Discrimination: on the constitutional history of a fundamental concept

Discrimination is a social phenomenon that can be studied through the exploration of the societal patterns, behavioral strategies, cultural symbols, and economic arrangements that organize, materialize and reproduce the multiple and heterogeneous sources of structural disadvantage that affect various human groups as a whole within past and present societies. But the word discrimination is also a linguistic convention that brings these phenomena to our minds when pronounced; a concept that condenses them semantically. For this reason, it is also possible to approach the social phenomenon that we now call discrimination using as an entry point the study of the construction, circulation and appropriation of the concept that bears this name, the concept of discrimination, in order to understand its place within our sociopolitical vocabularies and to cast light on its continuities and changes over space and time. This presentation seeks to provide historical support for the intuition that at some point a differentiation emerged between discrimination as a “mere” word and discrimination as a fundamental sociopolitical concept.