Kindred by Choice

Germans and American Indians since 1800

By H. Glenn Penny

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 35 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2644-4
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0765-8
    Published: August 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4265-7
    Published: August 2013

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Awards & distinctions

2015 DAAD Book Prize in German Studies, German Studies Association

A 2015 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

How do we explain the persistent preoccupation with American Indians in Germany and the staggering numbers of Germans one encounters as visitors to Indian country? As H. Glenn Penny demonstrates, that preoccupation is rooted in an affinity for American Indians that has permeated German cultures for two centuries. This affinity stems directly from German polycentrism, notions of tribalism, a devotion to resistance, a longing for freedom, and a melancholy sense of shared fate.

Locating the origins of the fascination for Indian life in the transatlantic world of German cultures in the nineteenth century, Penny explores German settler colonialism in the American Midwest, the rise and fall of German America, and the transnational worlds of American Indian performers. As he traces this phenomenon through the twentieth century, Penny engages debates about race, masculinity, comparative genocides, and American Indians' reactions to Germans' interests in them. He also assesses what persists of the affinity across the political ruptures of modern German history and challenges readers to rethink how cultural history is made.

About the Author

H. Glenn Penny is associate professor of history at the University of Iowa and author of Objects of Culture: Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in Imperial Germany.
For more information about H. Glenn Penny, visit the Author Page.


"Penny approaches his subject with sincerity and care, uncovering and narrating in engaging style. . . . A significant contribution to our understanding of this peculiar and not-so-obvious aspect of Germans' mentality."--Times Literary Supplement

"Penny's nuanced exploration of this multilayered German fascination is a very readable volume that will engage both European and North American students of history. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."--Choice

"Kindred by Choice has much to offer anyone interested in American Indian history, German history, or cultural history, or simply in finding out why German hobbyists do what they do. Well written, and with several interesting illustrations, the book is simply outstanding. I recommend it highly."--The Annals of Iowa

“Penny mixes traditional archival work and literary readings with techniques from cultural anthropology and even memoir.”--Journal of American History

“Deeply researched and highly original. . . . The most comprehensive study of this subject to date.”--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

“Penny masterfully brings literary, philosophical, and sociological insights to bear on some thorny questions in German political and cultural history, particularly in the Nazi Era.”--Yearbook of German-American Studies