MA in “Race”: Difference and Domination


Scientific advances have provided us with a wealth of knowledge about human beings, and one of the most important advances relates to “race” – it does not exist. Yet, despite general acceptance that “race” has no biological basis, individual societies, and much of the world, still appear to racialise human beings and to employ raciaIised categories as if they were both real and permanent. The Race Relations Acts of the UK are a prime example of how legislation reproduces racialisation. In popular culture, other discourses tell us that we are post-racial, suggesting that “race” no longer exists in society (but did once), or that we are now colourblind, suggesting that “race” still exists in society, but that we (nobly) choose not to see it. Even in academic discourse, research looking at many topics that never or rarely name “race”—topics such as terrorism, immigration, crime, development, and identity—often actually implicate “race” and are deeply racialised. If the ways in which racialised discourses are being articulated is changing, then we require new conceptual tools to identify, analyse, and evaluate them.



The demographics of Britain, and London in particular, are changing. This holds particular relevance for UCL, London’s Global University Far-right political parties and organisations have used this fact to gain political capital. Some academics have described this fact as “superdiversity”, analysing racialised difference through a range of indicators, such as ethnicity, religion, language, heritage, or culture. Many heads of state in Europe (including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron), have declared multiculturalism a failure. In these discourses, difference is, at times, descriptive, and at others, considered a political project. It can be considered as such, especially when debate about mere difference is unmasked as debate about segregation, devolution, secession, integration, or assimilation. Indeed, many institutions today have policies, dedicated staff members, or even whole departments dedicated to “Equality and Diversity”, which appears to marry the descriptive “diversity” with the much more normative and politically prescriptive “equality”.



As the historical process of decolonisation gained traction, academics have been compelled to think seriously about just how it is that racialisation is ideologically charged. This school of thought, followed by critical race theories, looked back at modern European imperialism and competitive colonisation of our planet, with a more critical eye. Rather than “race” being something (be it biological or cultural) to be managed, critical thinkers argued that people were, and are, divided into racialised categories for ideological reasons, reproducing and thereby stabilising Eurocentric hierarchies of power. Looking at hegemonic global power today, they were able to trace its routes from competitive European imperial expansion, the invasion of the so-called “New World” and the transatlantic traffic in African peoples, to the height of the British Empire and the invention, in London, of National Eugenics. Intersectional theorists developed these ideas, by showing how “race”, in general, and the eugenic ideal, in particular, always intersects with ability, sexuality, gender, and class, in ways which can be empowering to some, but disempowering to others. It is therefore vital that we understand “race” as not simply a description of difference, but a tool of domination.


Catalin Tudose

I would really like to have my MA done in Race at UCL. We badly need one strictly on Race, within the UK territory.

I would like to be informed if, and when this MA will gain its fully rights to commence.

Kind Regards,


Not Nick


I would support a degree like this if and only if it is an objective and (as much as possible) unbiased course, that looks at both sides.

When you wrote “Yet, despite general acceptance that “race” has no biological basis,”, my first instinct is to look around and see whether that is indeed the truth.

I’ll admit that I have not spend much time researching this, but just a quick look around on the internet one can find this : http://www.wsj.com/articles/nicholas-wade-race-has-a-biological-basis-racism-does-not-1403476865

Any comments?


One thing that looks to be missing from the content is the the science.

Without this aspect, it is missing a key part of understanding. What does the science say? I know there have been a lot of studies of Kenyan runners, who dominate marathon running. Is there a genetic difference? or is this cultural – like Brazil and Football? You say general acceptance race is not a ‘thing’, but your graduates need to understand on what basis this claim is made, and critically appraise existing and new evidence as to population differences.

Nes Hirst-Ashuach

This seems a little Euro-centric in that it appears to look at race purely from a European perspective – why not look at it from the perspective of other cultures and ‘races’ as well as European.
Europeans are hardly the only ones with a rich history of race based ideology, it’s almost impossible to think of a society that hasn’t had a racialised component to it and arguably many societies around the world are far more race focussed than Europe in the modern age.
It would be interesting to include those societies’ views and thoughts on the issue at the least.

Gokhan Yilmaz

That is a brilliant idea! As an MSc student in biomedical sciences at UCL, with a strong background in critical/cultural theory and literature, I believe the interplay between biological definition(s) of race and sexuality and their representations in various mediums is definitely a worthwhile research and study enterprise.


This is I think a long overdue course. There needs to be rigorous discourse on this issue. Eric Williams stated that trans atlantic slave trade was not because of racism, but had been used to justify its continuation. The ‘shame’ on all sides of this period of history has left us stuck in post atlantic slave trade mentality.
Can this institution begin the discourse to unravel the mental gordion knot that keeps society hampered by ‘race’?


I commend the courage to explore such a thorny subject, however the title is the first mistake. It leaves little room for discourse and exploration. It will certainly polarise opinions, thus effectively undoing what it is intended to accomplish. The transatlantic slave trade was largely economic and a means of accessing labour without paying for it. Slaves came in all races and cultures. Similarly, modern day racism has economic underpinnings as well. Race on the other hand, is protean subject.

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