What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

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Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

  • Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination

Racial divisions have returned to the forefront of politics in the US and European societies, making it more important than ever to understand race and racism. 

But do we? In this original and provocative book, acclaimed historian Jean-Frédéric Schaub shows that we don’t— and that we need to rethink the widespread assumption that racism is essentially a modern form of discrimination based on skin color and other visible differences.

On the contrary, Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination. Built around notions of identity and otherness, race is above all a political tool that must be understood in the context of its historical origins.

Although scholars agree that races don’t exist, they disagree about when these ideologies emerged. Drawing on historical research from the early modern period to today, Schaub makes the case that the key turning point in the political history of race in the West occurred not with the Atlantic slave trade and American slavery, as many historians have argued, but much earlier, in 15th-century Spain and Portugal, with the racialization of Christians of Jewish and Muslim origin.


What We Are Reading Today: Introductory Lectures on Equivariant Cohomology

Updated 31 March 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Introductory Lectures on Equivariant Cohomology

Author: Loring W. Tu

This book gives a clear introductory account of equivariant cohomology, a central topic in algebraic topology.
Equivariant cohomology is concerned with the algebraic topology of spaces with a group action, or in other words, with symmetries of spaces. First defined in the 1950s, it has been introduced into K-theory and algebraic geometry, but it is in algebraic topology that the concepts are the most transparent and the proofs are the simplest. One of the most useful applications of equivariant cohomology is the equivariant localization theorem of Atiyah-Bott and Berline-Vergne, which converts the integral of an equivariant differential form into a finite sum over the fixed point set of the group action, providing a powerful tool for computing integrals over a manifold. Because integrals and symmetries are ubiquitous, equivariant cohomology has found applications in diverse areas of mathematics and physics.
Assuming readers have taken one semester of manifold theory and a year of algebraic topology, Loring Tu begins with the topological construction of equivariant cohomology.