This paper looks at the conditions of the emergence of "race" as a new scientific category during the eighteenth century, arguing that two modes of discourse and visualization played a significant role: that on society, civility, and civilization——as found principally in the travel literature——and that on nature, as found in natural history writings, especially in botanical classifications. The European colonizing enterprise had resulted in an extensive flow of new objects at every level. Visual representations of these new objects circulated in the European cultural world and were transferred and transformed within travelogue and natural history writings. The nature, boundaries, and potentialities of humankind were discussed in this exchange within the conceptual grid of classifications and their visual representations. Over the course of the century the discourse on society, civility, and civilization collapsed into the discourse on nature. Humans became classified and visually represented along the same lines as flora, according to similar assumptions about visible features. Concurrently, these visible features were related necessarily to bundles of social, civilized, and cognitive characteristics taken from the discourse on society, civility, civilization, as found in the contemporaneous travelogue.
Research Article| February 01 2011
Visualizing "Race" in the Eighteenth Century
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2011) 41 (1): 41–103.
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Snait B. Gissis; Visualizing "Race" in the Eighteenth Century. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 February 2011; 41 (1): 41–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2011.41.1.41
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