Andrew Curran: "The Bordeaux Academy of Sciences and the Great Race contest of 1741"

Instructing Colonial Natural History Seminar Series

Forskningspresentation av Andrew Curran, Wesleyan University

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Seminariet hålls på engelska. 


In August of 1739, Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences publicized a “prize puzzle” in Europe’s best-known scientific journal. The subject was a riddle that had long perplexed Europeans: “what is the cause of the Sub-Saharan Africans’ peculiar hair texture and dark skin?” While this query theoretically limited itself to discussion of African physical features, what really preoccupied the Academy were three hidden questions: the first two were who is Black? and why? The third was an even bigger concern, namely, what did being Black signify? In this talk, Curran will both explain the genesis of this competition and its wider relationship to the Enlightenment quest to define the human species and its supposed categories.

The Instructing Colonial Natural History Seminar Series is organised by the Instructing Natural History Research Group, Uppsala University

Image credit: Book cover of Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Andrew S. Curran (Harvard University Press, 2022)