The Politics of Neutrality: UNESCO'S Social Science Department, 1946-1956

Author: 
Teresa Tomas Rangil
Publication Number: 
2011-08

This essay analyzes the construction of “neutral” knowledge by the scholars (mostly psychologists, anthropologists and 

sociologists) who were members of UNESCO’s Social Science Department between 1946 and 1956. Making use of recent 

literature on the politics of knowledge and using archive material, we try to clarify the postures between what we call 

“universalists” and “pluralists” in three of the major research projects that shaped the Department: the Tensions project, the 

race statements of 1950 and 1951, and the program of technical assistance. We make the case that both  “pluralism” and 

“universalism” involved a great deal of political maneuvering and strategy to advance national or professional purposes, and  

that therefore, neutrality could only be apparent.