Skip to main content

The latest issue of anthropologies, "Confronting Race & Racism," is now online.  From the introduction:

I think a lot of people in the US want to forget about racism.  They don't want to talk about it, bring it up, deal with it, think about it.  They want to tell themselves that racism was something that happened in the distant past.  Racism is a problem for history books.  Racism was a serious problem in the early days, back when the nation was first formed and slavery was an acceptable, rampant institution.  Or maybe back in the days of the civil war, when the US was literally torn apart amidst a time of deep racial inequalities.  Sure, that's when it was a problem.  And perhaps the problems of racism lingered until the 1930s or maybe the 1950s.  Yes, those were the days when things were really bad.  People want to tell themselves that today things are different.  Racism is history.

After all, since the days of the Civil Rights reforms, and the election of the first black president, clearly racism can't be a problem anymore.*  It's over and done with, right?  


Read the rest of the introduction here.  More links to the rest of the issue below the fold!

Agustin Fuentes is a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, trained in zoology and anthropology.  His contribution to this issue is "Race matters and anthropology counts!"  Here's a selection:

When my recent book “Race, monogamy and other lies they told you: busting myths about human nature” came out I got a slew of calls, emails and reviews accusing me of a) pushing a politically-correct liberal agenda, b) not understanding science, being a bad scientist or just plain stupid, c) having absurdly narrow concept of race, and d) being totally out of touch with reality.  Many of those who contacted me were really, really angry about what I said about race: that race is not biology, that race is dynamic and culturally constructed, and that racism has devastating effects on individuals and society.  However, there is no contesting this position: the data are in, and it is the position held by a majority of anthropologists, biologists, geneticists, and others who study human biological variation.  Why do some folks get so angry when confronted with an overwhelmingly robust dataset demonstrating that race, as we use it, is neither biological or nor a core part of our nature?
Nicole Truesdell wrote a challenging piece called "Researching Race While Being Raced: Reflections on Race Politics in Anthropology," which digs deep into questions of race and racism within the discipline of anthropology itself:
Let’s have an honest discussion about Race in Anthropology. As a non-white anthropologist who conducts research on issues of race, racism, class, nationalism, citizenship, and belonging I find that frank discussions on race and racism within the discipline of anthropology, between the majority and the minority, are few and far between. While many can acknowledge that there is in fact racism in the world, and that the concept of race does have some impact on the lives of those who are raced, I have come to notice that many within the field are more reluctant to talk about the ways in which race influences their perceptions on who has the “right” to conduct certain types of research on the topics of race and racism. As Elizabeth Chin (2006) succulently said, the unwritten rule within the discipline is “people of color study themselves, white people study everybody.” (44)
Francine Barone, who also blogs here, talks about "Race and the public perception of anthropology."  She writes:
Anthropologists have dedicated much time to deconstructing and denouncing racial myths (see, for example, the AAA's statement on race from 1998) and, as a result, the idea that "race does not exist" has been as strongly absorbed into the anthropological canon as cultural relativism. More recently, collaboration between social and physical anthropologists reaffirms that race is "not an accurate or productive way to describe human biological variation" (Edgar and Hunley 2009: 2) while scientifically detailing the genetic evidence for actual human variation. Still, dismissing fixed racial categorization as biologically unsubstantiated has done little to eradicate the very real presence of race in everyday life. So what has all the effort we have spent in deconstructing race actually achieved?
Douglas La Rose's piece "Not all White Men Are Rich:Being an Anthropologist and a Suitor in Ghana, West Africa" is a very personal exploration of some of the complexities and complications of fieldwork, family, identity, and race.  He writes,
As a white, male, American socio-cultural anthropologist working in West Africa, my identity consistently functions as both an obstacle and an opening to the worldviews and daily experiences of the Africans I work with. Furthermore, as a foreigner who is engaged to a Ghanaian woman, my foreign identity speaks more saliently to my interactions with my fiancé, my in-laws, and the community I work in (which is the same community that she is from). My identity - or, rather, the signifiers that my disposition consists of - in the Ghanaian context invokes more assumptions about me than I will ever be able to realize or understand.
Candace Moore's "Medicine in black and white" is a short, critical reflection about race, hierarchy, power, and the world of health care:
The woman was a refugee from Eritrea. Stated age: 26. Supposedly 6 months pregnant. The old doctor looked over her file. A few lost pregnancies. One birth. He began talking to us in English. He assumed she couldn’t possibly understand that. “These people need contraception, look…” and I automatically tuned him out. I couldn’t handle the tirade.
Steven Bunce's contribution is "Cosmopolitan apartheid? The racial landscape of Contemporary Colombia."  From his opening paragraph:
The disproportionate marginality and victimization of Colombia’s ethnic minorities has its origins in what Cristina Rojas describes as its ‘regime of representation: a space of presences and absences [including] things that appear, that are visible, as well as those that are suppressed, condemned to remain backstage’. The two administrations of President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) were characteristic of this enduring regime. Uribe watered down the complexities of the nation’s history, diversity and political landscape to make it more manageable, prosperous and secure. In his Colombia, the business world, multinationals, and a concentrated executive power base had starring roles, with ethnic minorities and peasants appearing as extras in the background.
The issue concludes with a short interview with physical/biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks.  Here's part of what he had to say when I asked him why his work focuses on questions of race and racism:
Because it is the question that defined the field of physical anthropology for most of its existence, and we have learned a lot about it. But when I was in graduate school, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, physical anthropology was busily defining itself out of relevance. People were publishing fine books on, say, “Human Variation and Microevolution,” without mentioning the word race. They said, “There is no race, there is just population genetics, we have solved this problem, good night.” And everybody else said, “Actually race is important, and if you won’t talk to us about it, we’ll turn to sociologists and fruitfly geneticists, and worse yet, even to psychologists.”
Check out the whole issue, and feel free to post comments, questions, and responses.  You can also contact the editors of anthropologies at anthropologiesproject at gmail dot com.


Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Rambling thoughts - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Portlaw, thomask

    One of the things people do is compete for status, whether real or imagined. The larger the field you're playing in, the harder it is to know when/if you've stepped up or down in the competition. A first step in narrowing the field is to select out all the people who don't count in your personal competition. And it's easier if the criteria you're using are obvious - to you, at least.

    Once you've selected out the people or groups that aren't supposed to count, you trivialize them to yourself, and generally go along just fine unless you are somehow constrained to admit that there's a problem.

    In this, I'm actually not talking about racism or sexism (or classism, or...) as the terms are generally used. People use all sorts of criteria to select their competition field, along all types of possible spectra.

    It's important to note (note: this is purely my opinion, and I don't have outside sources to back it up) that this necessity to limit the field is a necessity rather than a choice in almost all cases, simply because of the limitations of the human brain, and available time, and energy, and.... If I'm trying to compare myself to another person in a single area, no problem. 10 other people, not much of a problem. I can handle a hundred if I've got some simple way of categorizing subgroups within that hundred. A thousand? I'll never have enough information to make a legitimate personal comparison. I have to rely on other people's opinions, and they may or may not be relevant.

    Support someone who is selecting out a particular group by seeming to show that their criteria are valid and you have a friend. Crash their criteria by showing them that they're not valid, and you have an -ist, and an enemy, unless you can give them new criteria that make up for the loss of the old.

    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

    by serendipityisabitch on Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:11:54 PM PDT

  •  Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Portlaw, Fire bad tree pretty

    Hotlisted for when I have time to read all of these articles :~)

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:20:21 PM PDT

  •  Always wonder why indigenous peoples are not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    usually part of the discussion.

  •  Mischa Penn taught the racism course at Minnesota (0+ / 0-)

    in the anthropology department for many decades, starting the syllabus with Aristotle's Greek exceptionalism. Some of the best writing on the US is by Charles Sumner who I discuss in a diary today, his exhaustively researched attacks against slavery in White Slavery of the Barbary Coast, Freedom National Slavery Sectional, The Landmark of Freedom, The Crime Against Kansas, The Barbarism of Slavery. These are classics of anthropological scholarship that are far more incisive than Tocqueville, who addresses race as the external boundary of democracy in America. As much as Levi-Strauss might analyze Crow kinship, Sumner analyzed the perverse "family" structure of the slavemaster as mother and father and god of the slave, identifying five fundamental areas of kinship violated by slave laws. The problem of such a barbaric culture was viewed by Sumner as criminal, and his frank discussion of the broken taboos on the senate floor provoked an assassination attempt by a conspiracy of Southern House members, which he survived.  

  •  I have written a 24 page paper which (0+ / 0-)

    reverse engineers American racism from the perspective
    of cultural anthroplogy.  My paper is a compendium of the structures of American racism from its historical roots through the centuries long legacy and morphological permanence as the most dominate influence through three centuries of American society.

    I have not been able to secure the level of interest in my depiction of racism in American society that I feel the  "reverse engineering" approach detailed in my document deserves. If anyone shares my interest in de-mystifying American racism and would like to review my document please leave me a contact note under my "nickname" here at Dkos.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site