Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Perspectives on Race Science and Scientific Racism

typologymankind

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.

  • Elise Burton analyzes the development of genetics, race science, and race concepts in the contemporary Middle East.
  • Sadiah Qureshi recounts the history of the exhibition of displayed peoples in nineteenth-century Britain, and how these shows contributed to the formation of anthropology.  
  • Sebastián Gil-Riaño examines how scientific articulations of human diversity have been used to both legitimize and confront notions of race and racism in the modern world.
  • 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.

More coming soon!


Elise Burton

Elise Burton

University of Toronto

Elise Burton is Assistant Professor at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the relationship between the life sciences and the formation of racial, ethnic, and national identities in the Middle East. Professor Burton's first book, Genetic Crossroads: The Middle East and the Science of Human Heredity, shows how Middle Eastern peoples—both as scientific actors and research subjects—played an important role in the history of human genetics. Her work can be found in numerous scholarly journals including IsisSocial Studies of Science, and Comparative Studies of Science and History

Elise Burton discuss the development of genetics, race science, and concepts of race in the Middle East. Recorded February 5, 2020. 

Closed-captioning available on YouTube


Sadiah Qureshi

Sadiah Qureshi

University of Birmingham

Sadiah Qureshi is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham. Her research explores the ways in which racialized knowledge is produced, circulated, and mobilized in the modern world. Her first book, Peoples on Parade, provided the first substantial survey of the commercial exhibition of displayed peoples in nineteenth-century Britain. It explores the importance of such shows for intercultural encounter and notions of racial difference, and how such shows contributed to the formation of anthropology as a discipline. 

Sadiah Qureshi recounts the history of the exhibition of displayed peoples in nineteenth-century Britain, and how these shows contributed to the formation of anthropology. Recorded July 6, 2020.

Closed-captioning available on YouTube


Sebastián Gil-Riaño

Sebastián Gil-Riaño

University of Pennsylvania

Sebastián Gil-Riaño is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a historian of transnational science focusing on scientific conceptions of race, culture, and indigeneity in the twentieth century. By approaching these topics from the perspective of Latin America and the global South, his research investigates how scientific articulations of human diversity have been used to both legitimize and confront political formations in the modern world. Professor Gil-Riaño's work challenges the conventional geographies and periodization that have long shaped historical understandings of race and racism. His work can be found in numerous scholarly journals including Social History of MedicineThe British Journal for the History of Science, and Isis

Sebastián Gil-Riaño examines how scientific articulations of human diversity have been used to both legitimize and confront notions of race and racism in the modern world. Recorded June 30, 2020.

Closed-captioning available on YouTube


Rana Hogarth

Rana Hogarth

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" blacknessa 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 HealthAmerican 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


John Jackson

John Jackson

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 PsychologistIsisPhilosophy 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. 

Closed-captioning available on YouTube


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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 millions of catalog records of rare books and manuscripts and thousands of finding aids, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials.

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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

Learn more about our speakers:
Elise Burton
Sadiah Qureshi
Sebastián Gil-Riaño
Rana Hogarth
John Jackson

Related publications from our speakers:
Genetic Crossroads: The Middle East and the Science of Human Heredity, by Elise K. Burton; Stanford University Press, 2021. 
Peoples on Parade: Exhibitions, Empire, and Anthropology in Nineteenth-Century Britain, by Sadiah Qureshi; University of Chicago Press, 2011. 
Relocating Anti-Racist Science: The 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race and Economic Development in the Global South, by Sebastián Gil-Riaño; British Journal for the History of Science 51(2), 2018. 
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