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Linguistics and Old Nazis

So my post yesterday about the research into the Pirahã language of the Amazon prompted a reply from my father that (roughly summarized) said "I'm surprised the University of Chicago Press let Wenner-Gren's foundation fund its work. You know he was a big Swedish Nazi, right?"

Well, no, I had no idea, but Wenner-Gren was involved in several interesting events, most of which aren't in the public record. Axel Wenner-Gren was a Swedish arms merchant, the founder of the Electrolux company, financier of the Alweg monorail, a resident of Nassau, Bahamas, during WW2, mostly likely a spy for the Axis, a murder suspect, and a friend of Hermann Goering's. At least he wasn't dull. In later life, he founded some charitable foundations such as the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. That group, in turn, funds the U of Chicago Press magazine Cultural Anthropology, which published the research.

Does the university know about the dubious provenance of this funding? I doubt it. Would a group set up by an old fascist plutocrat take cheap shots at a big leftie like Chomsky? Seems possible, though Wenner-Gren died in 1961, and institutions tend to take on goals of their own. The whole "private foundation" thing gives me the Hoffmann Institute creeps, though.

From the writer's perspective, Wenner-Gren seems like a perfect James Bond villain or counterspy. I mean, the guy bought Howard Hughes' yacht, which right there seems the sure sign of Bond-esque villainy. He's guilty, sez I.


( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )
Aug. 3rd, 2005 11:57 pm (UTC)
That is such a neat spin-off from your post about the strange things one can find in the Amazon.

Wenner-Gren didn't lead a boring life, that's for sure. That's not a conclusion one can dispute.

Speaking of James Bond, I found myself unable to sleep and popped Goldeneye into the DVD player the other day (okay, very early morning). It stands up quite well as the first Bond movie without any material taken directly from Fleming; it's a fancy pastiche with a very good cast and the usual jaw-dropping set-pieces.
( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )

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