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Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Arun Saldanha

IAS Fellow at St Mary's College, Durham University (October - December 2008)

Arun Saldanha is Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota and is an upcoming theorist of race. He is at the forefront of using Gilles Deleuze and related materialist philosophers to conceive of human phenotypic difference in a critical ecological framework. Avoiding the linguistic and psychological bias in prevalent definitions of race, this framework takes off from the recent existentialist and feminist turns towards the body, but also asks what exact sciences like population biology can bring to the discussion.

Graduated from Communication Studies at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) with an ethnographic study of the globalization of youth culture in Bangalore, Dr Saldanha worked at the same department as a Teaching Assistant for three years. At the Open University in Milton Keynes, he then pursued a PhD on rave tourism in Goa under supervision of Professors Doreen Massey and Jennifer Robinson in Geography. The book based on this work, Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) has quickly been recognized as a major statement in the critical conceptualization of race.

At the IAS, Dr Saldanha will work on a book project tentatively titled The Political Phenotype: Antiracist Science, Philosophical Anthropology. The project suggests that an uneven differentiation of populations on the basis of phenotype occurs through material processes such as housing segregation, racial divisions of labour, the war on terror, and marketing. The ontological and political status of this differentiation has to be tackled with a renewed commitment to conceiving human variation along egalitarian lines.

Recent research funded by the University of Minnesota has focussed on the publication and effects of a key text in early modern geography, the Itinerario of Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1596). This book was important to the explorations of the Indian Ocean by the Dutch and helps theorize early modernity as a threshold in the formation of modern race relations. Apart from bringing the problem of race into the study of tourism, music and travel writing, Dr Saldanha's publications have explored thinkers such as Alain Badiou, Georges Bataille, Frantz Fanon, Donna Haraway, Luce Irigaray and Benedict Spinoza, as well as varied subjects like visuality, mysticism, actor-network theory, heterotopia, the spice trade, LSD, and Tintin.

Fellow's Home Page

Professor Arun Saldanha Publications


Saldanha, A., Adams, JM. (2013) ‘Bastard and mixed-blood are the true names of race: an introduction’, in Saldanha, A. & Adams, J. M. (eds.) Deleuze and Race. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp, 6-34

Saldanha, A (2009), 'Back to the great outdoors: speculative realism as philosophy of science', Cosmos and History: Journal for Social and Natural Philosophy, 5(2)

IAS Insights Paper


Over the last few decades, there has in the humanities and public discourse been some confusion about the ever-contentious category of race that needs to be cleared philosophically if anti-racist policy is to be effective. If race is sometimes put between inverted commas, does that mean that it is not real? If race is a social construction, a figment of the imagination, then how can there be racism in institutions, feelings and economic distribution? Can physical differences between human bodies be thought without boxing them into the old colonial categories? This essay will answer this last question in the affirmative, providing a realist account of some of the many mechanisms whereby differentiation happens along racial lines. It does this by carefully avoiding reducing race to genes or to anything else, while taking the biological dimension of race seriously. A critical and embodied framework for approaching race and racism is suggested that will hopefully help to start clearing the confusion.

Insights Paper