also interested in comparing South America to itself. Nicolaas Rupke explains, “Land masses, rock formations, ocean currents, rainfall, temperature, geomagnetism, plants, and animals were all studied in terms of their spatial interrelations.”28 Humboldt frequently drew iso-maps, which joined regions with some equal measurement (e.g. temperature, elevation). He also would define material regions based on the existence of certain geological features, for example.29

While these geographic classifications may seem innocuous, as Livingstone explains, “Geography was not merely engaged in discovering the world; it was making it… Exploration, topographic and social survey, cartographic representation, and regional inventory – the craft practices of the emerging geographical professional – were entirely suited to the colonial project.”30 The features he chose to correlate and compare often directly served the various scientific theories he was formulating, instead of driving their initial conceptualization. These types of regional mappings and comparisons are highly subject to cherry-picking.

Humboldt not only measured South American land, but also the people. He compared the “richness” and “gradations” of indigenous American languages, ranking them as inferior in sophistication to “the finest languages of Asia and Europe.”31 He delineated the areas different tribes inhabit.32 He compared their skin tones and hair colors – with categories “white”, “red”, and “bronze.”33 He compared their ways of keeping time and conceptualizing the universe with Chinese conceptions of zodiac.34

Humboldt’s practice of measurement unilaterally takes information from the South American environment, without a sense that that information will ever be depleted. This colonial scientific methodology has been described by Boaventura de Sousa Santos as “extractivist.”35 There is something interesting or desirable about the American land that Humboldt wishes to know – yet he does not attempt to ask the indigenous Americans for a reason why the temperature may feel colder or warmer on the coast, why the volcanoes lack vegetation near their peaks, and why the trees have recently been drier. Naomi Klein explains,

The extractivist mindset isn’t about having a conversation and having a dialogue and bringing in indigenous knowledge on the terms of indigenous peoples. It is very much about extracting whatever ideas scientists or environmentalists thought were good and assimilating them.36

So, while Humboldt refuses to engage intellectually with the native Americans, he extracts information from observation of them and their land. Then, Humboldt co-opts this extracted knowledge as his own creation.37

These extracted measurements serve the invention of a “natural history” of the Americas. Michel Foucault explains,

For natural history to appear, it was not necessary for nature to become denser and more obscure, to multiply its mechanisms to the point of acquiring the opaque weight of a history that can only be retraced and described, without any possibility of measuring it, calculating it, or explaining it; it was necessary—and this is entirely the opposite—for History to become Natural.38

While the real history of the American people and land is nuanced and unquantifiable, Humboldt attempts to naturalize it, categorize it, and measure it – so Europe has ownership of a new knowledge of it. This makes the creation of natural history, in it of itself, a political project.39 Humboldt’s obsession with comparative measurement was serving to redefine South American terrain in the European conscious.

The implications of Humboldt’s quantitative obsessions reach even further, however. Humboldt attempts to measure and compare quantities that should truly be immeasurable.40 This invites abuse, in the name of scientific “objectivity.” Nicolaas Rupke argues that this thread of Humboltian thought directly manifested itself in scientific racism, and it inspired Darwin’s Origin of Species and Aldous Huxley’s eugenics experiments based on measurements of the human skull.41 Humboldt compared things that should not have been compared; eugenicists saw this surge in evolutionary discourse as a justification to begin comparing races – based in measurements of people and animals’ body parts.42

B. “Primal Nature” 43

While Humboldt differs from the early European explorers in many ways, he writes about the wonders of America’s natural beauty in a strikingly similar style. While explorers in the 16th and 17th Centuries looked down upon American landscapes, earlier explorers – like Christopher Columbus – marveled at the vast beauty of America. They wrote of unparalleled beauty and endless terrain.44

Humboldt’s prose has an undeniable similarity. In the following excerpt, a grandiose style, that emphasizes beauty and size, is evident.

We passed over an immense plain covered with gramineous plants. Mimosas with hemispheric tops, and stems only four or five feet high, alone vary the dull uniformity of the savannahs. Their branches are bent towards the ground or spread out like umbrellas. Wherever there are deep declivities, or masses of rocks half covered with mould, the clusia or cupey, with great nymphaea flowers, displays its beautiful verdure. The roots of this tree are eight inches in diameter, and they sometimes shoot out from the trunk at the height of fifteen feet above the soil.45

Humboldt’s descriptions are mystical and evoke feelings of a vast, untamed landscape.

Humboldt writes of South America “as a primal world of nature” that is untouched by humans.46 “The formulation is a peace-loving, utopian one: none of the obstacles to occidentalist progress appear in the landscape” – especially the native himself.47 This type of language calls for European intervention, to prevent the “waste” of this beauty and resources by the unnamed native. Andrew Sluyter explains, this “’Pristine Myth’…maintains that the precolonial landscapes of the Americas were undeveloped and, therefore, that non-Westerners are unproductive and economic development must equate to cultural Westernization.”48 Humboldt paints a landscape ready for a second era of colonial domination.

When Humboldt does mentions native population, he criticizes their lack of desire to strip the land of its natural resources. He describes gorgeous pearls on Venezuelan islands and chastises the indigenous population for “neglecting” to develop fishing industries.49 In a small valley town, Guanaguana, he again disapproves of native “waste” and criticizes their “neglect” of “the culture of alimentary plants.”50

Inevitably, Humboldt’s documentation of America’s still-untapped resources led to a resource grab in post-colonial South America. Pratt explains, a “‘scramble for America’ not unlike the scramble for Africa still to come” accompanies Spanish American independence.51 Humboldt’s documentation of hundreds of mineral reserves is credited with inspiring a massive British investment boom in silver mining.52 53 In addition, Humboldt brought fertilizer to Europe from Chile and Peru – which eventually caused the collapse of the Chilean economy and its subsequent dependence on British bankers.54 Predictably, Humboldt’s resurrection of early colonial lexicon paved the way for new forms of colonial domination.

C. The Fragmentation of Native History

In Personal Narrative, Humboldt draws a clear line between ancient native society and current native society. Humboldt believes any positive aspects of ancient native civilization in the Americas have slowly but surely disappeared.

The barbarism which prevails throughout these different regions is perhaps less owing to a primitive absence of all kind of civilization, than to the effects of long degradation; for most of the hordes which we designate under the name of savages, are probably the descendants of nations highly advanced in cultivation. How can we distinguish the prolonged infancy of the human race (if, indeed, it anywhere exists), from that state of moral degradation in which solitude, want, compulsory misery, forced migration, or rigour of climate, obliterate even the traces of civilization? If everything connected with the primitive state of man, and the first population of a continent, could from its nature belong to the domain of history, we might appeal to the traditions of India. According to the opinion frequently expressed in the laws of Menou and in the Ramajan, savages were regarded as tribes banished from civilized society, and driven into the forests.55

Humboldt believes that – while at one point there were highly advanced, self-sufficient native societies – forced migration due to colonization and a harsh environment (among other factors) have caused native society to devolve into an unrecognizable barbaric form. He makes an analogy to a colonial history of India – claiming, if native history is to be considered real history at all, modern native populations are likely composed of savages banished from primordial civilization. Since then, native life has remained in a stagnant state of “savagery.”

Humboldt even introduces a “scientific” theory in Personal Narrative to prove the stagnation of Indian society.

I have observed elsewhere, that it is intellectual culture which most contributes to diversify the features. Barbarous nations have a physiognomy of tribe or of horde, rather than individuality of look or features. The savage and civilized man are like those animals of an individual species, some of which roam in the forest, while others, associated with mankind, share the benefits and evils which accompany civilization…But the Indian of the Missions, being remote from all cultivation, influenced only by his physical wants, satisfying almost without difficulty his desires, in a favoured climate, drags on a dull, monotonous life. The greatest equality prevails among the members of the same community; and this uniformity, this sameness of situation, is pictured on the features of the Indians.56

Humboldt argues that natives look the same, because they live similar lives that have not changed much over time. He claims, if they had, they would have diversified like animals in a species. The same tenuous scientific reasoning Humboldt used to explain his measurements is used to bolster the European “linearity of progress” narrative.

In another example, Humboldt warns the reader to not assume the sophistication of ancient Aztec or Quechua society based on the behavior of modern-day Peruvians ad Mexicans. While the “poor labourers of Peruvian and Mexican race” sometimes cannot count beyond four, the “great empires of Cuzco and Anahuac” had an advanced numerical system with high resolution.57 Humboldt again disconnects precolonial and postcolonial native society.

This cleaving of native history is something Mary Louise Pratt calls “Archaeologized America.”58 Pratt explains Humboldt makes precolonial native society a relic of ancient history, something to be studied by archaeologists or anthropologists, with no trace in the modern day.59 Pratt explains,

Ironically, Humboldt is often credited with developing the fundamentals of American archaeology and anthropology. In fact, Jaime Labastida explains how Humboldt defined anthropology with a false objectivity. According to Humboldt, a scholar’s judgement of whether a society is primitive or advanced, its productions beautiful or ugly, does not affect that scholar’s unbiased study of the progress of man towards civilization.61 This formulation allows him to divide indigenous American history into disparate sections, based on his own malicious conceptualizations, with impunity.

According to Humboldt’s line of reasoning in Personal Narrative, non-European societies are not continuous, while European societies are. This gives Europeans a monopoly on continuity – on defining who has history and who is history-_less_. Consequently, the colonizer can praise, disparage, and repurpose aspects of “ancient” native society, without consequences in the present. Pratt explains, “European discourse of landscape deterritorializes indigenous peoples, separating them off from territories they may once have dominated, and in which they continue to make their lives.”62 This can be viewed as relegating the native to a permanent status of “occupancy,” as is theorized in Mahmood Mamdani’s Neither Settler nor Native.63

Like in South America, in the USA, all land was originally recognized as Indian land. The minute British interests manifested in the USA, Indian land was redefined as “territory that Indians had the right to use but over which they did not have domain.”64 In court, American lawyers argued that Indians were savages, who did not use the land to the fullest, and thus could not truly own it. This allowed lawmakers to define native Americans as permanent colonial subjects.65

When you separate the modern, “savage” native from the ancient, “civilized” native, you can make this same accusation; while “ancient” natives may have used the land on par with Western standards, the modern native is wasteful. If the native has no history, he has no sovereignty. Thus, he can be relegated to a permanent state of occupancy, always at the whim of the colonizer.

V. The Modern State and Its Technologies of Rule

Humboldt came to South America at a historical turning point, with the pivotal role of protecting Spanish colonial influence. The Spanish rulers were preoccupied with both native and criollo resistance – two separate movements which both saw Spain as their enemy and oppressor. Revolution was inevitable, and it was critical that Spain’s position was redefined so it could continue to exploit resources and labor from South America afterwards. “Humboldt’s task,” Fonseca explains, “is one of reconstruction: it…came to characterize American history after the revolutions of independence.”66 Humboldt was responsible for laying the ideological foundations of neo-colonial Spanish influence in South America.

In the above sections, I first showed how Humboldt redefined South American terrain according to European norms. By comparing features under the falsely objective framework of scientific measurement, he could freely assert European superiority (see Section A). Second, I showed how Humboldt redefined America’s landscapes under the early colonial construct of “primal nature” to further incentivize resource extraction from the Americas post-independence (see Section B). Finally, I showed how Humboldt redefined (and, in fact, erased) native history, through an archaeologization of native society – paving the way for further colonial domination of native land (see Section C).

Thirty years after his voyage ended, Humboldt reflected on the results of the South American revolutionary efforts in Personal Narrative,

Since I left America, one of those great revolutions, which at certain periods agitate the human race, has broken out in the Spanish colonies, and seems to prepare new destinies for a population of fourteen millions of inhabitants, spreading from the southern to the northern hemisphere, from the shores of the Rio de la Plata and Chile to the remotest part of Mexico. Deep resentments, excited by colonial legislation, and fostered by mistrustful policy, have stained with blood regions which had enjoyed, for the space of nearly three centuries, what I will not call happiness but uninterrupted peace.67

Humboldt ruminates on the revolution with dismay, accusing the revolutionaries of overthrowing peaceful conditions.

Humboldt generally believed that Spanish colonialism benefitted the native populations of South America. He explains that readers incorrectly assume Indian populations have diminished in the Spanish colonies, but, he claims, there are still six million native Americans. In addition, he claims that tropical areas in which “civilization has penetrated” have seen considerable increases in population.68 He argues that life under colonial rule is more prosperous than independent rule, citing the “Caribbees who have preserved their independence,” but are far outnumbered by the Indian population of the Missions (although he admits the living conditions of the Missions are oppressive).69

Spanish colonialism clearly benefitted the criollo elite. Even though criollo society was very different from European society, a decolonial future with criollo rule was better than a unified African and Indian revolution in South America from the Spanish perspective.70 While the criollo-led revolutions liberated the Americas from Spanish rule, they were not decolonial by any means. The revolutions gave way to a new society, based in White Supremacy, with the criollo elite wielding political, economic, and social power over the African, indigenous, and mestizo subjects.71

This future was only a looming threat when Humboldt began his journey. To Europeans, these potential postcolonial societies were difficult to dominate. Pratt explains,

[The societies] would be multiracial, many predominantly non-white, unevenly Christian at best; they would never have been monarchies; they would be built out of formations like slavery, the plantation system, the hacienda, the mita, institutions Europeans had devised and profited from, but which had not been lived out in Europe as social and cultural formations. They would be societies Europe was unlikely even to understand, let alone control.72

This future was, in fact, settler-colonial – invented in the Americas and already in progress up north.73

VI. Conclusion

Humboldt created the ideological foundations of the post-colonial society that was are already emerging in South America in the early 1800s. He tailored the social and political order to serve Spanish interests, while preventing native Americans from gaining power through unity.

While there are hundreds of pages of nuance to uncover, Humboldt never hides these intentions. In the first few pages of Personal Narrative, Humboldt reveals his intended influence on the future independent South American states.

I may even indulge the hope, under the influence of more soothing ideas, that this work will be thought worthy of attention, when the passions shall be hushed into peace [i.e. when the post-revolutionary fervor dies down]; and when, under the influence of a new social order, those countries shall have made a rapid progress towards public welfare. If then some pages of my book are snatched from oblivion, the inhabitant of the banks of the Orinoco and Avila will behold with ecstasy, that populous cities enriched by commerce, and fertile fields cultivated by the hands of freemen, adorn those very spots, where, at the time of my travels, I found only impenetrable forests, and inundated lands.74

Humboldt conceptually empties the American landscape of its pre- and early colonial significance. Somehow, despite three hundred years of European colonization, Humboldt only writes of “impenetrable forests” and “inundated lands,” the same primal nature that had greeted Columbus in 1492. He opens up South America to a new colonial future – a future of Spanish capitalist domination and institutionalized White Supremacy, victim to the same hierarchies of imperialist power as it has always been.


  1. Nicolaas A. Rupke, Alexander von Humboldt: A Metabiography, (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2008). 

  2. Karl A. Sinhuber, “Alexander von Humboldt 1769–1859,” Scottish Geographical Magazine 75, no. 2 (1959): 99. 

  3. Mary Louise Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 111-112. London: Routledge, 1992. 

  4. Sinhuber, “Alexander von Humboldt,” 94. 

  5. David N. Livingstone, The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise, 134. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1993. 

  6. Ibid., 135. 

  7. Ibid., 134 

  8. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 116. 

  9. Sonja Karsen, “Alexander von Humboldt in South America: From the Orinoco to the Amazon,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 16, (1987): 296. 

  10. Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, During the Years 1799-1804, Volumes 2 & 3, eds./trans. Thomasina Ross (London: George Bell & Sons, 1907), 24, retrieved from, quoted in Ibid., 296. 

  11. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 124. 

  12. Ibid., 115. 

  13. Jaime, Labastida, “Las Aportaciones de Humboldt a la Antropología Mexicana,” Revista de la Universidad de Mexico, (1971): U9. 

  14. Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, During the Years 1799-1804, Volume 1, trans. H.M. Williams, (Miami: HardPress, 2017), 2643-2648, asin: B07RNJXPWB. 

  15. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 111, 113. 

  16. Ibid., 113-114. 

  17. Ibid., 114. 

  18. Ibid., 114. 

  19. Ibid., 111-112. 

  20. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volume 1, 920. 

  21. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 159. 

  22. Ibid., 110-111. 

  23. Ibid., 184. 

  24. Andrew Sluyter, “Humboldt’s Mexican Texts and Landscapes,” LSU Faculty Publications 36 (2006): 365. 

  25. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volume 1, 2006-2007. 

  26. Ibid., 3973. 

  27. Sluyter, “Humboldt’s Mexican Texts and Landscapes,” 365-368. 

  28. Nicolaas Rupke, “The origins of scientific racism and Huxleys rule,” in Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: Race and Natural History, 1750-1850, eds. Nicolaas Rupke and Gerhard Lauer, 235. London: Routledge, 2018. 

  29. Livingstone, The Geographical Tradition, 138. 

  30. Ibid., 168-170. 

  31. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 263. 

  32. Ibid., 278. 

  33. Ibid., 283-284. 

  34. Ibid., 15. 

  35. Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Cognitive Decolonization: An Introduction,” in The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018): 129. 

  36. Naomi Klein, “Dancing the World into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson,” yes! Magazine, March 3 2013, accessed December 13 2022,, quoted in Ibid., 130. 

  37. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 135-136. 

  38. Michael Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, trans. Rupert Swyer, 128. New York: Vintage, 1994, quoted in Carlos Fonseca, “Shaky Grounds: Bolívar, Humboldt, and the Birth of Catastrophe Politics,” Revista Hispanica Moderna 67, no. 2 (2014): 166. 

  39. Carlos Fonseca, “Shaky Grounds: Bolívar, Humboldt, and the Birth of Catastrophe Politics,” Revista Hispanica Moderna 67, no. 2 (2014): 165. 

  40. Ibid., 165. 

  41. Rupke, “The origins of scientific racism and Huxleys rule,” 235-7. 

  42. Ibid. 235-237. 

  43. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America.” 

  44. Ibid., 126. 

  45. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 207. 

  46. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 126. 

  47. Ibid., 126-127. 

  48. Sluyter, “Humboldt’s Mexican Texts and Landscapes,” 361. 

  49. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 207, 171. 

  50. Ibid., 213. 

  51. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 127. 

  52. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volume 1, 355-56. 

  53. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 131. 

  54. Ibid., 136. 

  55. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 248-9. 

  56. Ibid., 257. 

  57. Ibid., 263. 

  58. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 132. 

  59. Ibid., 132-134. 

  60. Ibid., 134. 

  61. Labastida, “Las Aportaciones de Humboldt a la Antropología Mexicana,” U11. 

  62. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 135. 

  63. Mahmood Mamdani, Neither Settler nor Native, (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020). 

  64. Ibid., 42. 

  65. Ibid., 42-45. 

  66. Fonseca, “Shaky Grounds,” 176. 

  67. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volume 1, 522-526. 

  68. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volumes 2 & 3, 250-251. 

  69. Ibid., 251. 

  70. Pratt, “Alexander von Humboldt and the reinvention of America,” 140. 

  71. Ibid., 140. 

  72. Ibid., 140. 

  73. Mamdani, Neither Settler nor Native, 39. 

  74. Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Volume 1, 536-539.