2/4 - The Social (and Legal) Construction of Race in Historical Perspective Continued

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SOCI 139
Vanesa Ribas

I. Melissa Nobles analysis on race A. There is a tendency of “presentism” - the tendency to see and understand the current state of racial structure and categories. B. Having been the same, not just natural or having been passed down from generations to generations. C. Primarily for nobles, race is inherently a political category. 1. It is in some sense how we understood in our daily lives the particular way of thinking of race that is part of ethnic background. 2. Census - smaller subsets of institutions or domains where race is constructed the census is also a political instrument. a) Categorizes the way we think in this thing called “race” (1) It counsels in particular ways in which way they become socially accepted views of what race is and what categories constitute true racial divisions in society. b) Mental Illness in the north and south. (Freed slaves in the north had a higher account of mental illness, therefore, should NOT be free. (1) Blacks who were free had higher rates of insanity than black who were enslaved, therefore, slavery was a beneficial institution. (2) Clearly a political tool II. Studying historical and social construction of race from a historical perspective. A. Doesn’t privilege or pretend that the present configurations have always existed (normal, natural, the right way to be) 1. Census reflected ideas about race that were widely accepted and institutionalized in society 2. Analyzation from Nobles of the Census’taken up to this current period: a) What periods correspond to each of these dynamics (1) 2 distinct kinds of periods that are marked by different roles that the census played. (Both types of periods the census was a political instrument, but it functioned in different ways) (a) One period the census was rather passive and reflected ideas that were very prominent in society (i) Census seemed rather reflective of racial ideas that were already fully developed in society. (b) Census actively worked in trying to shape those ideas (i) Census that seems to be actively trying to shape racial knowledge and ideas. (Later, but both political) 3. 1790 -1840 (a) Not so busy to reflect ideas - just stated ideas. Asked about civil status - Slave or Free (there wasn't one without the other) (b) Counted free white males and free white females, subdivided into age groups, slaves, and all other free persons, except Indians not taxed. (c) Slavery was fully institutionalized and wanted to count the slaves of the south. (d) Deaf and Blind to 1830’s census (e) illiteracy, insanity, feeblemindedness, 4. 1840s and 1850s, (a) Thinking about race changed significantly. Scientific explanations for race and racial differences gained credibility and assumed authority over prevailing religious and philosophical explanations to become an important point of departure in the ongoing discussion about slavery (b) Scientific knowledge as we think of it today started to flourish (c) Crucial to this period is the race science. (d) Precursor to Eugenics and social darwinism. Wasn’t sort of a rogue movement (e) Mode and field of scientific inquiry that was very much embedded in the scientific sort of dominant theory and theorists - (plant kingdoms and animal kingdoms) - within this broad scientific development you get a specific race science. (i) This studies the “natural divisions” among humans. (ii) Categorizing and ranking of supposedly different human types. (f) Gather data to prove and test theories that their categories and rank order of distinct human types was legit. 5. 1850-1930 - Mulatto - blanket category that was supposed to capture persons who were deemed of mixed parentage. (a) Idea of race mixing was a growing anxiety (b) after emancipation this anxiety grew even more. (i) Aperiod when society is undergoing many transformations due to abolition of slavery, due to more free movement from one region of the country to another. The census categories, in particular, the acute obsession with the category mulatto - being all instructions
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