The Emergence of Racial Modernities in the Global South

AHA Session 122
History of Science Society 2
Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Blue Room Prefunction (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Warwick Anderson, University of Sydney
Warwick Anderson, University of Sydney

Session Abstract

What happens to the picture of twentieth-century race science—and the human sciences more generally—when viewed from the global South? North Atlantic inquiries and debates have dominated the standard conceptual history of race, yet there is suggestive evidence of a “southern” or antipodean racial distinctiveness. This session begins to explore the comparative and transnational dimensions of race science in the southern hemisphere. It seeks to show how the human sciences, including human biology, look different from southern standpoints.

Conventional histories of racial thought in the twentieth century have emphasized rigid classifications, typologies, and hierarchies; desires for racial segregation and separation; hard-line eugenics; and fears of race mixing. This session explores how, in parts of the southern hemisphere, one often can find greater interest in racial plasticity and environmental adaptation; mixing or miscegenation, with blurring of racial boundaries; endorsement of biological absorption of Indigenous peoples; and consent to the formation of new or blended races. Such variant racial formations commonly have been associated with Latin America, but they were never confined to that continent—they can be found also across the Pacific, even in Anglo settler societies like Australia and New Zealand. Although white privilege—or its proxies—was maintained in the southern hemisphere, its conceptual framework, institutional structure, and even perceptual parameters might diverge in multiple directions from North Atlantic convention. Eschewing any simple dichotomies or polarities, the papers in this session thus try to trace a more complicated and variable patterning of global racial thought in the twentieth century.

A key theme is the figuring of the Indigenous in these southern societies, whether as the subject of attempted elimination or erasure, or as a legitimating constituent of modern racial formations, or as ambivalent and oppositional presence in modernizing programs. This session explores the recursion of Indigeneity in southern imaginings of what it means to be racialized and modern. In various ways, the papers show how the human and biological sciences in the twentieth century reframed racialized subjects—sometimes ostensibly if disingenuously “deracialized”—so as to render them amenable to processes of development, nation building, and modernization.

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