Race as a Stable Discourse: The Legacy of Scientific Racism, Part 01

  • Primary thesis: Race is a historically bounded phenomena and the historical context creates a stable framework that places real boundaries on the scope of racism.
  • Primary anti-thesis: Race has no stable referrent and can be used to describe any "structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences"
  • Methodology and focus is one of the reasons for this difference of perspective:
    • my view is motivated by a belief that the institutions and structures (legal, political, etc) encode racism and provide evidence for how it was used as oppression.
    • opposing view focuses on cultural and social discourses as a way to analyze the role of racism at various points in history.
  • Johann Blumenbach was a real person whose treatise on race basically created the framework we still exist within today.
  • As evidence: his work is cited in various American court cases that determined the legal boundaries of who was and who wasn’t white.
  • But the stability of white supremacy is actually more entrenched than racism, since scientific notions are disregarded when they conflict with social conventions, when they allow the Other to be seen as white.
  • The fact that racism was a science but is now discredited has actually served to make race more reductive, essential, and stable than at any other point in its history.