SOCB53 – Lecture 2 (Jan. 15)
Concept of race:
Has been linked to:
o Blood ties, lineage, nation
An older notion of race
o Identity, culture, geographic location
o Biological difference
In this course:
o Premise that race is socially constructed
o Product of knowledge and power
o Focusing on the “modern” idea of race
Origins of the modern idea of race
o The initial basis for the idea of white supremacy is to be
found in the classificatory categories and the
descriptive, representational, order-imposing aims of
natural history. The captivity of natural history to what I
have called the first stage.
o The recovery of classical antiquity in the modern West
produced what I shall call a “normative gaze”, namely
an ideal from which to order and compare observations.
This ideal was drawn primarily form classical aesthetic
values of beauty, proportion, and human form and
classical cultural standards of modernization.
Aka, ideal was European/white.
o Francois Bernier
o Carl Linnaeus
Into the classification of the natural world,
Identified plants that looked similar
Divided humans into different races based on
European: “covered with close vestments,
governed by customs”
Assumed that they were more
civilized. African: “Crafty, indolent. Negligent.
Anoints himself with grease. Governed by
o Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Divided humanity into 5 races:
Had more to do with nations, but still problematic.
Because they were not scientifically sound and he
classified some races as being superior over
others. Looked at skulls, and measured them.
Thomas Jefferson on intellectual faculties of black people
“comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, an
dimagination, it appears to me , that in memory they are
equal to the whites; in reason much inferior… and that in
imagination they are dull, tasteless and anomalous”
Difference between race and ethnicity
Race linked to biology, body-type, what people actually look
Ethnicity linked to culture, kinship
Anthias and Yuval Davis: not so clear of a distinction
o Speak of how racialized and ethnic boundaries are
o Both are connected to belonging.
o Depends on the history and the context that we are
How is ethnicity mobilized?
“ethnicity at its most general level involves belonging to a
particular group and sharing its conditions of existence. This
will include not only being regarded as having the right
credentials for membership but also being able to muster
ethnic resources which can be used for struggle, negotiation
ad the pursuit of political projects, both at the level of
individuals making their way but also for the group as a whole
in relation to other groups. Ethnic resources can be economic,
territorial, cultural and linguistic, amongst others”
in this sense ethnicity relates to nationality
France declaring things non-French and therefore