The project looks at the production of scientific knowledge on the relation between race and culture. I analyze how during World War II and the Cold War era the concept of culture used in the social sciences took over many of the core characteristics previously assigned to race. Scholars stressed the homogeneity of cultures, their boundedness in space, and stability over time, three characteristics previously associated with a typological or essentialist concept of race that is now considered unscientific and marked as racist. I show that while European countries used an essentialist notion of race to classify people and build hierarchies during the era of Empire, the United States as the dominant nation in the postwar world promoted essentialist notions of culture to do the very same. This essentialist notion of culture continues to shape scholarly research and international politics even after the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in a shift in the global power structure that led to a reformulation of essentialist dichotomies along the lines of religion (i.e. religious culture) rather than politics (i.e. political culture).
Project title: Culturalism: The Remaking of Race in the American Century
Area of research: Historical Sociology
Fellowship period: 1 Oct 2020 - 30 Sep 2023
Fellowship type: AIAS-COFUND II Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow
This fellowship has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 754513 and The Aarhus University Research Foundation.