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Science, Race and Colonialism in Comparative Perspective

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1806
Section 001
Instructor Brendan Matz
Days W
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI



This course examines the history of the concept of race as it relates to the development of both European colonialism and modern biological science. We will examine how and why popular notions and systematic theories of racial difference took shape and changed over time and how those ideas were put to use or expressed in various colonial contexts. The approach of the course is comparative, with a focus on Britain, France, Germany, and the Unites States, and the material is divided into three sections. In the first section, we will look at early European encounters with human difference in the New World, Asia, and Africa and trace how colonial exploration and exchange helped lay the foundations for race science.    The second section considers the development of scientific racism from the appearance of Darwin’s theory of evolution to World War II and the Holocaust. The final section examines postwar reappraisals of the race concept and the process of decolonization, as well as a series of unresolved questions about the meanings of race in our contemporary global culture. Primary readings in the course include Andrew Curran’s  Anatomy of Blackness  and Stephen Jay Gould’s  The Mismeasure of Man .


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)