Biography of Wilhelm Koppers:- Missionary in Tierra del Fuego (1921-1922) and in India (1938-1939), since 1928 he taught ethnology in Vienna. He was director of the journals Anthropos and Wiener Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik and is the author of important works on the cycles of civilizations.
Biography of Wilhelm Koppers
- Born:- 8 February 1886, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
- Died:- 23 January 1961, Vienna, Austria
Educated in seminaries of the missionary order Societas Verbi Divini of San Miguel (in Steyl, Holland) and of San Gabriel (in Mödling, Austria), Wilhelm Koppers entered the order in 1901, and was ordained priest in 1911. (1911-1912), then specializes in ethnology and Sanskrit at the University of Vienna, where he obtained his doctorate in 1917. He began to perform teaching duties at that university in 1924 And four years later he took up the chair of ethnology there. He had been a pupil of Father Wilhelm Schmidt at the San Gabriel Seminary, later collaborating with him in the direction of Anthropos magazine for eighteen years.
Adhered in the beginning to the diffusionist theory of the “cultural circles” (“Kulturkreise”), of which Schmidt was one of the maximum exponents, towards 1930 began to move away from her to advocate a historical comparative method susceptible of being applied to the evaluation Of any cultural phenomena in any historical period, and that would allow to establish the possibility of parallel developments or processes of cultural diffusion. Using this approach, he attempted to explain the origin of the state and to formulate an interpretation of the early stages of social development of humankind as a whole, on universal and historically based principles.
He was particularly interested in the role of the individual in primitive society, and studied hunter and gatherer peoples, performing fieldwork in Tierra del Fuego (1920-1921) and central India (1938-1939). During two periods (1929-1938 and 1945-1957) he was president of the Institut für Völkerkunde of the University of Vienna, created largely by his efforts to separate institutionally ethnology from studies of physical anthropology; Under his direction, the center became one of the most outstanding in Europe. His works include The Bhutan of Central India ( Die Bhil in Zentralindien , 1948) and The Primitive Man and His World ( Der Urmensch und sein Weltbild , 1949).
Primitive man and his world is a very suggestive example of cultural correlation and organic synthesis between ethnology and prehistory, applied to the study of the “world” and the “mentality” of primitive man, understood both in the prehistoric and ethnological sense (Current primitives). After a methodological introduction, the author alludes to some questions of human paleontology related to the origins and the primitive cultures of the humanity.
He then contrasts prehistoric industries with the cultures studied by followers of the historical-cultural method. In the light of these facts, the primitive world presents itself to itself as “spiritually intact,” that is, neither degenerate nor beastly, nor “savage.” Some aberrant ritual practices, such as cannibalism, Slavery and human sacrifice, are actually “secondary”, related to already very complex cultures. At the end of the work, Koppers alludes to the importance of these discoveries in the field of the history of religions, with special attention to the problem of primitive monotheism.