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Corners, Tables, Lines: Towards a Diagrammatics of Race

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

Type

Article

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Authors

Abstract

The modern concept of race is usually traced back to proponents of a “natural history of mankind” in the European Enlightenment. Starting from allegorical representations of the four continents in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the eighteenth-century visual genre of castas paintings, I suggest that these enlightenment conceptions of race were significantly shaped by diagrammatic representations of human diversity that allowed for tabulation of data, combinatorial analysis, and quantification, and hence functioned as “tools to think with.” Accounting for racial ancestry in terms of “proportions of blood” not only became a preoccupation of scholars as a consequence, but also came to underwrite administrative practices and popular discourses. To contribute to a better understanding of the history of race relations, historians of the race concept need to pay more attention to these diagrammatic aspects of the concept.

Description

Keywords

history of race concept, diagrams, continents

Journal Title

Nuncius

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0394-7394
2210-5875

Volume Title

Publisher

Brill Academic Publishers

Rights

All rights reserved
Sponsorship
Swiss National Foundation