- The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000
Colin Kidd, known internationally as an authority on ethnic and national identities in Britain and in the Atlantic world of the seventeenth century, has produced a remarkably erudite book on race in the Atlantic world during the same century and after. By any measure, this is an ambitious book. Unlike related works that study the emergence of race science and secular racial ideologies during the European Enlightenment centuries only,Kidd,in the current book, focuses on tracing the entangled conceptual and historical relationships between race knowledge, ideologies of racialism, practices of racism and antiracism, and formations of transnational religious (specifically, Christian Protestant theologies) and social identities between 1600 and 2000. The Forging of Races is thus remarkable not only for the historical range but also for the diversity of relevantly related conceptual problems it has successfully woven together and helpfully addressed. [End Page 313]
Because of its great reliance on extensive primary sources, the book's narrative and critical lenses transform our outlook on the relations between race, Protestantism, and international history of the modern world. It is divided into nice chapters, including a Prologue ("Race in the Eye of the Beholder") and a Conclusion. Chapter 2 is the Introduction ("Race as Scripture Problem") followed by "Race and Religious Orthodoxy in the Early Modern Era,""Race, the Enlightenment and the Authority of Scripture,""Monogenesis, Slavery and the Nineteenth-Century Crisis of Faith,""The Aryan Moment:Racializing Religion in the Nineteenth-Century," "Forms of Racialized Religion," and "Black Counter Theologies."Critical theorists of modern raciology will find extremely helpful Kidd's Prologue.
In addition to revealing some of the most haunting primary sources of the emergence of, literally, heroic scientific efforts to produce racial classification, The Forging of Races is most illuminating when it examines both the stubbornness of this science while exposing its racist contradictions. It is interesting, for example, to read about Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry's desire to produce a table of race-mixture in the French colonized island of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Saint-Méry's biological science postulated that each of the races he studied was composed of 128 units of either white or black "blood." In race-mixing, therefore, a mulâtre is a person who had 64/64 black/white units of blood while a Sacatra had 112 units of black and 16 units of white blood;a Griffe 96 black and 32 white;Marabou 80 black and 48 white; Quarterton 96 white 32 black; Métis 112 white and 16 black; Mamelouc 120 white and 8 black; and Sang-mêlé 126 white and 2 black. Kidd's strength is in showing how pseudo-sciences of race such as Saint-Méry effectively combined, on one hand, with larger secular ideologies of racialism and, on the other hand, ancient religious mythologies, most of them deriving from divine authority attributed to the Scripture, to generate theologies of race that supported the economic projects of transatlantic African slavery, the political projects of racial domination of particularly blacks in Europe, and the social policies of racial segregation in colonial America,Africa, and South Asia.
The specific ways in which Saint-Méry's and similar racial taxonomies were used to fashion potent conceptual and ideological mixes of race, religion, and politics can be seen in the example of United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind. As Kidd recounts this,"Thind, it appeared, was racially Aryan and Caucasian, and therefore surely met the whiteness test laid down in 1790.Although the Circuit Court agreed with this line of argument, its decision was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the challenge of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization that Thind was a 'Hindoo', and therefore was neither white nor worthy of citizenship" (p. 12). It is also fascinating to be reminded of more recent examples from Apartheid South Africa's...