Public perceptions of unity and diversity within humankind, of ethnic and racial difference, class and gender distinctions, develop in dialogue with theoretical inquiry into the same. In turn, such inquiry is deeply context dependent, and the notion of “humanity” it yields is not intrinsic, but a malleable cultural product shaped by processes of historical, social-anthropological, scientific and political self-reflection, and of encounter with “others” in modern Europe. This course intends to survey and problematize the major landmarks of this development through a study of primary texts and relevant secondary literature. It looks at scholarly, philosophical and political texts dedicated to the subject as well as visual representations, and at topics ranging from sixteenth-century confrontations with (and possessions of) the “exotic”, through the reflections of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century natural law, to evolutionist anthropology and the famous “human displays” or “ethnic shows” attached to nineteenth-century world or national exhibitions. It then explores how, in the context of evolutionary theories and degenerationist thinking, a number of modern scientific disciplines emerged with a preoccupation with observing, measuring, demonstrating, representing, cataloguing, and thus creating and reinforcing human differences and hierarchies. Craniometry, physical anthropology and ethnography contributed to the formation of gendered ethnic, national and imperial identities in order to further nation- or empire-building in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while psychiatry, sexology, psychoanalysis, criminal anthropology, and eugenics problematized, negotiated and interpreted forms of social deviance and concepts of “normalcy,” individual and public health, and deviance in the context of modern, urban and cosmopolitan social setting. Finally, we discuss questions of continuities and discontinuities in history by looking at events paving the way to Nazi discrimination, science and crimes and their postwar legacy, the birth of medical ethics, and recent advances in modern biomedicine and their impact on contemporary racial categories.