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