Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues
Perspectives on Race Science and Scientific Racism
Gustav Mützel's "Principal Types of Mankind (After Huxley)," 1893
This series of discussions by scholars in the humanities and social sciences explores a variety of issues related to science, race, and racism.
Listen to perspectives on the history of race science and scientific racism around the world; the intersection of race with issues of class, gender, and scientific investigation; and the ways in which the pseudoscience on race continues on in the current era.
After listening, be sure to explore the "Resources" section with further reading and information for researchers.
- Rana Hogarth talks about how white physicians "medicalized" blackness in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and how African-Americans pushed back against this endeavor.
- John Jackson discusses the legacy of nineteenth-century race science on twentieth-century scientific investigation, the challenge to race science made by population genetics and anthropology, and the ways in which the pseudoscience of race continues to inform twenty-first century debates.
- Sebastián Gil-Riaño will examine how scientific articulations of human diversity have been used to both legitimize and confront notions of race and racism in the modern world.
- Sadiah Qureshi will recount the history of the exhibition of displayed peoples in nineteenth-century Britain, and how these shows contributed to the formation of anthropology.
University of Illinois
Rana Hogarth is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois. Her research focuses on the medical and scientific constructions of race during the era of slavery and beyond. Professor Hogarth's first book, Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840, examined how white physicians "medicalized" blackness—a term she uses to describe the process by which white physicians defined blackness as a medically significant marker of difference in slave societies of the American Atlantic. Her work can be found in numerous scholarly journals including the American Journal of Public Health, American Quarterly, and African and Black Diaspora.
Rana Hogarth talks about how white physicians "medicalized" blackness in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and how African-Americans pushed back against this endeavor. Recorded June 23, 2020.
Closed-captioning available on YouTube.
Michigan State University
John Jackson is Professor in the James Madison College at Michigan State University. His research and teaching focuses on the history of race and racism, particularly on the ways in which racism has been portrayed as "rational" through scientific and legal language. He has written and edited numerous books, including Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case Against Segregation and Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century. His work has appeared in leading academic journals including American Psychologist, Isis, Philosophy of Science, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly.
John Jackson discusses the legacy of nineteenth century race science on twentieth century scientific investigation, the challenge to race science made by population genetics and anthropology, and the ways in which the pseudoscience of race continues to inform twenty-first century debates. Recorded July 3, 2020.
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Insights from the Collections
The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of science, race, and racism.
Our cross-institutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials.
Search the Consortium search hub.
Some archival materials related to this topic include:
L.C. Dunn Papers, American Philosophical Society
Ashley Montagu Papers, American Philosophical Society
Samuel George Morton Papers, American Philosophical Society
Raymond Pearl Papers, American Philosophical Society
Theodosius Dobzhansky Papers, American Philosophical Society
Franz Boas Papers, American Philosophical Society
Other Web resources:
The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism, by Ramin Skibba; Smithsonian Magazine
Racism in Science: The Taint that Lingers, by Robin Nelson; Nature
How to Fight Racism Using Science, by Adam Rutherford; The Guardian
Related publications from our speakers:
Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840, by Rana A. Hogarth; UNC Press, 2017.
Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century, by John P. Jackson, Jr., and David J. Depew; Routledge, 2017.
Science for Segregation: Race, Law, and the Case Against Brown v. Board of Education, by John P. Jackson, Jr.; NYU Press, 2005.
Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case Against Segregation, by John P. Jackson, Jr.; NYU Press, 2001.
See also recent work from our fellows:
Colored Insane: Slavery, Asylums, and Mental Illness in the 19th Century, Diana Louis
Abolition and the Making of Scientific Racism in the Anglo-Atlantic, Sean M. Smith
By Their Locks You Shall Know Them: Race, Science, and Hair in the Nineteenth Century, Timothy Minella
The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840-1880, by Wendy Gonaver; UNC, 2019.
Monstrous Childbirth: Concepts of Race and Defective Reproduction in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Science, Medicine, and Law, Miriam Rich
Treating the Black Body: Race and Medicine in American Culture, 1800-1861, Christopher Willoughby
Related forums and podcasts:
Black Maternal Health: Historical and Reproductive Justice Reckonings
Immortal Life: The Promises and Perils of Biobanking and the Genetic Archive
Materials of the Mind, an interview with James Poskett
The Lost White Tribe, an interview with Michael Robinson
Bone Rooms, an interview with Sam Redman