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Chapter 14

Textbook Chapter 14 - Race and Human Variation

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Esteban Parra

Notes From Reading CHAPTER 14:R ACE ANDH UMAN VARIATION (PGS.333-353) Introduction - Race is used for classification, both in everyday use as well as in medicine and forensics - Race is used t describe biological characteristics but is also used in many cases to ascribe aspects of human behaviour and social status The Biological Race Concept - Race – As applied to humans, a vague term that has multiple meanings, both cultural and biological referring to group membership - Race has been used to refer to everything from skin color, to nationality, to religion Biological and Cultural Definitions of Race - Race refers to some aspect of nationality or ethnic identity that may not connect directly to any specific biological population - Such classification (I.e. black, Hispanic) have their use, particularly in defining social groups that have suffered inequities, but they should not be constructed as necessarily reflecting biological reality - Biological Race o Biological Race – A group of populations sharing certain biological traits that distinguishes them from other groups of populations. In practice, the biological concept of race has been difficult to apply to human populations. o Subspecies, a division of a species into distinct and distinguishable types o The subspecies approach doesn’t work for humans because there are no clearly distinct types of humanity (less genetic variation relative to chimpanzees) o Humans are widespread geographically and are constantly moving across population boundaries o Although human variation exists, it does not fall neatly into biologically discrete groups - Geography and Biological Race o Identifying clusters of populations similar to each other that differ from other clusters in terms of allele frequencies and physical characteristics o This approach essentially equates geographic regions with different races o Definition of biological race based on geography: “a division of a species that differs from other divisions by the frequency with which certain hereditary traits appear among its members A Brief History of the Race Concept - Early Views o The search for races was directed in large part by the idea that we should minimize consideration of variation and focus instead on the “type” o When people rely on stereotypes – the emphasis is on a type, and not on variation within the group o Aristotle ranked living organisms by different criteria, such as complexity (having put plants at the bottom of the latter and humans at the top) o A fixed number of different types of humans, leads to the idea that the different types of humans (races) can be themselves ranked - Racial Classifications o Linnaeus organized species into a classification system with emphasis on “type”. Linnaeus added four subdivisions of humanity referring them as “varieties” (equivalent to “race”). The four groups were based primarily on geography and skin color – Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Americans. He attributed different personality traits based on cultural stereotype Notes From Reading CHAPTER 14:R ACE AND H UMAN V ARIATION(PGS.333-353) o Buffon did not try to classify humans into a set number of discrete races but instead took a more descriptive approach to human variation. He merely identified them by their place of origin. - Rethinking the Race Concept o Race concept developed out of pre-Darwinian ideas of a static world o The focus shifted to stress the analysis of variation Problems with the Biological Race Concept - Human variation exists, and it is geographically structured - The Number of Races o Scientists attempting racial classifications of humans have never agreed on how many races exist o Some have suggested that there are three human races: Europeans, Africans, and Asians; but as we travel the world, we find more populations that do not fit into this system o Over time there have never been consensus on the number of human races suggesting that the race concept does not fit human biological variation very well - The Nature of Continuous Variation o With a failure to agree on a number of races resulted of trying to divide a continuous range of variation into a number of discrete units - Variation Between and Within Groups o The level of genetic variation i
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