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HIS309: Race: A Global History

Scientists agree that there are few genetic differences between people of different races and ethnicities.

Scientists agree that there are few genetic differences between people of different races and ethnicities. Social scientists thus contend that racial distinctions are a product of society and culture rather than biology. At what point, then, did differences in skin color and other phenotypic traits become significant? This course will explore the history of race and racism by looking at examples across the world. We will consider how humans have been divided into different "groups" and the historical circumstances that have led to those divisions. Case studies will include: caste groups in India, religious groups in the Middle East and Europe, African slavery, and the treatment of indigenous groups by colonial settlers in Africa, Australia, India, and the Americas. We will also consider the use of scientific theories to justify racism and the more recent repudiation of these theories. Using both primary and secondary sources, students will use the methods of historical thinking to understand the evolution of racial categories and the impact of history on modern-day issues related to race and ethnicity.