Rethinking Race in Germany

Anna Skarpelis, Social Science Berlin Center

What do we talk about when we don’t talk about race? Rather than straightforward cases of erasure or non-recognition, I argue that these are instances of political projects that uncouple the racist past from a non-racial present that reveal an active, purposive, performative strategy to absent race itself. In other words, the bracketing of race is a racializing project that denies its very existence. Deploying comparative-historical data on Germany, the paper theorizes how states of racial bracketing emerge via four cultural processes (the logic of parentheses, excision, conceptual graveyards, linguistic subterfuge). In a further comparative contribution, it explains difference across race-denying countries by recourse to colonial legacies and post-conflict geopolitical interests. The article builds comparative sociological theory that more granularly describes and explains processes and forms of erasure, bracketing, and absence that generalize to broader questions of comparison, hidden variation, and how to analyze negative or unmarked space.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 131. Transhistorical Approaches to Race and Racism in Germany and Beyond