SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology and "Race" in the Global Context

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

This course explores the construction and lived realities of race and its rootedness in colonialism and empire, both historically and in the present. It critically situates anthropological knowledge as central to both the perpetuation and the critical analysis and political critique of "race" as a category of difference with social, political, and economic effects. The scare-quotes around "race" indicate the fluid, socially constructed, and powerfully effective nature of the term and what it represents. Also exploring social theory and other scholarship beyond anthropology, the course examines the diverse and interconnected understandings, experiences, and effects of “race” as a system of meaning-making and power across spaces, places and historical times. A core aim of the course will be to analyse whiteness as a system of power and knowledge that sustains white supremacy in anthropological theory and in cultural-political systems.

We will also look at the emergence of political cultures, struggles, and solidarities that have congealed through and beyond “race," including those efforts to address the politics of knowledge production within the discipline that unsettle the white premises of anthropology's history and present.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  1. Understand the parameters of analysis and stakes involved in Anthropology's treatment of “race” and Whiteness
  2. Use anthropological and social theory to analyze the history and present of "race"
  3. Apply increased analytical and research skills to contemporary and historical topics related to "race"
  4. Read texts closely and critically;
  5. Reflect critically and in nuanced ways on the ways in which Anthropology has conceptualised “race” as well as  made whiteness invisible
  6. Understand how "race" has been a feature of capitalism and global political systems
  7. Read ethnographies of racialized experiences and lives critically
  8. Explain the development of anthropological thinking about “race” and the influence of whiteness in anthropology
  9. Demonstrate a solid knowledge of theories of “race” as well as against “race”
  10. Examine contemporary racialized discourses across a variety of contexts and cultures
  11. lllustrate understanding of how “race” and racialized dynamics affect the production of anthropological knowledge


  • One hour lecture per week
  • One hour practical class/workshop per week

Scope and syllabus

  •  The contruction of "race" and the complicity of anthropology
  •  Race, Sexuality Colonialism and Empire
  •  Whiteness and White ignorance
  •  Race, Extinction and the Anthropocene
  •  Right Wing Populism and the reproduction of whiteness
  •  Race, Genomics and Post-humanism
  •  Race and Apartheid
  •  Race and Carceral Systems
  •  Race and Settler Colonialism
  •  Black and Other lives matter: New Solidarities and Struggles

Method of assessment

  • 30% 1500 word self-reflexive essay
  • 50% 2500 word essay 
  • 20% class presentation

Suggested reading

  • Anderson, M. 2019. From Boas to Black Power. Racism, Liberalism, and American Anthropology. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Beliso-De Jesús A. & Pierre J. 2019. American Anthropologist Special Issue: Anthropology of White Supremacy
  • Hall, S., 1997. ‘Race: the floating signifier’ 
  • Gilroy, P., 2001. Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line (1st Harvard University Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Wekker, G., 2016. White innocence: Paradoxes of colonialism and race. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Povinelli, E. A. (2016). Geontologies: a requiem to late liberalism. Duke University Press.
  • Povinelli, E. A. (2017). The ends of humans: Anthropocene, autonomism, antagonism, and the illusions of our epoch. South Atlantic Quarterly, 116(2), 293-310
  • Mills, C. 2007. White Ignorance, in Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana (eds), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany, NY: SUNY Press ,pp. 13–38.
  • Pierre, J., 2013. The predicament of blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the politics of race. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press.
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. 2012. The Negro. New York: ACLS.
  • Stovall. T., 2006. Race and the making of the nation: blacks in modern France in Gomez, M. A. Diasporic Africa: A reader. New York: New York University Press.
  • Hill, Collins, P., 2004. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, Routledge, 2004


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules