Racial science

Authored by: James Poskett

The Routledge Handbook of Science and Empire

Print publication date:  July  2021
Online publication date:  July  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367221256
eBook ISBN: 9780429273360
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429273360-4

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Abstract

This chapter situates the history of racial science within a global history of empire. It covers the growth of Atlantic slavery, the development of colonial and settler societies, as well as the period of anticolonialism and decolonisation. Drawing on examples from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, the focus of the chapter is on the colonial world rather than the metropole. Throughout, it emphasises the agency of colonised and enslaved people in the history of racial science. It also covers a broad range of racial sciences, from anthropology and phrenology through to psychology and statistics. Overall, the chapter makes the case that we need to move beyond the existing intellectual history of race. Instead, the history of scientific racism is best understood as part of the history of particular sites, technologies, and practices. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the relationship between science and race in the present, particularly in relation to machine learning and genetic testing.

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