December 2019

Final conference of the project









Chair: Claude-Olivier Doron

  • 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), "Race as a Social-Political Kind"

In debates over race, some take the project to be an analysis of "our" concept, others an analysis of the semantic value of the term ’race,’ and others an inquiry into race as an explanatory kind. I pursue the third option. Explanations are answers to questions, and there are many different contexts of inquiry in which one might ask what race is. The questions I ask concern social justice and the primary phenomenon is White Supremacy. In this context of inquiry, races are best understood as social-political kinds that are historically constructed in the context of exploitation, expropriation, and cultural imperialism.


10.45-11am Coffee break



Chair: Magali Bessone

  • Mustafa EMIRBAYER (University of Wisconsin-Madison), "Self-Negation"

Despite all the attention devoted to it as an empirical phenomenon, the topic of internalized racism—one also might describe it as self-denigration, self-denial, self-subordination, self-sabotage, self-limitation, self-destruction, internalized oppression, or simply selling oneself short; in this presentation, I term it self-negation—never has been addressed in systematic fashion.  By what criteria can sociologists of race assess it as happening in the first place?  How do we know it when we see it?  And how might the vast, seemingly endless array of instances of self-negation be brought under some kind of analytic control?  In my talk, I briefly review ways in which internalized racism has been discussed in the sociology of race, focusing in particular on Fanon.  And then I turn to the task of theorizing the phenomenon myself, using ideas drawn especially from Bourdieu—and from Freudian relational psychoanalysis. 


  • Michèle LAMONT (Harvard University), "Getting to Cultural Processes beyond Getting Respect: How can the varied relationship between symbolic, social and spatial boundaries help us understand racial groupness and identity"

This paper clarifies and elaborates the explanatory framework developed in Getting Respect (Lamont et al 2016) around the relationship between meaning-making, racial identity, and symbolic, social and spatial boundaries. It also compares this approach with other prominent approaches and conceptual frameworks for understanding global racial inequality.


  • Karim MURJI (University of West London), "The Race Conjuncture - Stuart Hall as a public sociologist"

Given the range of arguments made against it from across the political and scholarly spectrum race ought to have withered away by now. Yet there is no sign of that happening, rather the reverse is the case if anything. In his 1994 Du Bois lectures Stuart Hall asked why is race ‘so tenacious in human history, so impossible to dislodge’? Hall’s question and analysis was pitched within the conjunctural moment he was writing to. In this presentation I seek to outline a number of steps and analyses the field of race that Hall took and to read them conjunturally and as public interventions. Both this matter as issues of method and style as I contend that Hall was not interested in arid debates about what race is but rather what race does, or what is done in name of race in specific contexts. From his early statements for the BBC, through to his framing of the race-state-media conjuncture and on to the multicultural moment in the UK, I aim to lead up to what it could mean to read Hall’s analysis in our time or moment, 25 years on from his Harvard lectures, in light of nativist and populist politics in the UK and elsewhere.


  • Juliette GALONNIER (Sciences Po/CERI) and Patrick SIMON (INED), "Talking about race in French sociology"

Looking back to the use of the race concept in French sociology amounts to documenting an absence. In an effort to distinguish itself from physical anthropology, criminology and Nazi pseudo-science, early French sociology dismissed race as an ugly category. While post-WW2 American and British social sciences reinvested race and ethnicity with new meanings by adopting a constructivist approach, race remained invisible and an intellectual outcast in France. A statistical exploration of a dozen of French sociological journals shows that articles that explicitly use the words “race”, “racial”, “racialization” or “racism” in their title and abstract make up less than 2% of the entire French sociological production from 1960 to 2018. This paper seeks to document the reasons behind such limited presence and to explore how race is defined and for which purpose when it is used in French sociology. We end with a consideration of recent endeavors by a new generation of French sociologists to reestablishing race as a relevant sociological concept to describe French society and the academic controversies that this focus on race has fostered.

1-2.30pm Lunch break



Chair: Juliette Galonnier

  • Claude-Olivier DORON (Université Paris Diderot), "Historicizing the durability of race in genetics and biomedicine: the French case (1940s-1980s)"

While many works in social sciences have insisted on the "return" of the notion of race in genetics and biomedicine since the early 2000s, through the developping field of genomics and its applications in health, ancestry testing or forensics, more recent historical investigations, following the claims of Gannett or Reardon (among others), have shown how the concept of race had actually never disappeared from biomedicine and genetics during the second part of the 20th century but that the development of population genetics and sero-anthropology, in particular, had rather led to some complex reconfigurations of this concept and of the tools to analyze human biological variations, that still have to be more documented. Historians have mainly focused on these reconfigurations in the US, Latin America or the UK, but the French situation still remains largely unexplored while, at the same time, French scholars played an important part in the first steps of the study of human genetic diversity (through, in particular, the Centre d’étude des polymorphismes humains). This paper will try to give some elements to fill this gap and, at the same time, contribute to the recent historiographical movement to analyze the complex evolution of the notion of race in biology and medicine after WW2. After a brief presentation of the various places where race and genetics were defined as particular objects of investigations in the immediate after WW2 - from the Institut Pasteur to the INED or various institutions of physical anthropology, in particular through Henri Vallois’ impulse - I will focus more specifically on the case of the Institut d’hémotypologie and on the leading figure of Jacques Ruffié, who developped sero-anthropological researches all over the world during the 1950s-1970s and turned to be professor at the Collège de France in the 1970s. Through his specific case, we will trace the ambiguity of the career of the notion of "race" in biomedicine from the 1950s to the 1980s.


  • 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.


  • 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.


4-4.15pm Coffee break


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

Chair: Sarah Mazouz

  • Devon CARBADO (UCLA School of Law), "The Legal Construction of Race"

For more than three decades, scholars across disciplines in the United States have been rehearsing some version of the claim that race is a social construction.  As a general matter, this claim is deployed to contest biological conceptions of race and to make clear that race is a socially determined identity formation.  But what more might one say to give content to the idea that race is a social construction?  What, finally, is at stake with respect to social constructivist formulations of race? And, how, if at all, is law implicated? These are the questions my presentations will engage. More precisely, my aim is to present a theoretical model that articulates with some specificity what it might mean to say that race is a social construction. In the context of doing so, I will reveal the places in which law performs constitutive work. Central to my intervention is the view that law does not merely reflect preexisting ideas about race; law constructs race. I will draw on concrete cases—from different areas of law—to demonstrate what I mean. My presentation will conclude by suggesting that understanding how race is constructed is a critical predicate to understanding how discrimination on the basis of race operates. That is to say, it’s hard to talk meaningfully about addressing discrimination on the basis of race without first having an account of race itself. Understood in this way, there is a relationship between conceptualizations of race and conceptualizations of discrimination on the basis of race.  Part of what this suggests is that the anemic protections U.S. antidiscrimination laws provide derive at least in part from the thin conceptions of race on which those laws rest.  


  • Sonia DESMOULIN-CANSELIER (CNRS/Université de Nantes), "Genetic diversity and human groups in international bioethical regulation: Glossary and values of the work of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO"

Since 1997, three declarations relating to human genetic data have been adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO. They were preceded by an intensive work of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC). Created in 1993, the IBC is considered to be the only global body in charge of an ethical mission concerning life sciences. In 1995, it released a report on human population genetics research, which preceded the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights in November 1997. The IBC has also been closely associated with the preparation of the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data of 16 October 2003 and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights of 19 October 2005. The reports and work of the IBC are therefore enlightening sources of information for the reading of the Declarations of the General Conference of UNESCO, in particular for Article 6 (a) and 7 (a) of the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, stating that "It is ethically imperative that human genetic data and human proteomic data be collected, processed, used and stored on the basis of transparent and ethically acceptable procedures" and that "Every effort should be made to ensure that human genetic data and human proteomic data are not used for purposes that discriminate in a way that is intended to infringe, or has the effect of infringing human rights, fundamental freedoms or human dignity of an individual or for purposes that lead to the stigmatization of an individual, a family, a group or communities". Based on the reading of the proceedings of the IBC sessions over the period 1993-2005 and the reports published between 1993 and 2017, this study proposes to analyse the discussions, values and lexicon that have emerged with regard to the question of human groups and genetic diversity, in order to understand how ethno-racial categorisations and human diversity are treated in the light of the rise of the genetic paradigm and the place given to groups as intermediary entities between the individual and the species.


  • 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.




Chair: Julie Ringelheim

  • 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), "Controversies on Ethnoracial Statistics:  Why France and the US won’t converge"

France and the US offer two approaches regarding race and ethnicity that cannot be more different. Where the former embrace colorblindness in laws, policies, politics, public expressions and statistics alike, the latter has developed a race-conscious system that puts race at the core of public representations and actions. These two opposite approaches are facing debates for some decades, especially when it comes to collecting data on ethnoracial diversity and to using them in antidiscrimination policies. It is true that controversies on ethnoracial statistics are far more intense and inflammatory in France where the ban on data collection is still prevailing despite an undisputed dynamic of racialization of social life. Conversely to France, the legitimacy of ethnoracial statistics and categories have never been really challenged in the US, even though a process of revision of the format of the questions in the census is going on for two decades. This paper will contrast the debate about ethnoracial statistics in the two countries to unveil what lies behind apparently technical discussions on data collection.


  • 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.


  • 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.

12.30-2pm Lunch break



 Chair: Graziella Moraes Silva

  • Tianna PASCHEL (UC Berkeley), "Race as a Political Performance: The Aftermath of Multicultural Rights in Latin America"

This presentation examines the productive power of multicultural rights in Latin America. The last three decades have marked a dramatic change in state discourse around ethnoracial questions, as well as a transformation of the way that citizenship was defined (at least formally) in Latin America. While some countries in the region initiated comprehensive reforms related to indigenous and black communities, such rights and policies were often precarious and fleeting, and the subjects to whom they referred, ambiguous. I want to suggest that in such a context, we have focused too much on the stated outcomes of such policies. If we think about the effects of ethnoracial reforms more capaciously, not just in terms of what they purport to do, but their unintended consequences, it opens up important and new questions. What forms of productive power do black rights produce? What kinds of identities get unleashed, negotiated and performed? Drawing on the example of black rights in Colombia and Brazil, I examine how both blackness and whiteness have come to function as political performances that serve sometimes to access rights and other times to undermine them entirely. In all of this, Latin American states have become managers of ethnoracial difference in new, and often problematic ways. These cases, I argue, call us to rethink how we understand the outcomes of ethnoracial policies, and more fundamentally, how we theorize the nexus between state recognition, identities on the ground, and the (un)making of race.


  • Mónica MORENO FIGUEROA (University of Cambridge), "Inflections of Anti-Racism in Mexico and Latin America"

(Paper prepared with Peter WADE)

There has been an incipient turn to antiracism in Latin America and in this context we launched a research project looking at different styles of antiracist activity in four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. One of our key findings was the variation in how different organisations understand and use the language of racism and antiracism to define or organise their activities. We found cases that explicitly use the language of racism and we give an example from Colombia. The practices of this organisation raise the question of the implications of the explicit naming of racism and the particular understanding of racism such practices embody. In other examples, we found that organisations did not explicitly use the language of racism, even though they are engaged in struggles for land, rights, etc., which clearly had a racialised dimension. This also implied variations on the awareness of racism, which came in and out of focus in their practice. We became interested in what the antiracist effects of these ’alternative grammars’ of struggle could be. We offer examples from Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil which show different inflections of these alternative grammars of antiracism. We end by questioning the assumption that the explicit naming of racism per se is a sign of advancing antiracist work, and suggest that employment of strategic language and awareness of structural racism have distinct advantages for antiracist practice.


3.30-3.50pm Coffee break


  • Daniel SABBAGH (Sciences Po/CERI), "The End of Race-Based Affirmative Action in the United States?"

A backlash against affirmative action in the United States has been taking place since the end of the 1980s. Yet the countless predictions of the impending elimination of this most controversial policy have been proven wrong. Will the current case against Harvard – based on the discriminatory effects upon Asian applicants of its admission scheme – deal a fatal blow to race-based affirmative action in higher education? Despite recent changes in the composition of the Supreme Court, this is most unlikely. More likely is the extension of an underlying, paradoxical trend, according to which affirmative action is legally protected provided its race-conscious character remains at least partly concealed.


  • Paul SCHOR (Université Paris Diderot), "Race, nationality and citizenship. The political stakes of the census in the U.S." 

When Donald Trump tried to reinstate a citizenship question in the U.S. census, he reactivated an old debate about the census and a more restrictive definition of the civic population, mobilizing an implicit definition of citizenship as white privilege. Whereas the U.S. Constitution clearly requires an enumeration of all inhabitants, since the abolition of slavery and the passage of the 14th Amendment, the question of the suffrage of African Americans and that of the count of immigrants for apportionment have been connected. The racial question was not always explicitly at the foreground of these debates but I will try to show that discussions about the inclusion (or exclusion) of newcomers (immigrants) for apportionment are mechanically tied to the question of African Americans’ voting rights and more recently of Hispanic Americans’. In other words these debates about citizenship and nationality in the U.S. can not be detached from the question of race.


5-5.30pm : CONCLUSION