Centre for Women's and Gender Research
GENDPHD: Race, Migration and Kinship

Graduate course: Race, Migration and Kinship

Human tracks return journey

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How might we think about race as a paradoxically fungible yet persistent feature of human history? This mini-seminar examines race as a global phenomenon with long and diverse histories. In its migrations, conceptions of race have repeatedly been marshaled, decried, dismissed, and repurposed, reformulating conceptions of kinship and social organization along the way. From ancient empires, medieval religious conflicts, and early modern accounts of “barbarians” and “strangers” to the longue durée of colonial settlement and slavery, and from the revolutions and uprisings of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries to more recent accounts of physiognomy, eugenics, and DNA, the phenomenon of race has interacted dynamically across time and space with conceptions of caste, color, class, language, identity, law, region, and religion.

Our class will begin with a conventional genealogy of race as arising from the age of Atlantic Revolutions, the slave trade, and scientific thinking in Europe and the United States before complicating our understandings of the phenomenon as one shaped over centuries of contact and interchange. Our second session will examine a longer history of race and caste in relation to Iberian colonization of the East and West Indies and our third session will investigate race and the littoral in Indian Ocean studies.


Required texts

  • Jack D. Forbes, Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1993), 1-25; 190-220.
  • Paul Gilroy, “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity,” The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 1-40.
  • Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea (London: Bloomsbury, 2001), 1-39.
  • Isabel Hofmeyr, “Universalizing the Indian Ocean,” PMLA 125.3 (2010): 721-727.
  • Isabel Hofmeyr, “The Black Atlantic Meets the Indian Ocean: Forging New Paradigms of Transnationalism for the Global South-Literary and Cultural Perspectives,” Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies 33.2 (2007): 3-32.
  • Lisa Lampert, “Race, Periodicity, and the (Neo-) Middle Ages,” MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly 65.3 (2004): 391-421.
  • Ania Loomba, “Race and the Possibilities of Comparative Critique,” New Literary History 40 (2009): 501–522.
  • Lisa Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” in Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 191-212.
  • María Elena Martínez, “The Language, Genealogy, and Classification of ‘Race’ in Colonial Mexico,” in Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America, eds Ilona Katzew and Susan Deans-Smith (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 25-42. RACE, MIGRATION, AND KINSHIP • AUGUST 2014 PAGE 2
  • Alexander Saxton, “Introduction: Historical Explanations of Racial Inequality,” The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Verso, 1990), 1-20.
  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Holding the World in Balance: The Connected Histories of the Iberian Overseas Empires, 1500-1640,” The American Historical Review 112.5 (December 2007): 1359-1385.
  • James H. Sweet, “The Iberian Roots of American Racist Thought,” William and Mary Quarterly , 54.1 (January, 1997): 143-166.
  • Eric Taggliacozzo, “Navigating Communities: Race, Place, and Travel in the History of Maritime Southeast Asia, Asian Ethnicity 10.2 (June 2009): 97–120.
  • Alden T. Vaughan, “The Origins Debate: Slavery and Racism in Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” The Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial

Course Outline

20 August

The Transatlantic


  • Saxton
  • Vaughn
  • Forbes


  • Gilroy
  • Lowe

21 August



  • Loomba
  • Lampert


  • Martinez
  • Sweet
  • Subrahmanyan

22 August

The Littoral


  • Gurnah
  • Hofmeyr


  • Taggliacozzo