Saturday, April 23, 2011

Climatic Determinism at work: Discussions in the League of Nations

Ashwini Tambe published an interesting piece in Theory, Culture & Society (2011 vol. 28 no. 2 109-13): Climate, Race Science and the Age of Consent in the League of Nations, about an episode, when climatic determinism was in full swing as an explanatory tool for differences of humans and societies.

The abstract reads: “In this article I explore how, in the League of Nations’ emerging anti-trafficking regime of the 1920s and 1930s, one category of race science — climate — played a prominent role in positing natural hierarchies between nations. My purpose is twofold: (1) to explain the currency of climate at this moment and to examine the trajectory of climate as an explanatory device in the intellectual history of ‘race’; and (2) to reflect on the biopolitical implications of explanations rooted in climate. The article begins with a description of how League of Nations delegates used climate as shorthand to refer to differences between the sexual mores of various nations. I then reflect more broadly on the emergence, submergence, and reemergence of climate in the history of race science, and its effects in practical settings. I move to a discussion of the significance of the age of consent as a category, and analyse the League of Nations-sponsored efforts to track ages of consent across countries as a biopolitical project. My overarching argument is that references to climate performed important ideological work in naturalizing hierarchical relations between nations. In arenas where diplomats sought to arrive at a consensus, such references rendered them more palatable and less disputable.

doi: 10.1177/0263276410380942;