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Response to Review of Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century

My argument is that racism, defined as prejudice against ethnic descent coupled with discriminatory action, is generally triggered by political projects. This explains my approach to the 20th century: I wanted to understand the changing scale and nature of racism which led to processes of genocide. The comparison with other continents had the purpose to understand structural differences and the impact of the European theory of races. This highlighted the issue of purity of blood in India, Japan and Korea, and invited further reflection on Europe. I rejected the essentialist vision that race preceded racism, showing how the European construction of the theory of races was linked to political and economic aims. I reversed the relation between race and racism established by traditional historiography, but I highlighted how this relation can change over time, since African Americans have asserted their collective identity using an originally derogatory notion of black people. Finally, I respect specialisation and comfort zones. The comparative history I have practiced for a long time is also a specialisation with its limits. In my perspective, the issues of migration and minorities deserve more historical reflection to avoid projecting modern European experiences into the past. In other parts of the world minorities are not always subordinate, they can dominate political systems, such as the Tutsi in the region of the Great Lakes, not to mention the well-known colonial societies in which white people ruled over substantial majorities. As I tried to show, racism is not just a matter of excluding minorities or keeping them subordinated; it can target both active majorities and highly competitive minorities.