Race in post-war science: The Swiss case in a global context

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “Race in post-war science: The Swiss case in a global context” by Pascal Germann. Abstract:

The historiography on the concept of race in the post-war sciences has focused predominantly on the UNESCO campaign against scientific racism and on the Anglo-American research community. By way of contrast, this article highlights the history of the concept of race from a thus far unexplored angle: from Swiss research centres and their global interconnections with racial researchers around the world. The article investigates how the acceptance, resonance, and prestige of racial research changed during the post-war years. It analyses what resources could be mobilised that enabled researchers to carry out and continue scientific studies in the field of racial research or even to expand them and link them to new contexts. From this perspective, the article looks at the dynamics, openness, and contingency of the European post-war period, which was less stable, anti-racist, and spiritually renewed than retrospective success stories often suggest. The pronounced internationality of Swiss racial science and its close entanglement with the booming field of human genetics in the early 1950s point to the ambiguities of the period’s political and scientific development. I argue that the impact of post-war anti-racism on science was more limited than is frequently assumed: it did not drain the market for racial knowledge on a continent that clung to imperialism and was still shaped by racist violence. Only from the mid 1950s onwards did a series of unforeseen events and contingent shifts curtail the importance of the race concept in various sectors of the human sciences.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.