Race around the World: Conceiving Human Difference from the Global South

Friday, January 5, 2018: 10:50 AM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 3 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Warwick Anderson, University of Sydney
Until recently, conventional histories of race science mimicked their subject, treating racial thought situated around the North Atlantic as though it were universal—or at least global. Latin American variations in racial concepts occasionally represented the exception. Generally, the rest of the world was imagined as a data mine for European and North American savants, and dismissed as distant places to which North Atlantic racial thought might diffuse. But how does our understanding of the sciences of race change if we consider the global south—loosely defined—as a site of knowledge making? What might such postcolonial symmetry offer our conceptual histories of human difference? Human biology often looks different when viewed from “southern” standpoints. This is not to set up another dichotomy, a polar opposition, but rather, it is an attempt to understand realistically the geographical patterning of racial thought. To a degree, it works as an inquiry into the various ways in which white privilege could be asserted scientifically in colonial and settler societies. It might help us to rethink North Atlantic race science as the exception, not the norm. It leads us to ask whether the supposed decline of race in science after World War II might be seen instead as a substitution of “southern” ideas of human difference (adapted to discourses of development and modernization) for harder North Atlantic typologies, which were being left behind by emerging global capitalism.