Toward a comparative history of racial thought in Africa: Historicism, barbarism, autochthony

Jonathon Glassman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Using material from the history of African thought, this essay proposes a strategy for writing a comparative history of race that ranges beyond a consideration of white supremacy and its anti-racist inflections. Studies of race outside the global north have often been hobbled by rigid modernist assumptions that over-privilege the determining influence of Western discourses at the expense of local intellectual inheritances. This essay, in contrast, proposes a focus on locally inherited discourses of difference that have shown signs of becoming racialized, at times through entanglement with Western ideas. It pays particular attention to discourses that arranged “human kinds” along a progression from barbarian to civilized, suggesting the presence of African historicisms that in modern times have converged with the stadial ideas that played a major role in Western racial thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-98
Number of pages27
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Barbarism
  • Civilization
  • Ethnicity
  • Historicism
  • Nativism
  • Progress
  • Race
  • Racism
  • Stadial
  • Tribe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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