Between Genealogy and Physicality: A Historiographical Perspective on Race in the Ancien Régime, by Jean-Frédéric Schaub and Silvia Sebastiani

Schaub and Sebastiani discuss the historical, social, and cultural conditions that contributed to the shape of racial discourses and practices in Iberian countries largely between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. They argue for the fluidity and complexity of race as a concept, and explain a variety of racial practices as situated phenomena. They outline a plurality of matrices of racial notions and practices, spanning from invisible genealogies to visible traits and physicality, arguing that the formation of racial categories takes place simultaneously on the basis of visible and invisible distinctions. They offer a broadly Foucauldian analysis of the methods and organization of racial discourses.

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Jean-Frédéric Schaub is Scientific Director at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris, and Associate Researcher at the Center for Historical Studies of EHESS. He has published extensively on the early modern history of France, Spain, and Portugal, as well as on the history of colonialism. His most recent publications include L’île aux mariés: les Açores entre deux empires (1583- 1642) (Casa de Velázquez, 2014), L’Europe a-t-elle une histoire? (Éditions Albin Michel, 2008), Oroonoko prince et esclave: roman colonial de l’incertitude (Éditions du Seuil, 2008), and La France espagnole: Les racines hispaniques de l’absolutisme français (Éditions du Seuil, 2003). He is the author of the numerous book chapters and journal articles, and a co-editor (with Olivier Remaud and Isabelle Thireau) of Faire des sciences sociales: Comparer (Éditions de l’EHESS, 2012), with Juan Carlos Garavaglia, of Lois, justice, coutume Amérique et Europe latines (16e–19e siècle) (Éditions de l’EHESS, 2005), and a number of other volumes. His most recent book on race, co-authored with Silvia Sebastiani, Razza e Storia : la formazione delle categorie razziali in Occidente dal 400 al 800, is forthcoming from Éditions Albin Michel in 2015.

Silvia Sebastiani is Associate Professor at the Center for Historical Studies of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. Her current research focuses on Enlightenment debates about race and historiography spanning from North America to Scotland. She serves on the editorial board of Modern Intellectual History. A translation and revision of her book Limiti del progresso: Razza e genere nell’Illuminismo scozzese (Il Mulino, 2008) has recently appeared in English under the title The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender, and the Limits of Progress (Palgrave, 2013).

Jean-Frédéric Schaub and Silvia Sebastiani, “Between Genealogy and Physicality: A Historiographical Perspective on Race in the Ancien Régime,” in “Philosophy and Race,” ed. Alexis Dianda and Robin M. Muller, special issue, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 35:1–2 (2014), pp. 23–51.

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