“Moor pharmacies” (Mohren-Apotheken) (2018)

Mohren-Apotheke Dortmund.png
Always well advised? The logo for the Mohren-Apotheke in Dortmund

This is a map of the pharmacies in the German lands (at least 104 as of May 2018) that use some version of the outdated and offensive term “Mohr” in their business names (“Mohren-Apotheke” or “Apotheke zum Mohren”), gathered from and plotted in Google Maps. Some of them are centuries old–Vienna’s Mohren-Apotheke dates back to around 1350 (although its name can only be traced back to 1588) and Nuremberg’s Mohren-Apotheke zu St. Lorenz to 1442 (with its name first appearing in records in 1578)–but most of them are much more recent. There is no clear consensus on where the name comes from, but the most likely inspiration was the innovation in heraldry that saw “Moors” being used as symbols of worldliness, linked with an international trade that brought pharmaceutical ingredients from distant lands. In some cities, like Cologne or Coburg, the name has a historical reference tied up with a figure of local veneration or a symbol of the city, but in most the name trades more generally on the set of associations surrounding the concept of the “courtly moor” (Hofmohr). Especially over the course of the nineteenth century, the association with exotic luxury attached to the distant origins of many pharmaceutical ingredients was attached to Black bodies in much the same way that “colonial goods” (Kolonialwaren) like chocolate or tobacco would be advertised with Black figures. Some “Moor pharmacies” today use as their logos versions of medieval heraldry images, but many still use logos and decorations directly adapted from the noble savage motif or from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century caricatures. These have been the occasion for grassroots protests, notably in 2018 in Frankfurt am Main and more widely from the summer of 2020 to today.

Jeff Bowersox


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“Moor” pharmacies (Mohren-Apotheken) (2018) by Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blackcentraleurope.com/who-we-are/.