Science and Culture after the Advent of Race

Call for papers for a special issue

« Science and Culture after the Advent of Race »

During the nineteenth century analyzes of societies and cultures began to be based on a new conception of “race” and this special issue of Nineteen will explore from an interdisciplinary point of view the new French and European formulations of “science”, “race”, and “heritage” that followed. It was indeed during this time that the philological distinctions between linguistic families became exploited in order to confirm a racist view which divided the East in two: a positive half (the “Indo-Europeans” or “Aryans”) and a negative ( the “Semites”). This served to group ancient India and Persia with Greece as “noble” ancestors of Europe, while other civilizations including Egypt, Carthage, Assyria and the Jewish peoples were defined as ” lower ”. Several French writers and artists drew their inspiration from this new “Aryan” heritage, which included philosophy, music and religions. This process of redefining the cultural heritage of France reveals a contradiction, since we find there both a new opening towards a cultural world that goes beyond ancient Greece, but it is at the same time an act of appropriation which reinforces the notion of an Indo-European superiority and thus justifies a virulent anti-Semitism. Alongside this repositioning of relations between European and Eastern antiquity in academic fields, the nineteenth century was also a period when Belgian and French colonialism in Africa and Asia became justified through scientific theories of race, in particular with the declaration of Jules Ferry in 1885 that “the superior races have a right vis-à-vis the inferior races”. In turn, Belgium’s adoption of a German policy of “scientific” racism and eugenics in the occupied territories of sub-Saharan Africa after World War I continued to influence violence in this region, as far back as it was. 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide.

“Science and Culture after the Advent of Race” is a special issue which aims to explore the extent of “scientific” discourses of cultural and racial heritage in the Francosphere in the long nineteenth century and how these are inextricably linked. linked to experiences of imperialism, notions of cultural superiority and racism. By exploring a variety of contexts, literary genres and sources, this issue intends to address questions such as: how did the French and Belgian empires instrumentalize science? What is the influence of cultural representations on the development of “pseudosciences” and vice versa? Is the notion of “scientific imperialism” useful in different contexts? What was the role of exchanges between European and non-European forms of knowledge? How can we analyze these themes today without reproducing their violence? How do we find critical and dissenting voices that have traditionally been excluded from the archives?

In order to address these questions, we invite articles from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and in particular encourage proposals from doctoral students and researchers early in their careers.

The following list is indicative (and not exhaustive) of the types of topics we would like to address:

– Science and racism

– Imperialist / racial sciences

– The science of philology

– The influence on the postcolonial world

– Control and resistance

– Reveal “forgotten” and repressed voices

– Archives and collections

– Scientific meetings and exchange of knowledge

– Racial “sciences” and medicine

– Racial “sciences” and decolonial activism

– Racial “sciences” and the Francosphere

– Race and historiography

– Sex and gender

– Social class and access / restriction

– Literary, visual and musical representations of the breed

– Ethnography and Viatic literature

– Author (s) and authorities


We kindly ask you to send a proposal for no more 300 words accompanied by a short biography to before the end of the Monday, September 13, 2021.

The full version of the article will be expected in January 2022 and may be written in French or English.

Dr Julia Hartley | Dr Sarah Arens



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