Darwin sought to not only produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to polygenism, the current scientific discourse on human origins that gave tacit and at times explicit support for slavery: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.’ (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 235)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sociology of Science & the Origins of Race: Slides from Sessions I & II

Sociology of Science & the Origins of Race: 
Slides from Sessions I & II
Slides from Sessions I & II [September 4, 2014]
on Classical and Early Scientific Theories of Human Variety

The Sociology of Science and the Origins of Race
We often try to understand race as it confronts us today, either as a source of diversity and multiculturalism or as a social problem.  This is not surprising given the fact that racism is a historical production and so today we still exist amidst its' vast accumulation.  But racism presupposes the existence of Race, of something so essential to us that it is visibly manifested by our bodies, and these manifestations fall into a limited number of scientifically defined types.  Race began as a scientific concept within the discourse of Natural History, but with far reaching connections to nationalism, sexuality, industrialism, and authoritarianism.  To place our contemporary discussion of human variety into a historical context, this class will investigate the history of scientific discourses on race from Blumenbach’s classification of humanity into the five familiar races, to Gobineau’s Essay of the Inequality of Human Races, the Social Darwinists, and Thomas Dugdale’s  The Jukes, a classic study of degeneration in fin de sciel upstate New York.  Along the way, we will examine the debate on the origin of species, whether races represent different species of humans (the monogenesis/polygenesis dispute in Antebellum America), phrenology, intelligence testing, criminal anthropology, the culture of poverty, and degeneration.  Throughout the semester, we will apply what we are learning to the discussion of contemporary ideas and conflicts regarding race and racism.

Session I. 
Introduction to the Course

Session II: 
Race before Enlightenment: Natural History, Human Variety, and the Classification of Nature
Thomas Gossett.  “Early Race Theories” in Race: the History of an Idea in America, pp.3-17.