Stefanos Geroulanos on "The Invention of Prehistory"


What does it mean to be human? What do we know about the true history of humankind? In this episode, I spoke with historian and NYU professor Stefanos Geroulanos to discuss his new book, The Invention of Prehistory: Empire, Violence, and Our Obsession with Human Origins (Liveright, 2024) to discover how claims about the earliest humans and humankind’s true beginnings inform political and social practices to this day.

How do the various stories we tell about human origins, including those about neanderthals, homo sapiens, killer apes, noble savages, and missing links shape the modern world? Have you followed a keto diet, become aware of your reptile brain, idealized a pre-modern state of existence or demonized others as behaving like Neanderthals? Geroulanos explains how accounts of prehistory arise in particular historical moments to solve contemporary problems, often linked to but as often quite apart from actual scientific knowledge. The Invention of Prehistory provides a crucial and timely examination of how the pursuit of understanding humanity's beginnings has been intertwined with agendas of war and domination.

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Uli Baer

Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Think About It” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email; Twitter @UliBaer.

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