In August of 1739, Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences publicized a “prize puzzle” in Europe’s best-known scientific journal. The subject was a riddle that had long perplexed Europeans: “What is the cause of the Sub-Saharan Africans’ peculiar hair texture and dark skin?” While this query theoretically limited itself to discussion of African physical features, what really preoccupied the Academy were three hidden questions: the first two were who is Black? and why? The third was an even bigger concern, namely, what did being Black signify? In this talk, Andrew Curran will both explain the genesis of this competition and its wider relationship to the Enlightenment quest to define the human species.
Andrew Curran, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University
Free and open to the public; registration required. For more information, please visit the event webpage.
Hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine.