This article aims to integrate discourse analysis of politically instrumental imagined identity geographies with the relational and territorial geography of the communities of praxis and interpretation that produce them. My case study is the international community of nationalist scientists who classified Europe’s biological races in the 1820s–1940s. I draw on network analysis, relational geography, historical sociology and the historical turn to problematize empirically how spatial patterns of this community’s shifting disciplinary and political coalitions, communication networks and power relations emerged, were structured, persisted, changed, interacted and disappeared. I focus especially on core– periphery relations. I argue that if local historical spatial patterns affect those of later phenomena, geographies like that of European integration should be understood in the context of Europe’s complex historical cultural geography. Unlike discourse deconstruction alone, this complementary relational de-essentialization of geography can identify large-scale, enduring associations of cultural patterns as well as cultural flux and ambiguity.