Racism challenges the development of biometric technologies today. To better understand this situation, my historical research explores how these technologies build on older racial research practices.
In this talk, I will discuss how the introduction of measurements and statistical methods transformed racial research between 1900-1960. With skull-measuring instruments such as the caliper and statistical formulas, anthropologists and biometricians transformed skulls into data templates and quantified racial research. British biometricians Karl Pearson and Geoffrey Morant used these metrical approaches to challenge racial dogmas, including Nazi racism. At the same time, I will show how they continued to reproduce old racial biases in their new methods and theories. My research thus reveals how biometric practices were considered objective and reproduced prejudices and assumptions.
Iris Clever is a PhD Candidate in the UCLA History Department and works on the cultural history of science and bodies. She holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in History from Utrecht University. Her dissertation examines the relationship between race, data, and biometry in the 19th and 20th century. Iris’s research has been supported by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the American Philosophical Society, the UCLA Department of History, and the E.J. Brandenburg Foundation.
In this seminar series the relevance and irrelevance of race is being discussed as an object and concept of research in order to explore ways to talk about race without naturalizing differences. The series goes beyond a standard definition of race, one that is allegedly relevant everywhere, and situates race in specific practices of research. In addition, the series gives room to the various different versions of race that can be found in the European context and explores when and how populations, religions, and cultures become naturalized and racialized. Scholars from different (inter)disciplinary fields (such as genetics, anthropology, philosophy, cultural studies, history, political sciences, science and technology studies) are invited to address the issue of race through a paper presentation.