Last week saw the release of my first book Ma(r)king the Difference. Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation. It is the outcome of my edited and reviewed PhD thesis on political science from the University of Hamburg, in December 2019. My first advisor was Professor Jürgen Zimmerer.

This book delivers a conceptual reconstruction of the trajectory of concepts used to mark qualitative differences among identities from the 16th to the 21st century in central Europe and the Americas. It adds to the existing literature by incorporating colonial history into the genealogy of Western political thought and ideas, as well as into the postcolonial discussion of multiculturalism. Further, it offers critical insights in the colonial geopolitical cartographies framing the concepts of Secularism and Orientalism from the 16th century to nowadays.

Following the traditions of conceptual history and decolonial thinking, this book includes a valuable critical revision of the origins of Humanism in colonial times and contexts. It is also an original critique to the power and violence of language in ma(r)king differences, which is described in terms of translation.

In a dialogue about identity (and) politics, Ma(r)king the Difference focuses on the tension between democracy and religion, one of the great epistemic and political challenges of our times and discusses multiculturalism in relation to colonial and postcolonial violence. The book deals with the power and authority of translation providing the reader with an insight into the history of colonial racism through a deep conceptual analysis of three historical debates that have not been previously discussed together.

Ma(r)king the Difference begins by discussing and explaining the intertwining between translation and multiculturalism. Drawing upon John Pocock, Reinhart Koselleck, Walter Benjamin and Frantz Fanon, the author describes what she calls “the regime of translation of cultural differences”. Through these lenses, which describe the mechanisms used by a white majority to deal with nonwhite differences, in the second section of the book, the “question of the difference” is reconstructed exemplary in three debates: The so-called “Indian Question” or the Valladolid Debate between the Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (both Aristotelians, chroniclers, and high-graded members of the Catholic Church) in 1550-1522, the “Jewish Question” as discussed by Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer in 1843-1844, and the multicultural question according to the philosophers Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor since 1992. Some of the provocative questions raised in this research are: „Do barbarians have a soul?”, “who constructs the cultural norm?“ and “are accommodation and recognition of cultural similarities all we can expect from multiculturalism?”

The historical-comparative approach towards the three debates culminates in a reflection on the political implications of the (non)translatability of cultural differences. The entanglement of the debates allows an intersectional discussion of Black racism, colonial racism, Anti-Semitism and apparently new forms of racism such as so-called Islamophobia.

The book closes with a reflection upon the epistemic requirement to acknowledge the colonial legacy in political concepts that seek to address cultural differences, such as multiculturalism. It also includes an invitation to disengage from further accentuating hostility and racialized violence in terms of a differentiation of humanity and exclusive senses of sameness.

Ma(r)king the Difference is a valuable contribution to critical political thought, but also to global historians. It can be order here.

Tania Mancheno: Ma(r)king the Difference. Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2023. Softcover, 250 Seiten, ISBN 978-3-658-40923-4

About the author:

Tania Mancheno studied sociology, ethnology and political science and defended her doctoral degree in 2019 (University of Hamburg). Since then, she works as a lecturer in several universities in Hamburg and as a critical researcher on European urban colonial legacy and politics of remembrance. She is associate researcher at the research centre “Hamburg’s (Post-)Colonial Legacy”. She developed the interviews series: Was bedeutet Hamburg für Dich?, Nachwort and ReprÆsentationen that deal with landscapes of remembrance on German colonial legacy in Hamburg and beyond.