Racial liberalism, which dominated racial thought from the onset of the Second World War to the Brown v. Board decision, inherited from that war an enduring figurative frame: racism as world-historical event, the struggle against it a war. That frame, which liberal anthropologists introduced, undercut nonstatist and radical antiracisms (states wage war), militated against enduring change (wars shouldn’t last forever), and contradicted the anthropologists’ own theories of human difference. Though often described as a hard turn from race as hierarchical biological difference to race as normative cultural difference, World War II marked not a transition from a hard-edged scientific racism to a more subtle cultural racism but the moment at which anthropologists biologized culture—not a racial break but a racial bridge.

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