The seminar offers a large historical scope of the racial issues in the West and in its colonies, from the 16th to the 20th century. In post-slavery societies, in former colonial metropolises and in regions that receive many migrants today, the racial question has returned to the forefront of the political agenda. This is a political issue, not a cultural product or the undesirable consequence of advances in our knowledge of genetic biology. Because the racial question is built around notions of identity and otherness, it must be considered in its historical roots. That is why this seminar combines historical research with a framework of political interpretation of the phenomenon. Historians agree that races do not exist, except as imaginary constructions. But they do not agree on a fundamental point: have people of the past also shared the belief that races did not exist? Since when, can we date the emergence of racial ideologies? The dating of the phenomenon is the most important decision a historian can make: that is how he interprets social processes. This seminar proposes a date: the racialization of Christians of Jewish or Muslim origin in Iberian societies during the century preceding the conquest of the Americas is a major turning point in the political history of the race in the West. Can any collective discrimination be characterized as racial in nature? To answer these questions, this seminar proposes to start from a simple definition: a racist policy assumes that social or moral traits of individuals are transmitted from generation to generation through processes that involve somehow the body (blood, semen, milk).
A research paper is due at the end of the semester. Each student will determine with their instructor the topic of the final paper in office hours. Assiduity is required.