Conference: Race and Ethnicity in Africa and Europe

The Akademie für Politische Bildung in Tutzing, in cooperation with the Center for Maghrib Studies at Arizona State University, is hosting a conference on “Race and Ethnicity in Africa and Europe” September 30- October 1, 2022.

View the full program here.

Race and Ethnicity in Africa and Europe

Race and racism are deeply complex notions in Africa and Europe historically and contemporarily, as they are in other parts of the world. For a long time, scholars have insisted that notions of racism have been exported from Europe to Africa. Yet, recent research shows a more complex development. The racial hegemony of “whiteness” and the dispossesion of minorities in Africa not only preceded the Western conceptualization of race and racism but also emerged before these analytic discourses came to exist in Western Europe. Even so, there are several parallels between Africa and Europe in the themes and arguments pertaining to the nature of being racially marginalized or victimized by racism.

We have conceived this conference to pursue the ongoing work of new epistemological approaches to how we recognize racism and activist scholarship in the field of race, colorism, and anti-black racism in Africa and Europe. In this context we would also like to focus on the development of anti-Semitism in Europe since debates on “blackness” were very much limited in Europe before 1945. Yet, one could argue that anti-Semitism can be seen as a proxy for debates on “whiteness” in Europe before the end of World War II since Jews were denied the same racial quality as “purely white” (especially Northern) Europeans. What is more, European concepts of “whiteness” were, for a long time, directly connected to Christianity.

The racial categories carry with them implicit and explicit notions and images about “otherness” that provide a justification for the social and individual hierarchical treatment of a specific group.  Examining racial/ethnic differences is important because it enhances the understanding of the dynamics that create significant diversity in outcomes.

Generally speaking, our conference aims at debating similarites and differences of racial concepts in Africa and Europe. Furthermore, it analyzes the history of transfer and interconnection between the two regions. As a result, we hope for new insights in the development of the concepts of race and racism.

In our conference we would like to address the following questions:

  • How can we rethink the existing notions of race and racism?
  • How did they develop over time, especially between the 18th and 20th century?
  • Does race travel between Europe and Africa? This question helps shift the focus from parochial conceptions to useful understanding of concepts of race.
  • In which way are racial concepts bound to time and place, especially when we consider the differences of concepts of “whiteness” between Europe (e.g. when it comes to Jews) and Northern Africa (when it comes to Black Africans)?
  • What role did “whiteness” play in Europe’s quest for global hegemony and how did the marginalization of “whites” of non-European descent play a role?


Michael Mayer, Akademie für Politische Bildung

Chouki El Hamel, Center for Maghrib Studies at Arizona State University