Racial Evidence

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Assistant professor of architecture Charles Davis II and collaborators' article in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 

Their four-year project to research and compile the forthcoming volume Race and Modern Architecture, a collection of nineteen essays by distinguished scholars who explore the critical role of race in architectural discourse from the Enlightenment to the present, has raised several important questions about the methods historians employ and the archives we mine to write histories of architecture. In spite of the recent global turn in the discipline, many architectural historians still ignore the constitutive importance of race within modernity. To understand the role of racial thought in shaping modern architecture, it is not enough to incorporate objects, buildings, and designers from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East into our canonical histories. This paper must also contend with the complex history of racialization—specifically, how European colonial expansion and the subsequent development of racial slavery, mercantilism, and industrial capitalism depended indispensably on the creation of ideologies of human difference and inequality—and how this history of racialization shaped the very definition of what it means to be modern. This paper must also examine the ways in which the disciplines of art and architectural history themselves emerged from the racial-nationalist logics embedded, for example, in eighteenth-century ideas about the climatic determination of standards of beauty, or about the coherence of nations’ mentalities and their material cultures.


Irene Cheng
California College of the Arts

Charles Davis II, Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture, University at Buffalo

Mabel O. Wilson
Columbia University


Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

Date Published