December 2019

Final conference of the project

Save the date!

The final conference of the Global Race project will take place on December 12-13, 2019 in Salle des Conférences at CERI, SciencesPo, 56 rue Jacob, 75006 Paris.


Preliminary program






  • Magali BESSONE (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne), "’Race’, an essentially contested concept?"

The paper suggests that the definitional components of the concept of race are essentially unstable: race should be examined in its polysemy and from the conflicts of definition it raises. The paper opposes both the approach that looks into our ordinary intuitions or scientific rigorous uses in order to identify the minimal descriptive core of the concept, and the genealogical approach that looks into the successive historical uses of the concept in order to establish its core “original” components. It pleads for an understanding of race inspired by W. B. Gallie’s notion of “essentially contested concept”: while it may be impossible to determine the “right” definition of it, while we may have to accept that the only perspective we can soundly adopt is to describe the conflicts whose objective it is to define it, our disagreements about it cannot lead us to conclude that we should get rid of race. Rather, they suggest that we must question the system of political practices and values that constitute the heterogeneous paradigms within which race is embedded.


  • Michael HARDIMON (UC San Diego), "Is there a Defensible Biological Concept of Race?"

It is commonly thought that the biological concept of race has been shown to be pernicious and decisively refuted. It is also widely held that this concept ought therefore to jettisoned.  I argue that the race concept most frequently identified as the race concept is pernicious, has been refuted and should be abandoned but that it does not follow that the idea of biological race ought to be rejected altogether. This is because it is possible to conceive of race biologically in a manner that avoids the essentialism and hierarchy of the traditional concept of race.  Biological race can be understood in commonsensically in terms of patterns of differences of visible physical characters corresponding to differences of geographical ancestry.  Biological race can also be understood scientifically in terms of biological populations characterized by patterns of phenotypic differences corresponding to differences in geographical ancestry tracing back to geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding populations. Grasping the possibility of a nonpernicious biological concept of race allows us to see (i) that the human species is divided into biological races but that this division is biologically superficial and (ii) that (doxastic) racism is best understood not as belief in biological races but instead as belief in racialist (essentialist, hierarchical) races.


  • Sally HASLANGER (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Title and abstract forthcoming.

10.45-11am Coffee break



  • Mustafa EMIRBAYER (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Michèle LAMONT (Harvard University)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Karim MURJI (University of West London)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Juliette GALONNIER (Sciences Po/CERI) and Patrick SIMON (INED)

Title and abstract forthcoming.

1-2.30pm Lunch break



  • Catherine BLISS (UC San Francisco), "Of Genomes and Race"

This talk will examine the ways in which the DNA revolution in contemporary science is shifting societal notions of race. I will first present developments in genomic science, and their manifestation of a new biology-based definition of race. Next, I will discuss the impacts emerging avenues of gene-environment science are having on conceptions, including those arising from social science-led research. Finally, I will look at the ramifications of CRISPR science, especially as applied in the realm of germline editing. I will argue that a new eugenics is forming, one that could have devastating effects for humanity.


  • Claude-Olivier DORON (Université Paris Diderot)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • David LUDWIG (Wageningen University), "Metaphysics of Race in Practice: A Process Framework"

Philosophical debates about the nature of race struggle with the heterogeneity of racial practices across disciplinary, geographic, and historical dimensions. It is far from clear that race is the same in biomedical sciences and biological systematics, in Russia and Rwanda, or in the 17th and the 21st century. Metaphysicians of race commonly react to this heterogeneity with a strategy of ’stabilization through compartmentalization’. By restricting their claims to carefully specified contexts, it still seems possible to produce univocal answers to questions such as ‘Do races exist?’ or ‘Are races biological or social?’. While this strategy of compartmentalization is internally consistent, it limits the significance of metaphysics for engaging with racial practices that typically transgress neatly compartmentalized contexts of metaphysical debates. I argue that metaphysical debates can become relevant for the empirical complexity of racial practices if they move from object-oriented to process-oriented frameworks. Rather than univocal accounts of the existence and nature of race, such a process metaphysics aims to understand the nature of racialized practices that lead to transformations and temporary stabilizations of racial phenomena. This process framework is applied to a case study of biomedical research in Germany and the United States that involves diverging conceptual histories in the shadow of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Era but also many points of interaction in internationalized research communities.


4-4.15pm Coffee break


4)   4.15-5.45pm : DEALING WITH RACE IN LAW

  • Devon CARBADO (UCLA School of Law)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Sonia DESMOULIN-CANSELIER (CNRS/Université de Nantes)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Julie RINGELHEIM (FNRS/Université de Louvain), "The Racial Conundrum in the Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda"

The word “race” appears in various international legal conventions adopted after the Second World War with the view to protecting certain groups against abuse or unfavourable treatment that would be inflicted upon them because of their supposed race. Among them are the UN Genocide Convention (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) which prohibits racial discrimination. None of these instruments, however, provides a definition of the term “race”. Accordingly, in case of contention, it falls upon the judges tasked with applying these conventions to clarify the meaning of race or, as the case may be, the criteria on the basis of which the racial identity of a group or an individual can be assessed. Given the considerable evolution of the notion of race in science and society since the late 1940s but also the continuing debates surrounding this concept, how do judges interpret this term? What conception of this notion underlies their reasoning? And how does the legal context in which they operate impact on their understanding of it? This paper explores these questions through the analysis of the practice of two international tribunals which, in different ways, have been confronted with the concept of race: the European Court of Human Rights, which applies the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, tasked with prosecuting individuals accused of committing genocide in Rwanda in 1994.




  • Tobias HÜBINETTE (Karlstad University), "An overview of the situation concerning the concept of race, ethnic and racial categories, and equality data in contemporary Sweden"

This presentation consists of an overview of how Sweden and the Swedes relate to the concept of race, issues of race and ethnic and racial categories as well as the question of equality data. In 2001, Sweden became the first sovereign state in the world to formally abolish the word and the concept of race according to a unison parliament and government decision which was backed by the Swedish academic world and all political parties. The country has since then also actively worked to make other countries do the same as part of its antiracist foreign policy. Sweden is also today arguably the world’s most colour-blind and antiracial country, in terms of David Theo Goldberg’s definition of antiracialism as being opposed to the very word race itself and everything that is related to race. Furthermore, the Swedish attitude towards equality data and towards collecting data based on ethnic and racial categories is also perhaps the most negative in the world. Sweden regularly receives harsh criticism for lacking practically any numbers and statistics on the situation for minorities from both the EU, and the Council of Europe as well as from several NGOs and in 2018 the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) once again reiterated this critique in its report on Sweden. At the same time, on a legal level and on a policy level as well as in the world of both popular attitudes and political and official rhetorics, Sweden is always ranked as the best country in the OECD, in the Western world and in Europe, and possibly in the world, when it comes to securing the equal rights for ethnic and racial minorities and migrants and to protecting them from racism and discrimination.  In other words, on the one hand Sweden’s worldwide reputation and Sweden’s self-image as being an open, tolerant, inclusive, multicultural, diverse and antiracist society is well deserved in terms of its laws, regulations and policies as well as in terms of its population’s extremely tolerant and inclusive attitudes and its politicians’ and elites’ rhetorics. On the other hand, the country and its government and population is militantly against the very word race itself and there are no data whatsoever to be able to assess if this progressive, tolerant, multiculturalist, antiracist and inclusive policy is even working and affecting the minorities themselves in terms of a whole array of outcomes such as labour market participation, health status, poverty levels et cetera.


  • Patrick SIMON (INED)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Linda SUPIK (Universität Münster), "Asking a double question? First steps towards the measurement of ethnic and racial discrimination in Germany"

Debates about the collection of data on ethnicity for non-discrimination policies in Germany have been marginal or even absent for decades, quite different from the neighbor country France. In the last few years, however, civil society organizations, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency FADA and social scientists started efforts to change the situation. While in official statistics the sole use of the concept “migration background” and recently  in school statistics, on “language mostly spoken at home”, is increasingly criticized, first exploratory field-tests of academic or independent surveys including questions on socially ascribed ethnicity were launched. The FADA issued a report recommending data collection on ethnic self-identification and socially ascribed ethnicity in a double question. This suggestion to not expect a single answer, but (at least) two answers to the question concerning ethnicity, aims at improving acceptability of the question and avoiding essentializing effects of a single question.


11-11.20am Coffee break


  • Graziella MORAES SILVA (Graduate Institute Geneva), "Negotiating ethno-racial transformation with the same ethnoracial categories inside the Brazilian census bureau"

This presentation will focus on census policy-making by analysing the decision making processes behind the apparent stability of Brazilian racial categories within a context of multiple changes in racial politics and policies over the last five decades (1968–2018). Empirically, it relies on archival material, survey and census data, as well as key informant interviews with senior technocrats from the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics, IBGE). Findings show the central role of technocratic actors in shaping and giving meaning to these categories in a context of uncertainty about the most valid approach to measurement. Their role is particularly evident in IBGE’s early application of the negro category to the non-white population and repeated rejection of the moreno category. Beyond technical expertise, these census officials navigated various professional, political and ideological motivations.


  • Paul SCHOR (Université Paris Diderot)

Title and abstract forthcoming.

12.30-2pm Lunch break



  • Elisabeth CUNIN (IRD/URMIS)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Tianna PASCHEL (UC Berkeley)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Monika MORENO FIGUEROA (University of Cambridge)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


3.30-3.50pm Coffee break


  • Daniel SABBAGH (Sciences Po/CERI)

Title and abstract forthcoming.


  • Sarah MAZOUZ (CNRS/CERAPS), "Diversity without Race: Comparing France, Germany, Spain and Sweden"

Drawing on interviews led with stakeholders, activists and academics, I would like to examine the debates on the recognition of racial discrimination, the use of racial categories in antidiscrimination policies, and the understanding of race in four European countries characterised by colour-blind political frames. Despite a shared refusal to the use of racial categories, the four chosen countries offer different configurations of the debate on race, antidiscrimination and multiculturalism. The main contribution of the presentation is thus to analyse the different enactments of colour-blindness and their impacts on minority and identity politics.


5-5.30pm : CONCLUSION