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"Rasse" (“Race”) - Negotiating a fraught German term

By Leda Berio, Daniel James Țurcaș, and Benedict Kenyah-Damptey

Although the debate over whether to remove the term "Rasse" from the Basic Law, replace it with another term, or retain it (with a modified meaning) is by no means unique to Germany, it nevertheless reveals a peculiar German discomfort with the term "Rasse," echoing Germany's past and its reckoning with it. Due to the history of National Socialism in Germany and the particular role the concept of race played, this word is taboo in the German-speaking region. In contrast, people in the English-speaking world have much fewer reservations about the term "race" - in fact, what people in the United States refer to as "race talk" is commonplace among anti-racists, whereas in the German-speaking region, even the word "Rasse" is suspected of promoting racism.

The English-speaking philosophical discussion about "race" could contribute significantly to understanding the debate about the term "Rasse" in Germany. However, to achieve this, it is necessary to first comprehend the differences between these two terms. In this sense, our project pursues two goals: firstly, to expand the philosophical debate about "race" into the German context. We aim to achieve this by examining the meaning of its German counterpart "Rasse." Based on this investigation, we will determine whether and how we should change the meaning of this term or eliminate it altogether, taking into account the specificities of the German context. Secondly, we want to contribute to the legal and public debate about the concept of "Rasse" in general and its role in the Basic Law in particular. We aim to do this through an experimentally supported examination, evaluation, and, if necessary, improvement of this concept. The pursuit of these goals will ultimately depend crucially on the involvement of civil society organizations - following the motto: "Those who have a stake in the outcome should also have a say in the process!

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