George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. In his research, he looks at European sociology’s engagement with colonial and Continental e...
Berthold Leibinger Lecture
Colonialism and European Social Science
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How did European sociologists engage with imperial regimes between 1930 and 1960? George Steinmetz confronts this question through a study of the last major Western powers to decolonize—France, Britain, Belgium—and during the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe (1938-1945). Considering the production and lasting effects of what he calls “imperial forms of sociology,” Steinmetz rejects calls to expunge forms of scientific knowledge produced under colonial or totalitarian conditions, and, conversely, to disregard the contexts in which this knowledge was produced. Instead, he argues that we should take seriously several of colonial sociology’s key traits: the heterogeneity of nondemocratic situations; variations in the autonomy of the production of knowledge; differing intellectual and political positions of individuals located in identical situations; and, lastly, the internal contradictions that arise in texts produced under non-democratic conditions.