Monday workshop
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 3:30pm

337 Claudia Cohen Hall

Alice Conklin, Department of History, Ohio State University

"Nothing is less universal than the idea of race": Anti-racism and Social Science at UNESCO, 1950-1962

In the spring of 1950 Alfred Metraux, the Swiss born, French-trained anthropologist of Amerindians, became head of the newly created Race Bureau at UNESCO in Paris, a position that he occupied until his retirement in 1962. Metraux had worked in both South and North America since the early 1930s, and his appointment offered French social scientists an opportunity to participate in the global attempt to fight prejudice through the study of race following World War II. The role of Claude Levi-Strauss in drafting Unesco's first Race Statement, on the biological aspects of race, is well known; but how many other French intellectuals became involved in Metraux's decade -long efforts to promote action on the social aspects of race? Given that American sociologists were world leaders in the study of race relations, did Metraux manage to introduce their methods and findings to a global audience? My preliminary analysis suggests that there was nothing universal about the language of race in the postwar decade, making transatlantic exchanges on the subject especially fraught.