Accepted Paper:

Moving race from Europe to elsewhere: the circulation of race as a scientific object from Germany and the racialization of difference categories in India  


Thiago Barbosa (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient / Freie Universität Berlin )

Paper short abstract:

Based on a material-semiotic analysis of the knowledge production at a race research institute in Berlin in the 1920s, I discuss the mobility, adaptability and malleability of race as a scientific object from there to elsewhere, following the work of anthropologist Irawati Karvé (1905-1970).

Paper long abstract:

The production of knowledge on the notion of “race” was central in the anthropological practice in Europe, probably most notably in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. My paper explores how race was produced at and moved to and from a central node in the global network of physical anthropological research, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics (KWI-A) in Berlin, Germany. Between 1927 and 1944, the KWI-A assembled researchers, research technologies and objects, all from different parts of the globe.

Having the KWI-A in Berlin as focal point of my analysis, I shed light on the flow of racialized knowledge production formed by and around the work of anthropologist Irawati Karvé (1905-1970). I first turn my gaze upon the movement of research objects (most notably human remains obtained in German colonial expeditions) and research technologies (especially anthropometric measurement devices designed in Switzerland and Germany) that allowed Karvé and colleagues to produce scientific knowledge about human races. In a second move, I turn my gaze to how race as a scientific object is moves along the movement of Karvé and the anthropometric measurement devices and other objects taken by her from Berlin to new research sites in Maharashtra, India, where the studied difference categories of “caste” and “tribe” will be racialized.

Thus, motivated by a critique of racialized knowledge production from Europe onward, I contribute to this panel by discussing the transnational movement of race as a scientific object and its racializing effects.

Panel P141
The (im)mobility of race: European perspectives [Anthropology of Race and Ethnicity Network]