HIST 492
Making Race in Early Modern Europe Spring 2023
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

In modern scholarship, racism has most often been portrayed as a child of the European Enlightenment, a set of ideas about embodied human difference and its heritability that arose after the abandonment of the Biblical account of human creation and the rise of a new natural science. This tutorial asks: what racial ideas and practices preceded the Enlightenment? Beginning in the late Middle Ages, Europeans participated in enormous economic and cultural transformations, including increased global mobility and the establishment of new, transoceanic empires. Intensified interactions with people in the Americas, Africa, and Asia shaped European understandings of human difference, as did the burgeoning Atlantic economy and its cruelties. In this tutorial, we will place the emergence of modern racism in a long-term perspective, reconstructing the deep history out of which Enlightenment racial theory emerged. Proceeding both chronologically and thematically, we will consider how the major global transformations of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries shaped European racial understandings with enduring consequence. In the process, we will develop a conceptual vocabulary to describe in a historically sensitive manner how embodied human difference has been interpreted differently across space and time. Throughout, we will read a variety of historical primary sources in conjunction with recent scholarship. Ultimately, our historical study will afford a comparative perspective on contemporary views of races and racism.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3430
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Attendance and active participation; weekly tutorial papers (5 "long" papers and 5 responses).
Prerequisites: 200- or 300-level History classes
Enrollment Preferences: Junior and seniors; History majors.
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: The aim of the tutorial is threefold: (i) to introduce students to the comparative study of race across time and place, in order to help them contextualize and historicize the racial dispensation of the contemporary US; (ii) to treat the history of race not just as a history of ideas and theories, but of practices of race- and knowledge-making; (iii) to advance our understanding of the past through a dialectical process of empirical research and theoretical interpretation.

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