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Lecture 9

ANT 2000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Achieved Status, Ethnic Conflict, Melanin

Course Code
ANT 2000
Elyse Anderson

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Race & Racism (Continued)
Carolus Linneaus,
Systema Naturae
(1735) = divided all humans into subspecies based on
geographic location and classified all Europeans as white, Africans as black, American Indians as
red, and Asians as yellow (groups = Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, Europeaeus)
Robert Blumenbach,
On the Natural Variety of Mankind
(1778) = introduced a hierarchy of racial
types still used today; used craniometry; came up with the term Caucasian (Caucasian/white,
Mongolian/yellow, Malayan/brown, Ethiopian/black, American/red); he was also against slavery,
however, and believed every race was capable of being civilized but had to be taught
Blumenbach’s research, however, was the foundation for scientific racism
Samuel Morton (1799-1851) = professor of anatomy at University of Pennsylvania; claims of
racial superiority based upon the measurement of brain capacity through skull size (craniometry);
proponent of polygenism, a theory of human origins that claims the human races are of different
lineages of species; he was extremely influential and considered one of the leading scientists at
the time; huge collection of skulls (still one of the largest even today)
Skull Wars
= book about how commonly people would illicitly dig up Native American bodies and
sell them to scientists; military specifically after skirmishes with the natives would give the bodies
to scientists right afterwards; still a touchy situation even today (lot of anger about it still)
Franz Boas (1858-1942) = “The Father of American Anthropology;” developed the four-field
research; argued anthropologists should fight for social causes, including the equality of
mankind; incredibly influential on anthropology
Ashley Montagu (1905-1999) = one of Boas’ students; devoted entire career to combating
scientific racism; started publishing work in the 1950s arguing against the bounded concept of
race (touchy, tough time to argue such a subject); wrote
Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The
Fallacy of Race
Biological concept of race = race is defined as a subspecies or a population of a species differing
geographically, morphologically, or genetically from other populations of the same species
Three major points =
o Definition is arbitrary = no standard set of characteristics; who determines what those
characteristics are to classify someone as a certain category? Who determines how many
of those characteristics there are?
o A particular race does not have exclusive possession of any particular variant of a gene;
populations are genetically open
o Biological concept of race does not apply to humans (genetic variation within “racial
groups” is greater than between racial groups)
Race is a cultural construct, not a biological reality
Cultural definitions of race have changed over time and are based on a number of variables
including religion, language, and ethnicity
Average person conceptualizes race in biological terms
American culture does not draw a clear distinction between race and ethnicity
Ethnic groups = share certain beliefs, values, habits, customs, and norms because of their
common background
Difference is due to cultural features that may include language, religion, historical experience,
geographic placement, kinship, etc.
Ethnicity can change over time!
In American society, one acquires their racial identity at birth, as an ascribed status
Ascribed status = social status based on little or no choice; e.g., race, gender, etc., as soon as
you are born
Instead of achieved status
Achieved status = social status based on choice or accomplishments
Race in other cultures? What have you experienced?
Assimilation = absorption of minorities within a dominant culture
By choice or by force?
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