Article ID: CBB220307648

Ignoring Racism in the History of the German Immigration Society: Some Reflections on Comparison as an Epistemic Practice (2021)


The entanglement of the history of racism with the history of migration in Germany has been ignored thus far in German historiography. Exploring the epistemological significance of ignorance in sustaining racial knowledge in democratic, pluralistic societies is a relatively new field of research; in the German case it is virtually absent. Taking seriously Linda Martín Alcoff’s dictum that ignoring racism is a substantial epistemic practice of sustaining it, it seems worth studying the hermeneutic means by which German historiography creates this blind spot. One of the central motifs in this context is the “zero hour,” according to which German migration history only commenced in the mid-1950s and had nothing to do with how Germans had treated migrants since the turn of the century, particularly those considered as “völkisch”1 undesirable Others. In this article, the methods of comparison and omission are discussed as key epistemic tools for writing the zero hour into German migration history. This narrative path is contrasted with microhistorical accounts that reveal the ongoing production of racial knowledge and ignorance and their entanglement, which formed the basis of a new “art of communicating” about Others after the Holocaust. Racial knowledge is known and ignored simultaneously, so that even a supposedly anti-racist society does not have to erase it as long as it is “dominantly” ignored. This particular relationship reflects the idea that knowledge and ignorance per se are an entangled continuum with a myriad of grey scales where ignorance contains knowledge and knowledge is upheld by ignorance.This article is part of a special issue entitled “Histories of Ignorance,” edited by Lukas M. Verburgt and Peter Burke.

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Article Lukas M. Verburgt; Peter Burke (2021) Introduction: Histories of Ignorance. Journal for the History of Knowledge (pp. 5-5). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Whooley, Owen
Aarden, Erik
Bivins, Roberta E.
Burke, Peter
Heinemann, Torsten
Lee, Catherine Y.
Science as Culture
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Journal for the History of Knowledge
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Health and History
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
University of California Press
University of Chicago Press
Emigration; immigration
Ignorance (Theory of knowledge)
Science and politics
Medicine and society
Science and race
Foucault, Michel
Galton, Francis
Jacobs, Joseph
Petrovic, George
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
Ottoman Empire
California (U.S.)
National Museum of Science and Technology, National Museums of Canada, in cooperation with the Engineering Centennial Board

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