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Race, empire, and biology before Darwinism1

Race, empire, and biology before Darwinism1

Chapter:
(p.114) Chapter Five Race, empire, and biology before Darwinism1
Source:
Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
Author(s):
Sujit Sivasundaram
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226608426.003.0006

In the first half of the nineteenth century, race and science were interconnected. The emergence of a science of race has been mistakenly aligned with the spread of Darwinism across the imperial realms. The sciences were central to the identification of racial and national types and thus were an important part of the framework that upheld empire. Biology showed how races and peoples could be “improved,” providing a justification for rule by the supposedly superior colonizers and neutralizing the question of whether empire was moral. The fundamental synergies between race and empire emphasize the role of the study of the human body in European expansion from the very beginning. Before addressing race, empire, and biology before Darwinism, this chapter focuses on what might be called the Atlantic world of Europe, America, and to a lesser extent, the Caribbean and West Africa. It then looks at the greater Indian Ocean, stretching from the South Pacific to South Asia, to demonstrate how and why biology was globalized.

Keywords:   race, science, biology, empire, Darwinism, Europe, America, Indian Ocean

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