Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism

What is Racism Studies?

Racism Studies is the academic study of racism in its various manifestations, not only as a concept, notion, or ideology, but also racism as practice, action, and experience. Research on racism is an inherently multidisciplinary field, which is indebted to the historical sciences, social sciences, cultural studies, and law studies. At Uppsala University, this is reflected in the collaboration of six faculties within the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences to form the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research on Racism.

The Department of Theology has assumed the administrative responsibility for the initiative. This may surprise those who are unacquainted with the history of racism, who assume that “racism” always entails notions of “biological race”. The cementation of this commonly recurring belief in public discourse is in itself an important area of study, and pertains to the production of collective amnesia and ignorance of history. It is well known – or, at least, it should be – that racism predates concepts of biological race by centuries, and was long underpinned by reference to theology rather than biology.

The biological theory of race was a late addition to the history of racism. Neither uniform nor completely dominant, it always co-existed with concepts such as “spirit”, “culture”, “civilisation”, and “environment”. In conformity with the gradual dethroning of “scientific racism” after the end of World War II, notions of biological race were increasingly questioned, while racism’s fundamental idea of “inherited essence” persisted embedded in terms such as “culture”, “religion”, and “ethnicity”. Employing a diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives, racism scholars have explored and analysed this complex history, whose trajectory varies between different societies and social contexts. However, much remains to be done.

In recent years, the concept of a plurality of racisms has become increasingly established, highlighting specific formations of racism that have developed in different ways and contexts throughout history, including anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim racism (Islamophobia), anti-Romani racism (anti-Ziganism), anti-Black racism (afrophobia), and racism towards indigenous peoples, such as anti-Saami racism. The field of racism studies also comprises critical research on whiteness and anti-racism.

Racism Studies is thus a vast area of knowledge. The field includes research on structural racism in particular areas such as the labour market, education, health care, and housing market; everyday racism; racial stereotypes in, for instance, film, advertising, and the visual arts from the perspective of cultural studies; gendered racisms from the perspective of gender studies; racism and the organisation of desire; intersectional analyses of racism, class, gender, and sexuality; linguistic studies of racism; racism in the legal system and public administration; hate crimes, fascism, national socialism, and ultra-nationalism; racism as a dimension in armed conflict, war, colonial power structures, and genocide; and racism in relation to the state, modernity, nation/alism, international relations, and processes of globalisation.

Professor Mattias Gardell & Professor Irene Molina
Head of Research