The Jena Declaration of 2019: ’Racism makes races’

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TU Ilmenau Citizens’ Campus

Topic: .

Speaker: apl. Uwe Hoßfeld, biology historian and biology didactic Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena

Time: Friday, 10/06/2023, 3:00 p.m.

Place: TU Ilmenau, Faradaybau, Weimarer Straße 32

Admission: 5 Euro

The human body makes it one of the most diverse species on earth. However, physical differences such as skin color, eye or skull shape were and are also used to draw conclusions about people’s ancestry and thus fuel racism. With reference to their race, entire groups of people were persecuted, enslaved or murdered over centuries. Thus, the human tendency to categorize and hierarchize has led to tremendous human suffering throughout history.

But the division of people into races is untenable, according to the core statement of the "Jena Declaration." The scientific statement, published in 2019 as part of the annual meeting of the German Zoological Society in Jena, posits that there is no biological justification for using the concept of race in the context of human groups: "The concept of race is the result of racism and not its precondition," it concludes.

In his lecture as part of the TU Ilmenau Citizens’ Campus, Prof. Uwe Hoßfeld, a historian of biology and didactician of biology at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, sheds light on the history of biological anthropology before and after the theory of evolution developed by 19th century naturalist Charles Robert Darwin. He does this also with a view to his predecessor at the University of Jena, the now controversial scholar and evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel, who with his ideas of racism and eugenics in the 20th century is considered a pioneer of race science and "racial hygiene" under National Socialism. Finally, at the end of his lecture, Prof. Uwe Hoßfeld will place the Jena Declaration, which was written by leading scientists from the fields of evolutionary research, genetics and zoology, and which significantly influenced the amendment of the law to remove the term "race" from the German constitution, in the current research landscape.