Concepts of "Race" in the History of the Humanities

Concepts of "Race" in the History of the Humanities

Dr. Amos Morris-Reich, Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society / University of Haifa; PD Dr. Dirk Rupnow, Institute for Contemporary History / University of Innsbruck
Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society / University of Haifa, Israel
Haifa, Israel
Vom - Bis
26.10.2010 - 28.10.2010
Rupnow, Dirk

In the decades following World War II, the Holocaust, and decolonization, "race" slowly but surely lost much of its legitimacy as a cultural, political and scientific category. Nevertheless, for much of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, concepts of race enjoyed widespread currency, playing an integral role in numerous fields of knowledge, in some cases even serving as an essential basis.

Race, a concept normally identified far more with biology, genetics and anthropology than with the humanities, has implications both biological and cultural. Accordingly, since the mid-1980s, much critical historical work has been undertaken to shed light on the role of race in these fields. In particular, scholars in the field of anthropology have done a great deal in recent years to expose the role of racist concepts in its history and practice, as well as on the connections between race and imperialism, and race and power.

No organized study of similar scale has been attempted with regard to the role of race in the history of the humanities. On the surface, the very notion of "Geisteswissenschaften" or humanities, with all their idealistic and humanistic overtones, would seem fundamentally incompatible with the history of prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion that one typically associates with race. Yet from linguistics to art history, musicology to religious and Bible studies, history to literary studies, notions of race were present in the history of the humanities, in a manner which crossed disciplinary, cultural and national lines. Race has a long-standing, deep-seated history in the humanities, vestiges of which are still dis-cernible in modern scholarship.

At this conference, we intend to analyze different disciplines and national backgrounds from a multidisciplinary perspective, starting from the late 18th century. Guiding questions for the papers may include: At what point did notions of race surface in the humanities, and where did they come from? What roles have they played in various fields within the humanities, particularly with regard to epistemic categories? Are there notions of race that are specific to the humanities? Is the history of race significant to the development of the humanities as a whole? We also hope to draw comparisons, both conceptual and genealogical: How do the humanities and natural sciences differ? Are concepts of race biological or cultural in nature? What is the relationship between notions of race in the natural sciences and humanities, and have there been points of mutual exchange of concepts, ideas, categories and objects of research between the two fields? While these questions must be addressed from a critical perspective, the conference also aims to foster an empirical basis for further research and discussion. Although the German case is central to any such history, the conference will not focus exclusively on German history, but will rather seek a much broader context to account for the longer, broader history and legacy of notions of race in the humanities.

The aim of this conference is to bring together both young and established scholars from different countries and different fields within the humanities to study and explore the role of notions of race in different branches of the humanities. The organizers hope to cover travel and lodging for all participants. An edited work is expected to follow the conference – not the conference proceedings per se, but a work based on a selection of the papers presented. The organizers plan to work with the authors to produce a distinctive and coherent collection.

Please e-mail a proposed title for your paper, abstract (max. 250 words/1 page) and short CV (max. 2 pages) to the conference organizers listed above. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. Proposals should be submitted by September 15, 2009.



PD Dr. Dirk Rupnow

Institut für Zeitgeschichte / Universität Innsbruck
Innrain 52, A-6020 Innsbruck
Veröffentlicht am
Weitere Informationen
Land Veranstaltung
Sprach(en) der Veranstaltung
Sprache der Ankündigung