Project Description

Invention of Race

Artifice Embodied: Perfecting  Renaissance Nature and the Invention  of Race examines the history of how  inheritance came to be understood  through race during the foundation  of biology. A neologism coined at a  moment when humanity appeared  capable of perfecting nature, “race”  first referred to animal stock honed  through breeding.

To those who invented it, race was  not inflexible but the fragile result  of reproductive work. This research  traces early modern breeders’ self-conscious struggle to produce  and maintain race and natural  philosophers’ preoccupation with  its artifice.

On Physiognomy


Race is a historically contingent marker of difference, but it is by no means coextensive with alterity. Physiognomy provided one dangerous, knotted strand of modern race’s history. An ancient theory elaborated by self-proclaimed magus Giovanni Battista Della Porta in the sixteenth century, physiognomists argued that the mind and body were not separate, but deeply intertwined.


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