The history of segregation is usually concentrating on modern racial forms of it, in colonial settings or in large urban conglomerates. Mathematical definitions of segregation refer to the ratio between the type of segregated element (e.g. Blacks) in a given larger area and its sub-area. We are suggesting that pre-modern as well as postcolonial forms of segregation are far less determined by this space/race-alignment. For a long-term history of segregation concerned with many other dominating themes and objects of segregation (such as religion, non-racist ethnicity), we propose to concentrate on the fluid cognitive dimension of what segregation is, close distance: ‘distance’ can refer to physical space, but it is also far more open to cognitive forms of distance. ‘Closeness’ aims to draw attention to the fact that both the processing and enacting of separation and difference, from the early to the late period of colonialization, may have nothing to do with how far away or how close together people actually live. Ignorance and ignoring are one of the most important elements of this epistemic core of segregational behaviour and of what creates close distance in societies.