Historical race concepts | Wikipedia audio article


The concept of race as a rough division of
anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) has a long and complicated history. The word
race itself is modern and was used in the sense of “nation, ethnic group” during the
16th to 19th century, and only acquired its modern meaning in the field of physical anthropology
from the mid 19th century. The politicization of the field under the concept of racism in
the 20th century led to a decline in racial studies during the 1930s to 1980s, culminating
in a poststructuralist deconstruction of race as a social construct.==Etymology==
The word “race”, interpreted to mean an identifiable group of people who share a common descent,
was introduced into English in about 1580, from the Old French rasse (1512), from Italian
razza. An earlier but etymologically distinct word for a similar concept was the Latin word
genus meaning a group sharing qualities related to birth, descent, origin, race, stock, or
family; this Latin word is cognate with the Greek words “genos”, (γένος) meaning
“race or kind”, and “gonos”, which has meanings related to “birth, offspring, stock …”.==
Early history==In many ancient civilizations, individuals
with widely varying physical appearances became full members of a society by growing up within
that society or by adopting that society’s cultural norms. (Snowden 1983; Lewis 1990).
Classical civilizations from Rome to China tended to invest the most importance in familial
or tribal affiliation than an individual’s physical appearance (Dikötter 1992; Goldenberg
2003). Societies still tended to equate physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour,
with psychological and moral qualities, usually assigning the highest qualities to their own
people and lower qualities to the “Other”, either lower classes or outsiders to their
society. For example, an historian of the 3rd century Han Dynasty in the territory of
present-day China describes barbarians of blond hair and green eyes as resembling “the
monkeys from which they are descended”. (Gossett, pp. 4).
Dominant in ancient Greek and Roman conceptions of human diversity was the thesis that physical
differences between different populations could be attributed to environmental factors.
Though ancient peoples likely had no knowledge of evolutionary theory or genetic variability,
their concepts of race could be described as malleable. Chief among environmental causes
for physical difference in the ancient period were climate and geography. Though thinkers
in ancient civilizations recognized differences in physical characteristics between different
populations, the general consensus was that all non-Greeks were barbarians. This barbarian
status, however, was not thought to be fixed; rather, one could shed the ‘barbarian’ status
simply by adopting Greek culture. (Graves 2001)===Classical antiquity===Hippocrates of Cos believed, as many thinkers
throughout early history did, that factors such as geography and climate played a significant
role in the physical appearance of different peoples. He writes, “the forms and dispositions
of mankind correspond with the nature of the country”. He attributed physical and temperamental
differences among different peoples to environmental factors such as climate, water sources, elevation
and terrain. He noted that temperate climates created peoples who were “sluggish” and “not
apt for labor”, while extreme climates led to peoples who were “sharp”, “industrious”
and “vigilant”. He also noted that peoples of “mountainous, rugged, elevated, and well-watered”
countries displayed “enterprising” and “warlike” characteristics, while peoples of “level,
windy, and well-watered” countries were “unmanly” and “gentle”.The Roman emperor Julian factored
in the constitutions, laws, capacities, and character of peoples: “Come, tell me why it is that the Celts and
the Germans are fierce, while the Hellenes and Romans are, generally speaking, inclined
to political life and humane, though at the same time unyielding and warlike? Why the
Egyptians are more intelligent and more given to crafts, and the Syrians unwarlike and effeminate,
but at the same time intelligent, hot-tempered, vain and quick to learn? For if there is anyone
who does not discern a reason for these differences among the nations, but rather declaims that
all this so befell spontaneously, how, I ask, can he still believe that the universe is
administered by a providence?”===Middle Ages===
European medieval models of race generally mixed Classical ideas with the notion that
humanity as a whole was descended from Shem, Ham and Japheth, the three sons of Noah, producing
distinct Semitic (Asiatic), Hamitic (African), and Japhetic (Indo-European) peoples. This
theory dates back to the Babylonian Talmud, which states, “the descendants of Ham are
cursed by being black, and [it] depicts Ham as a sinful man and his progeny as degenerates.”
In the 9th century, Al-Jahiz, an Afro-Arab Islamic philosopher, attempted to explain
the origins of different human skin colors, particularly black skin, which he believed
to be the result of the environment. He cited a stony region of black basalt in the northern
Najd as evidence for his theory.In the 14th century, the Islamic sociologist Ibn Khaldun,
dispelled the Babylonian Talmud’s account of peoples and their characteristics as a
myth. He wrote that black skin was due to the hot climate of sub-Saharan Africa and
not due to the descendants of Ham being cursed.Independently of Ibn Kaldun’s work, the question of whether
skin colour is heritable or a product of the environment is raised in 17th to 18th century
European anthropology. Georgius Hornius (1666) inherits the rabbinical
view of heritability, while François Bernier (1684) argues for at least partial influence
of the environment. Ibn Khaldun’s work was later translated into
French, especially for use in Algeria, but in the process, the work was “transformed
from local knowledge to colonial categories of knowledge”. William Desborough Cooley’1s
The Negro Land of the Arabs Examined and Explained (1841) has excerpts of translations of Khaldun’s
work that were not affected by French colonial ideas. For example, Cooley quotes Khaldun’s
describing the great African civilization of Ghana (in Cooley’s translation): “When the conquest of the West (by the Arabs)
was completed, and merchants began to penetrate into the interior, they saw no nation of the
Blacks so mighty as Ghánah, the dominions of which extended westward as far as the Ocean.
The King’s court was kept in the city of Ghánah, which, according to the author of the ‘Book
of Roger’ (El Idrisi), and the author of the ‘Book of Roads and Realms’ (El Bekri), is
divided into two parts, standing on both banks of the Nile, and ranks among the largest and
most populous cities of the world. The people of Ghánah had for neighbours,
on the east, a nation, which, according to historians, was called Súsú; after which
came another named Máli; and after that another known by the name of Kaǘkaǘ; although some
people prefer a different orthography, and write this name Kághó. The last-named nation
was followed by a people called Tekrúr. The people of Ghánah declined in course of time,
being overwhelmed or absorbed by the Molaththemún (or muffled people; that is, the Morabites),
who, adjoining them on the north towards the Berber country, attacked them, and, taking
possession of their territory, compelled them to embrace the Mohammedan religion. The people
of Ghánah, being invaded at a later period by the Súsú, a nation of Blacks in their
neighbourhood, were exterminated, or mixed with other Black nations.” Ibn Khaldun suggests
a link between the rise of the Almoravids and the decline of Ghana. But, historians
have found virtually no evidence for an Almoravid conquest of Ghana.==Early Modern period==
Scientists who were interested in natural history, including biological and geological
scientists, were known as “naturalists”. They would collect, examine, describe, and arrange
data from their explorations into categories according to certain criteria. People who
were particularly skilled at organizing specific sets of data in a logically and comprehensive
fashion were known as classifiers and systematists. This process was a new trend in science that
served to help answer fundamental questions by collecting and organizing materials for
systematic study, also known as taxonomy.As the study of natural history grew, so did
society’s effort to classify human groups. Some zoologists and scientists wondered what
made humans different from animals in the primate family. Furthermore, they contemplated
whether homo sapiens should be classified as one species with multiple varieties or
separate species. In the 16th and 17th century, scientists attempted to classify Homo sapiens
based on a geographic arrangement of human populations based on skin color, others simply
on geographic location, shape, stature, food habits, and other distinguishing characteristics.
Occasionally the term “race” was used but most of the early taxonomist used classificatory
terms such as “peoples”, “nations”, “types”, “varieties”, and “species”.
Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) and Jean Bodin (1530–1596), French philosopher,
attempted a rudimentary geographic arrangement of known human populations based on skin color.
Bodin’s color classifications were purely descriptive, including neutral terms such
as “duskish colour, like roasted quinze”, “black”, “chestnut”, and “farish white”.===17th century===
German and English scientists, Bernhard Varen (1622–1650) and John Ray (1627–1705) classified
human populations into categories according to stature, shape, food habits, and skin color,
along with any other distinguishing characteristics. Ray was also the first person to produce a
biological definition of species. François Bernier (1625–1688) is believed
to have developed the first comprehensive classification of humans into distinct races
which was published in a French journal article in 1684, Nouvelle division de la terre par
les différentes espèces ou races l’habitant, New division of Earth by the different species
or races which inhabit it. (Gossett, 1997:32–33). Bernier advocated using the “four quarters”
of the globe as the basis for providing labels for human differences. The four subgroups
that Bernier used were Europeans, Far Easterners, Negroes (blacks), and Lapps.===18th century===As noted earlier, scientists attempted to
classify Homo sapiens based on a geographic arrangement of human populations. Some based
their hypothetical divisions of race on the most obvious physical differences, like skin
color, while others used geographic location, shape, stature, food habits, and other distinguishing
characteristics to delineate between races. However, cultural notions of racial and gender
superiority tainted early scientific discovery. In the 18th century, scientists began to include
behavioral or psychological traits in their reported observations—which traits often
had derogatory or demeaning implications—and researchers often assumed that those traits
were related to their race, and therefore, innate and unchangeable. Other areas of interest
were to determine the exact number of races, categorize and name them, and examine the
primary and secondary causes of variation between groups.
The Great Chain of Being, a medieval idea that there was a hierarchical structure of
life from the most fundamental elements to the most perfect, began to encroach upon the
idea of race. As taxonomy grew, scientists began to assume that the human species could
be divided into distinct subgroups. One’s “race” necessarily implied that one group
had certain character qualities and physical dispositions that differentiated it from other
human populations. Society assigned different values to those differentiations, as well
as other, more trivial traits (a man with a strong chin was assumed to possess a stronger
character than men with weaker chins). This essentially created a gap between races by
deeming one race superior or inferior to another race, thus creating a hierarchy of races.
In this way, science was used as justification for unfair treatment of different human populations.
The systematization of race concepts during the Enlightenment period brought with it the
conflict between monogenism (a single origin for all human races) and polygenism (the hypothesis
that races had separate origins). This debate was originally cast in creationist terms as
a question of one versus many creations of humanity, but continued after evolution was
widely accepted, at which point the question was given in terms of whether humans had split
from their ancestral species one or many times.====Johann Friedrich Blumenbach====Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840)
divided the human species into five races in 1779, later founded on crania research
(description of human skulls), and called them (1793/1795):
the Caucasian race the Mongolian race
the Aethiopian race the American race
the Malayan raceBlumenbach’s classification of the Mongolian race included all East Asians
and some Central Asians as well as the Inuit (Eskimos) of the American arctic, excluding
peoples of Southeast Asian islands and Pacific Islanders, which were categorized in a separate
Malayan race. Blumenbach’s American race comprised most peoples of the Americas (excepting the
polar region) and of the Caribbean. Blumenbach argued that physical characteristics
like skin color, cranial profile, etc., were depended on geography and nutrition and custom.
Blumenbach’s work included his description of sixty human crania (skulls) published originally
in fascicules as Decas craniorum (Göttingen, 1790–1828). This was a founding work for
other scientists in the field of craniometry. Further anatomical study led him to the conclusion
that ‘individual Africans differ as much, or even more, from other individual Africans
as Europeans differ from Europeans’. Furthermore, he concluded that Africans were not inferior
to the rest of mankind ‘concerning healthy faculties of understanding, excellent natural
talents and mental capacities’. “Finally, I am of opinion that after all these
numerous instances I have brought together of negroes of capacity, it would not be difficult
to mention entire well-known provinces of Europe, from out of which you would not easily
expect to obtain off-hand such good authors, poets, philosophers, and correspondents of
the Paris Academy; and on the other hand, there is no so-called savage nation known
under the sun which has so much distinguished itself by such examples of perfectibility
and original capacity for scientific culture, and thereby attached itself so closely to
the most civilized nations of the earth, as the Negro.” These five groups saw some continuity in the
various classification schemes of the 19th century, in some cases augmented, e.g. by
the Australoid race and the Capoid race in some cases the Mongolian (East Asian) and
American collapsed into a single group.==Racial anthropology (1850–1930)==Among the 19th century naturalists who defined
the field were Georges Cuvier, James Cowles Pritchard, Louis Agassiz, Charles Pickering
(Races of Man and Their Geographical Distribution, 1848). Cuvier enumerated three races, Pritchard
seven, Agassiz twelve, and Pickering eleven. The 19th century saw attempts to change race
from a taxonomic to a biological concept. For example, using anthropometrics, invented
by Francis Galton and Alphonse Bertillon, they measured the shapes and sizes of skulls
and related the results to group differences in intelligence or other attributes (Lieberman
2001). These scientists made three claims about race:
first, that races are objective, naturally occurring divisions of humanity; second, that
there is a strong relationship between biological races and other human phenomena (such as forms
of activity and interpersonal relations and culture, and by extension the relative material
success of cultures), thus biologizing the notion of “race”, as Foucault demonstrated
in his historical analysis; third, that race is therefore a valid scientific category that
can be used to explain and predict individual and group behavior. Races were distinguished
by skin color, facial type, cranial profile and size, texture and color of hair. Moreover,
races were almost universally considered to reflect group differences in moral character
and intelligence. Stefan Kuhl wrote that the eugenics movement
rejected the racial and national hypotheses of Arthur Gobineau and his writing An Essay
on the Inequality of the Human Races. According to Kuhl, the eugenicists believed that nations
were political and cultural constructs, not race constructs, because nations were the
result of race mixtures. Vacher de Lapouge’s “anthroposociology”, asserted as self-evident
the biological inferiority of particular groups (Kevles 1985). In many parts of the world,
the idea of race became a way of rigidly dividing groups by culture as well as by physical appearances
(Hannaford 1996). Campaigns of oppression and genocide were often motivated by supposed
racial differences (Horowitz 2001). During the late 19th century and early 20th
century, the tension between some who believed in hierarchy and innate superiority, and others
who believed in human equality, was at a paramount. The former continued to exacerbate the belief
that certain races were innately inferior by examining their shortcomings, namely by
examining and testing intelligence between groups. Some scientists claimed that there
was a biological determinant of race by evaluating one’s genes and DNA. Different methods of
eugenics, the study and practice of human selective breeding often with a race as a
primary concentration, was still widely accepted in Britain, Germany, and the United States.
On the other hand, many scientists understood race as a social construct. They believed
that the phenotypical expression of an individual were determined by one’s genes that are inherited
through reproduction but there were certain social constructs, such as culture, environment,
and language that were primary in shaping behavioral characteristics. Some advocated
that race ‘should centre not on what race explains about society, but rather on the
questions of who, why and with what effect social significance is attached to racial
attributes that are constructed in particular political and socio-economic contexts’, and
thus, addressing the “folk” or “mythological representations” of race.===Louis Agassiz’s racial definitions===
After Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) traveled to the United States, he became a prolific
writer in what has been later termed the genre of scientific racism. Agassiz was specifically
a believer and advocate in polygenism, that races came from separate origins (specifically
separate creations), were endowed with unequal attributes, and could be classified into specific
climatic zones, in the same way he felt other animals and plants could be classified.
These included Western American Temperate (the indigenous peoples west of the Rockies);
Eastern American Temperate (east of the Rockies); Tropical Asiatic (south of the Himalayas);
Temperate Asiatic (east of the Urals and north of the Himalayas); South American Temperate
(South America); New Holland (Australia); Arctic (Alaska and Arctic Canada); Cape of
Good Hope (South Africa); and American Tropical (Central America and the West Indies).
Agassiz denied that species originated in single pairs, whether at a single location
or at many. He argued instead multiple individuals in each species were created at the same time
and then distributed throughout the continents where God meant for them to dwell. His lectures
on polygenism were popular among the slaveholders in the South, for many this opinion legitimized
the belief in a lower standard of the Negro. His stance in this case was considered to
be quite radical in its time, because it went against the more orthodox and standard reading
of the Bible in his time which implied all human stock descended from a single couple
(Adam and Eve), and in his defense Agassiz often used what now sounds like a very “modern”
argument about the need for independence between science and religion; though Agassiz, unlike
many polygeneticists, maintained his religious beliefs and was not anti-Biblical in general.
In the context of ethnology and anthropology of the mid-19th century, Agassiz’s polygenetic
views became explicitly seen as opposing Darwin’s views on race, which sought to show the common
origin of all human races and the superficiality of racial differences. Darwin’s second book
on evolution, The Descent of Man, features extensive argumentation addressing the single
origin of the races, at times explicitly opposing Agassiz’s theories.===Arthur de Gobineau===Arthur de Gobineau (1816–1882) was a successful
diplomat for the French Second Empire. Initially he was posted to Persia, before working in
Brazil and other countries. He came to believe that race created culture, arguing that distinctions
between the three “black”, “white”, and “yellow” races were natural barriers, and that “race-mixing”
breaks those barriers and leads to chaos. He classified the Middle East, Central Asia,
the Indian subcontinent, North Africa, and southern France as racially mixed.
Gobineau believed the white race was superior to the others. He thought it corresponded
to the ancient Indo-European culture, also known as “Aryan”. Gobineau originally wrote
that white race miscegenation was inevitable. He attributed much of the economic turmoils
in France to pollution of races. Later on in his life, he altered his opinion to believe
that the white race could be saved. To Gobineau, the development of empires was
ultimately destructive to the “superior races” that created them, since they led to the mixing
of distinct races. This he saw as a degenerative process.
According to his definitions, the people of Spain, most of France, most of Germany, southern
and western Iran as well as Switzerland, Austria, northern Italy, and a large part of Britain,
consisted of a degenerative race arising from miscegenation. Also according to him, the
whole of north India consisted of a yellow race.===Thomas Huxley’s racial definitions===Thomas Huxley (1825 –1895) wrote one paper,
“On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind” (1870), in which
he proposed a distinction within the human species (‘races’), and their distribution
across the earth. He also acknowledged that certain geographical areas with more complex
ethnic compositions, including much of the Horn of Africa and the India subcontinent,
did not fit into his racial paradigm. As such, he noted that: “I have purposely omitted such
people as the Abyssinians and the Hindoos, who there is every reason to believe result
from the intermixture of distinct stocks.” By the late nineteenth century, Huxley’s Xanthochroi
group had been redefined as the Nordic race, whereas his Melanochroi became the Mediterranean
race. His Melanochroi thus eventually also comprised various other dark Caucasoid populations,
including the Hamites (e.g. Berbers, Somalis, northern Sudanese, ancient Egyptians) and
Moors.Huxley’s paper was rejected by the Royal Society, and this became one of the many theories
to be advanced and dropped by the early exponents of evolution.
Despite rejection by Huxley and the science community, the paper is sometimes cited in
support of racialism. Along with Darwin, Huxley was a monogenist, the belief that all humans
are part of the same species, with morphological variations emerging out of an initial uniformity.
(Stepan, p. 44). This view contrasts polygenism, the theory that each race is actually a separate
species with separate sites of origin. Despite Huxley’s monogenism and his abolitionism
on ethical grounds, Huxley assumed a hierarchy of innate abilities, a stance evinced in papers
such as “Emancipation Black and White” and his most famous paper, “Evolution and Ethics”.
In the former, he writes that the “highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will
assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary
that they should be restricted to the lowest”. (Stepan, p. 79–80).===Charles Darwin and race===
Though Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory was set forth in 1859 upon publication of
On the Origin of Species, this work was largely absent of explicit reference to Darwin’s
theory applied to man. This application by Darwin would not become explicit until 1871
with the publication of his second great book on evolution, The Descent of Man, and Selection
in Relation to Sex. Darwin’s publication of this book occurred
within the heated debates between advocates of monogeny, who held that all races came
from a common ancestor, and advocates of polygeny, who held that the races were separately created.
Darwin, who had come from a family with strong abolitionist ties, had experienced and was
disturbed by cultures of slavery during his voyage on the Beagle years earlier. Noted
Darwin biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue that Darwin’s writings on evolution
were not only influenced by his abolitionist tendencies, but also his belief that non-white
races were equal in regard to their intellectual capacity as white races, a belief which had
been strongly disputed by scientists such as Morton, Agassiz and Broca, all noted polygenists.
By the late 1860s, however, Darwin’s theory of evolution had been thought to be compatible
with the polygenist thesis (Stepan 1982). Darwin thus used Descent of Man to disprove
the polygenist thesis and end the debate between polygeny and monogeny once and for all. Darwin
also used it to disprove other hypotheses about racial difference that had persisted
since the time of ancient Greece, for example, that differences in skin color and body constitution
occurred because of differences of geography and climate.
Darwin concluded, for example, that the biological similarities between the different races were
“too great” for the polygenist thesis to be plausible. He also used the idea of races
to argue for the continuity between humans and animals, noting that it would be highly
implausible that man should, by mere accident acquire characteristics shared by many apes.
Darwin sought to demonstrate that the physical characteristics that were being used to define
race for centuries (i.e. skin color and facial features) were superficial and had no utility
for survival. Because, according to Darwin, any characteristic that did not have survival
value could not have been naturally selected, he devised another hypothesis for the development
and persistence of these characteristics. The mechanism Darwin developed is known as
sexual selection. Though the idea of sexual selection had appeared
in earlier works by Darwin, it was not until the late 1860s when it received full consideration
(Stepan 1982). Furthermore, it was not until 1914 that sexual selection received serious
consideration as a racial theory by naturalist thinkers.
Darwin defined sexual selection as the “struggle between individuals of one sex, generally
the males, for the possession of the other sex”. Sexual selection consisted of two types
for Darwin: 1.) The physical struggle for a mate, and 2.) The preference for some color
or another, typically by females of a given species. Darwin asserted that the differing
human races (insofar as race was conceived phenotypically) had arbitrary standards of
ideal beauty, and that these standards reflected important physical characteristics sought
in mates. Broadly speaking, Darwin’s attitudes of what
race was and how it developed in the human species are attributable to two assertions,
1.) That all human beings, regardless of race share a single, common ancestor and 2.) Phenotypic
racial differences are superficially selected, and have no survival value. Given these two
beliefs, some believe Darwin to have established monogenism as the dominant paradigm for racial
ancestry, and to have defeated the scientific racism practiced by Morton, Knott, Agassiz
et. Al, as well as notions that there existed a natural racial hierarchy that reflected
inborn differences and measures of value between the different human races.
Nevertheless, he stated: “The various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ
much from each other – as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts
of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even the
convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points
of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain
diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would
appear in their emotion, but partly in their intellectual faculties.” (The Descent of Man,
chapter VII). In The Descent of Man, Darwin noted the great
difficulty naturalists had in trying to decide how many “races” there actually were: Man has been studied more carefully than any
other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges
whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot),
as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering),
fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or
as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races
ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other,
and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them.==Decline of racial studies after 1930==
Several social and political developments that occurred at the end of the 19th century
and into the 20th century led to the transformation in the discourse of race. Three movements
that historians have considered are: the coming of mass democracy, the age of imperialist
expansion, and the impact of Nazism. More than any other, the violence of Nazi rule,
the Holocaust, and World War II transformed the whole discussion of race. Nazism made
an argument for racial superiority based on a biological basis. This led to the idea that
people could be divided into discrete groups and based on the divisions, there would be
severe, tortuous, and often fatal consequence. The exposition of racial theory beginning
in the Third Reich, up to the Final Solution, created a popular moral revolution against
racism. In 1950, and as a response to the genocide of Nazism, UNESCO was formed and
released a statement saying that there was no biological determinant or basis for race.
Consequently, studies of human variation focused more on actual patterns of variation and evolutionary
patterns among populations and less about classification. Some scientists point to three
discoveries. Firstly, African populations exhibit greater genetic diversity and less
linkage disequilibrium because of their long history. Secondly, genetic similarity is directly
correlated with geographic proximity. Lastly, some loci reflect selection in response to
environmental gradients. Therefore, some argue, human racial groups do not appear to be distinct
ethnic groups.===Franz Boas===
Franz Boas (1858–1942) was a German American anthropologist and has been called the “Father
of American Anthropology”. Boas made significant contributions within anthropology, more specifically,
physical anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and cultural anthropology. His work put an
emphasis on cultural and environmental effects on people to explain their development into
adulthood and evaluated them in concert with human biology and evolution. This encouraged
academics to break away from static taxonomical classifications of race. It is said that before
Boas, anthropology was the study of race, and after Boas, anthropology was the study
of culture.===Julian Huxley and A. C. Haddon===
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley (1887–1975) was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist
and internationalist. After returning to England from a tour of the United States in 1924,
Huxley wrote a series of articles for the Spectator which he expressed his belief in
the drastic differences between “negros” and “whites”. He believed that the color of “blood”
– percentage of ‘white’ and ‘black’ blood – that a person had would determine a person’s
mental capacity, moral probity, and social behavior. “Blood” also determined how individuals
should be treated by society. He was a proponent of racial inequality and segregation.By 1930,
Huxley’s ideas on race and inherited intellectual capacity of human groups became more liberal.
By the mid-1930s, Huxley was considered one of the leading antiracist and committed much
of his time and efforts into publicizing the fight against Nazism.Alfred Cort Haddon (1855–1940)
was a British anthropologist and ethnologist. In 1935, Huxley and A. C. Haddon wrote, We
Europeans, which greatly popularized the struggle against racial science and attacked the Nazis’
abuse of science to promote their racial theories. Although they argued that ‘any biological
arrangement of the types of European man is still largely a subjective process’, they
proposed that humankind could be divided up into “major” and “minor subspecies”. They
believed that races were a classification based on hereditary traits but should not
by nature be used to condemn or deem inferior to another group. Like most of their peers,
they continued to maintain a distinction between the social meaning of race and the scientific
study of race. From a scientific stand point, they were willing to accept that concepts
of superiority and inferiority did not exist, but from a social stand point, they continued
to believe that racial differences were significant. For example, they argued that genetic differences
between groups were functionally important for certain jobs or tasks.===Carleton Coon===Carleton Stevens Coon (1904–1981) was an
American physical anthropologist, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania,
lecturer and professor at Harvard, and president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.In
1939, Coon published The Races of Europe, in which he concluded:
The Caucasian race is of dual origin consisting of Upper Paleolithic (mixture of Homo sapiens
and Neanderthals) types and Mediterranean (purely Homo sapiens) types.
The Upper Paleolithic peoples are the truly indigenous peoples of Europe.
Mediterraneans invaded Europe in large numbers during the Neolithic period and settled there.
The racial situation in Europe today may be explained as a mixture of Upper Paleolithic
survivors and Mediterraneans. When reduced Upper Paleolithic survivors and
Mediterraneans mix, then occurs the process of dinarization, which produces a hybrid with
non-intermediate features. The Caucasian race encompasses the regions
of Europe, Central Asia, South Asia, the Near East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
The Nordic race is part of the Mediterranean racial stock, being a mixture of Corded and
Danubian Mediterraneans.In 1962, Coon also published The Origin of Races, wherein he
offered a definitive statement of the polygenist view. He also argued that human fossils could
be assigned a date, a race, and an evolutionary grade. Coon divided humanity into five races
and believed that each race had ascended the ladder of human evolution at different rates.===Ashley Montagu===
Montague Francis Ashley Montagu (1905–1999) was a British-American anthropologist. In
1942, he made a strong effort to have the word “race” replaced with “ethnic group” by
publishing his book, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. He was also selected
to draft the initial 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race.Montagu would later publish An Introduction
to Physical Anthropology, a comprehensive treatise on human diversity. In doing so,
he sought to provide a firmer scientific framework through which to discuss biological variation
among populations.===UNESCO===The United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established November 16, 1945, in the wake of the genocide
of Nazism. The UNESCO 1945 constitution declared that, “The great and terrible war which now
has ended was made possible by the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity,
equality and mutual respect of men, and by the propagation, in their place, through ignorance
and prejudice, of the doctrine of the inequality of men and races.” Between 1950 and 1978 the
UNESCO issued five statements on the issue of race.
The first of the UNESCO statements on race was “The Race Question” and was issued on
July 18, 1950. The statement included both a rejection of a scientific basis for theories
of racial hierarchies and a moral condemnation of racism. Its first statement suggested in
particular to “drop the term ‘race’ altogether and speak of ‘ethnic groups'”, which proved
to be controversial. The 1950 statement was most concerned with dispelling the notion
of race as species. It did not reject the idea of a biological basis to racial categories.
Instead it defined the concept of race in terms as a population defined by certain anatomical
and physiological characteristics as being divergent from other populations; it gives
the examples of the Caucasian, Mongoloid and Negroid races. The statements maintain that
there are no “pure races” and that biological variability was as great within any race as
between races. It argued that there is no scientific basis for believing that there
are any innate differences in intellectual, psychological or emotional potential among
races. The statement was drafted by Ashley Montagu
and endorsed by some of the leading researchers of the time, in the fields of psychology,
biology, cultural anthropology and ethnology. The statement was endorsed by Ernest Beaglehole,
Juan Comas, L. A. Costa Pinto, Franklin Frazier, sociologist specialised in race relations
studies, Morris Ginsberg, founding chairperson of the British Sociological Association, Humayun
Kabir, writer, philosopher and Education Minister of India twice, Claude Lévi-Strauss, one
of the founders of ethnology and leading theorist of structural anthropology, and Ashley Montagu,
anthropologist and author of The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity, who was the
rapporteur. As a result of a lack of representation of
physical anthropologists in the drafting committee the 1950 publication was criticized by biologists
and physical anthropologists for confusing the biological and social senses of race and
for going beyond the scientific facts, although there was a general agreement about the statements
conclusions.UNESCO assembled a new committee with better representation of the physical
sciences and drafted a new statement released in 1951. The 1951 statement, published as
“The Race Concept”, focused on race as a biological heuristic that could serve as the basis for
evolutionary studies of human populations. It considered the existing races to be the
result of such evolutionary processes throughout human history. It also maintained that “equality
of opportunity and equality in law in no way depend, as ethical principles, upon the assertion
that human beings are in fact equal in endowment.” As the 1950 and 1951 statements generated
considerable attention, in 1964 a new commission was formed to draft a third statement titled
“Proposals on the Biological Aspects of Race”. According to Michael Banton (2008), this statement
broke more clearly with the notion of race-as-species than the previous two statements, declaring
that almost any genetically differentiated population could be defined as a race. The
statement stated that “Different classifications of mankind into major stocks, and of those
into more restricted categories (races, which are groups of populations, or single populations)
have been proposed on the basis of hereditary physical traits. Nearly all classifications
recognise at least three major stocks” and “There is no national, religious, geographic,
linguistic or cultural group which constitutes a race ipso facto; the concept of race is
purely biological.” It concluded with “The biological data given above stand in open
contradiction to the tenets of racism. Racist theories can in no way pretend to have any
scientific foundation.” The 1950, ’51 and ’64 statements focused on
the dispelling the scientific foundations for racism but did not consider other factors
contributing to racism. For this reason, in 1967 a new committee was assembled, including
representatives of the social sciences (sociologists, lawyers, ethnographers and geneticists), to
draft a statement “covering the social, ethical and philosophical aspects of the problem”.
This statement was the first to provide a definition of racism: “antisocial beliefs
and acts which are based upon the fallacy that discriminatory intergroup relations are
justifiable on biological grounds”. The statement continued to denounce the many negative social
affects of racism.In 1978 the general assembly of the UNESCO considered the four previous
statements and published a collective “Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice”. This declaration
included Apartheid as one of the examples of racism, an inclusion which caused South
Africa to step out of the assembly. It declared that a number of public policies and laws
needed to be implemented. It stated that: “All human beings belong to a single species.””All
peoples of the world possess equal faculties for attaining the highest level in intellectual,
technical, social, economic, cultural and political development.”
“The differences between the achievements of the different peoples are entirely attributable
to geographical, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors.”
“Any theory which involves the claim that racial or ethnic groups are inherently superior
or inferior, thus implying that some would be entitled to dominate and eliminate others,
presumed to be inferior, or which bases value judgements on racial differentiation, has
no scientific foundation and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity.”===
Criticism of racial studies (1930s–1980s)===The 20th-century criticism of racial anthropology
were significantly based on the school of Franz Boas, professor of anthropology at Columbia
University from 1899, who beginning in 1920 strongly favoured the influence of social
environment over heritability. As a reaction to the rise of Nazi Germany and its prominent
espousing of racist ideologies in the 1930s, there was an outpouring of popular works by
scientists criticizing the use of race to justify the politics of “superiority” and
“inferiority”. An influential work in this regard was the publication of We Europeans:
A Survey of “Racial” Problems by Julian Huxley and A. C. Haddon in 1935, which sought to
show that population genetics allowed for only a highly limited definition of race at
best. Another popular work during this period, “The Races of Mankind” by Ruth Benedict and
Gene Weltfish, argued that though there were some extreme racial differences, they were
primarily superficial, and in any case did not justify political action.
Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Race and History (UNESCO, 1952) was another critique of the biological
“race” notion, arguing in favor of cultural relativism through a metaphor of cultures
as different trains crossing each other in various directions and speed, thus each one
seeming to progress to himself while others supposedly kept immobile. This, in his view,
clearly showed that “race” was no longer a useful indicator of cultural superiority.
In his 1984 article in the Essence magazine, “On Being ‘White’ … and Other Lies”, James
Baldwin reads the history of racialization in America as both figuratively and literally
violent, remarking that “race” only exists as a social construction within a network
of force relations: “America became white — the people who, as they claim, ‘settled’
the country became white — because of the necessity of denying the Black presence, and
justifying the Black subjugation. No community can be based on such a principle — or, in
other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie. White men from Norway,
for example, where they were Norwegians — became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning
the well, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women…. Because
they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all
men are brothers.” Apart from its function as a vernacular term,
the term “race” – as Nancy Stepan notes in her 1982 book, The Idea of Race in Science,
Great Britain 1800–1960 – varied widely in its usage, even in science, from the 18th
century through the 20th; the term referred “at one time or another” to “cultural, religious,
national, linguistic, ethnic and geographical groups of human beings” — everything from
“Celts” to “Spanish Americans” to “Hottentots” to “Europeans” (p. xvii).
In the 1979 preface to Blackness: Text and Pretext, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., describes
the elusive element of “blackness” in Afro-American literature as lacking an “essence”, defined
instead “by a network of relations that form a particular aesthetic unity” (p. 162). Continuing
his poststructuralist-inflected negation of blackness as an essence, in his 1985 introduction
to a special issue of the journal Critical Inquiry, Gates goes even further, calling
race itself a “dangerous trope” (p. 5). He argues that “race has become a trope of the
ultimate, irreducible difference between cultures, linguistic groups, or adherents of specific
belief systems which — more often than not — also have fundamentally opposed economic
interests” (p. 5). Linda Gottfredson, on the other hand, has
argued that denying (or trying to conceal) real biological differences between groups
on average IQ instead cause people to seek something to blame for the differing average
group achievements, causing resentment and hostility. She argues that “virtually all
the victim groups of genocide in the Twentieth Century had relatively high average levels
of achievement.”==See also==
Ancestry-informative marker Cephalometry
Physical anthropology Racialism (Racial categorization)
Scientific racism Phrenology
Evolutionary synthesis Anthropology
Eugenics Racial Hygiene
Heritability Biological determinism
Race and intelligence==References=====Citations======Sources===
Augstein, Hannah Franziska, ed. Race: The Origins of an Idea, 1760–1850. Bristol,
England: Thoemmes Press, 1996. ISBN 1-85506-454-5 Banton, Michael P. (1977) The idea of race.
Westview Press, Boulder Banton, Michael P. Racial Theories. 2nd ed.
Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-521-33456-X
Barkan, Elazar. The Retreat of Scientific Racism. New York: Press Syndicate of the University
of Cambridge, 1992. Bowcock A. M., Kidd JR, Mountain JL, Hebert
JM, Carotenuto L, Kidd KK, Cavalli-Sforza LL “Drift, admixture, and selection in human
evolution: a study with DNA polymorphisms”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
of the United States of America 1991; 88: 3: 839–43
Bowcock, A. M., “High resolution of human evolutionary trees with polymorphic microsatellites”,
1994, Nature, 368: pp. 455–57 Brace, C. Loring. “Race” is a Four-Letter
Word: the Genesis of the Concept. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Dain, Bruce R. A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the Early Republic.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-674-00946-0
Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1975–76.
Trans. David Macey. Eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. City: Picador, 2003. ISBN
0-312-20318-7 Gossett, Thomas F. Race: The History of an
Idea in America. 1963. Ed. and with a foreword by Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Arnold Rampersad.
Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 1997. ISBN 0-19-509778-5 Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man.
Rev. and expand ed. New York: Norton, 1996. ISBN 0-393-03972-2
Hannaford, Ivan.Race: the history of an idea in the West. Johns Hopkins University Press,
Baltimore, 1996. Hannaford, Ivan. Race: The History of an Idea
in the West. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8018-5222-6
Harding, Sandra. The “Racial” Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Indiana University
Press, 1993. Hoover, Dwight W. “Paradigm Shift: The Concept
of Race in the 1920s and the 1930s”. Conspectus of History 1.7 (1981): 82–100.
Koenig, Barbara A., Lee Sandra Soo-Jin, and Richardson Sarah S. Revisiting Race in a Genomic
Age. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2008.
Lewis, B. Race and slavery in the Middle East. Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.
Lieberman, L. “How ‘Caucasoids’ got such big crania and why they shrank: from Morton to
Rushton”. Current Anthropology 42:69–95, 2001.
Malik, Kenan. The Meaning of Race. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
Meltzer, M. Slavery: a world history, rev ed. DaCapo Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
1993. Rick Kittles, and S. O. Y. Keita, “Interpreting
African Genetic Diversity”, African Archaeological Review, Vol. 16, No. 2,1999, pp. 1–5
Sarich, Vincent, and Miele Frank. Race: the Reality of Human Differences. Boulder: Westview
Press, 2004. Shipman, Pat. The Evolution of Racism: Human
Differences and the Use and Abuse of Science. 1994. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University
Press, 2002. ISBN 0-674-00862-6 Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin
and Evolution of a Worldview. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999.
Snowden F. M. Before color prejudice: the ancient view of blacks. Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983. Stanton W. The leopard’s spots: scientific
attitudes toward race in America, 1815–1859. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960.
Stepan, Nancy. The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain, 1800–1960. Hamden, Connecticut:
Archon Books, 1982 ISBN 0-208-01972-3 Takaki, R. A different mirror: a history of
multicultural America. Little, Brown, Boston, 1993.
von Vacano, Diego. The Color of Citizenship: Race, Modernity and Latin American/Hispanic
Political Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.==External links=====Dictionary definitions===
Definition of “race” in the 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary provided by
the ARTFL Project, University of Chicago. Definition of “race” in the Wiktionary===Web sites devoted to the history of “race”
===History of Race in Science website devoted
to providing information for scholars and students of the history of “race” in science,
medicine, and technology, maintained at the Department of History at the University of
Toronto and includes excellent subject bibliographies as well as an annotated link list.
The RaceSci Website preserved at the Internet Archive
PBS website for the three-part television documentary Race – The Power of an Illusion
with background reading and teaching resources.

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