Sean M Smith

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Rice University

2018 to 2019
Research Fellow

Abolition and the Making of Scientific Racism in the Anglo-Atlantic

My dissertation studies British and American debates concerning the abolition of slavery as moments of fact-making about slavery, race, and bodies. By examining moments when slavery was publicly debated between 1733, when Georgia was established as a slave-free colony, and 1833, when Britain legislated the emancipation of slaves in its Atlantic colonies, this project uncovers how contemporaries made medical and scientific facts related to race while arguing over slavery. As pro- and anti-slavery writers argued about slavery, they supported their positions with conflicting assumptions about how racially different bodies reacted to climate and illness. This project focuses on these core assumptions about race and bodies to reveal their development in a discourse usually examined for its political, ethical, and religious content. I contend that these moments of political debate forced the enunciation of long-held beliefs about human differences and led to their crystallization as scientific racism.
Read more about his work here.