Imperial Race, Master Science: On the Whiteness of Sociology

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Raewyn CONNELL, University of Sydney, Australia
When Lester Ward (the first president of the American Sociological Society) announced that sociology should become the leading science of the 20th century, he understood sociology as the science of progress - an idea founded on a deep-seated concept of colonial difference commonly understood as “race”. Metropolitan sociology produced two further treatments of race: its effective erasure through ahistorical models of the social, from Parsons to Bourdieu; and the assertion of race as a social identity or a dimension of stratification within the metropole (now usually conceived as intersectionality). Meanwhile, the colonized world saw a changing reality of violence, power, exclusion and exploitation. Early empires in search of loot and labour forces were not scrupulous about colour – or human lives. Later administrative empire, plus settler colonialism, became more systematic about race, and merged gender with colonial difference to produce the racial barriers, and contempt for the colonized, which first-generation sociology assumed. Independence struggles were sometimes led by creole elites, sometimes but not always contested racial exclusions. The postcolonial periphery has seen both anti-racist politics and a growing array of recovery and revalidation projects, ranging from Aboriginality and Afrocentrism to Hindutva and the PRC’s Confucius Institutes. The postcolonial metropole has produced multiculturalism, border protection and Trump. A vigorous re-thinking of race is needed to de-colonize sociology; but we can only do that by coming to terms with the world-wide historical dynamic.