WCFIA: “American Sociology’s Racial Ontology: Remembering Slavery, Deconstructing Modernity, and Charting the Future of Global Historical Sociology"


Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CGIS South, S050, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Politics and Social Change Workshop



Zine MagubaneAssociate Professor, Department of Sociology, Boston College.


Cresa Pugh


Peggy LevittAssociate. Chair; Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Wellesley College.

Jocelyn ViternaFaculty Associate. Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Paul ChangFaculty Associate. Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.


Standard American disciplinary history holds that the ‘founding fathers’, inspired by ‘great men theorizing European modernity’, created a sister discipline in Europe’s image. This article proposes an alternative history, which locates the founding of American sociology in the writings of ‘pro-slavery imperialists’ Henry Hughes and George Fitzhugh. A methodologically nationalistic sociology of ‘race relations’, which isolates the study of race from issues of ‘general’ sociological concern, has substituted for sustained engagement with sociology’s colonialist and imperialist past. Racism has been made an anachronistic survivor in tradition, rather than a constitutive part of modernity. Rehabilitating this lost history is therefore vital for creating a new, global historical sociology, as is questioning the conceptual matrix that isolates the study of race and racism from issues of general sociological concern.

See also: Politics and Social Change Workshop2017-2018