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This article examines how theories of Aryanism influenced geographic theories of race and environmental influence. The argument is made that the entanglements between Aryanism and geographic theories of race provide a new site in assessing the history of geographic thought. It begins by illuminating the rise of Aryanism in colonial India. As it moved across time and space, Aryanism became a foundational element in racial science, and informed a number of disciplines, including geography. The majority of the article is devoted to exposing the influence of Aryanism in American geography from the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The paper finds that the influential geographers Arnold Guyot, Nathaniel Shaler, Friedrich Ratzel, Ellen Semple, and Ellsworth Huntington were all indebted to Aryanism in the production of their theories of race and the environment.
Emerging in the United States during the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the discipline of geography came to be entangled with Aryanism. As I have shown, Aryanism shifted from a theory of linguistic origins to a biological category of race and traversed a wide geography that encompassed India, Britain, Germany, and the United States. From Arnold Guyot to Ellsworth Huntington, geographers used Indology and ethnology to theorize environmental influence over race and civilization. These geographers hatched their theories of environmental influence on race by relying on and reproducing discourses of Aryanism, which enabled them to evaluate racial resilience and degeneracy across space. My tracking of Aryanism in geography reorients the development of the disciplinary canon towards the intersection of geography and Orientalist knowledge and colonial systems of classification. Aryanism's place in the discipline of geography opens new avenues of inquiry into the history of geographic thought. Future research on geography and Aryanism would reposition the archive towards connections that would further expose the transnational and interdisciplinary contexts in which geography was established. Attention to original language sources and research notes in the archives promises to restore the links between geographers and Indologists, particularly in the correspondences between scholars working in colonial India, Britain, Germany, France, and the United States. These sources would permit an understanding of not only the intricacies in the development of geographic thought, but also aid in providing a comparative and synthetic history of race and colonialism in the social sciences and humanities. Such histories would shed new light on how the meanings and classifications of race changed over time and space as the social sciences became increasingly professionalized in the universities.