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).
Stefan Bargheer earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago, followed by a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and an Assistant Professorship at UCLA. His research focuses on the question how values change over time and how people develop moral commitments. He is the author of Moral Entanglements: Conserving Birds in Britain and Germany (University of Chicago Press, 2018).