The idea that race is a biological reality has hung on longest and strongest in the parts of biological anthropology that deal with skeletal remains. In this episode we talk with two forensic anthropologists, Sean Tallman and Allysha Winburn, about how typological notions of race and ancestry have changed over time in this segment of the discipline. They have published a recent paper discussing this change (Tallman, S. D., Parr, N. M., & Winburn, A. P. (2021). Assumed Differences; Unquestioned Typologies: The Oversimplification of Race and Ancestry in Forensic Anthropology. Forensic Anthropology, Early View, 1-24. doi:https://doi.org/10.5744/fa.2020.0046).
Racial equality is a new idea, right? Wrong! Meet Anténor Firmin, renegade Haitian intellectual of the late 19th century. He traveled all over the world, duked it out with elite scientific racists, hung out with Frederick Douglass, even ran for president -- but was exiled. Twice. On this episode, we discuss the Haitian anthropologist whose work is finally gaining the recognition it deserves, and why you've never heard of him.
Skin color is probably THE key thing we think of when we think about race these days, but it wasn't always that way. In this episode, we ask: where and when did skin color become the trait most associated with race? There's so much to talk about that we don't quite make it up to the present day--stay tuned for a sequel where we discuss contemporary understandings of skin color, genetics, and race!
The pdf below contains a heavily footnoted and referenced script for this episode.
What does it mean to “decolonize” teaching and scholarship? Why would we want to do that? And how? We take on these questions and more in a panel discussion with social scientists and established scholars of race Lance Gravlee, John L. Jackson Jr., Stephanie McClure, and Yolanda Moses.
Select works our guests wanted to share with podcast listeners:
A few additional resources on decolonizing:
In this episode we interview historian of science Iris Clever about her research untangling the early 20th century entanglements of the biometricians, physical anthropology, and race. She pursues this topic through the exploration of work by the statistician and Galton protégé, Karl Pearson, and one of Pearson’s favorite students, Geoffrey Morant. Morant, who publicly opposed Nazi racism in the 1930s and 40s, maintained the biological reality of race and the possibility of racial differences in mental characteristics.
In this episode we talk with Paul Wolff Mitchell, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, about the skull measurements of 19th century founding father of the American School of Anthropology, Samuel George Morton. Morton used his skull measurements to provide scientific support for polygenism (multiple origins of human races), slavery, and the ranking of races (as we discussed in earlier episodes: Monogenism and Polygenism and Morton and Gould--Polygeny Side B). Mitchell has analyzed Morton’s handwritten notes in an attempt to shed further light on the issue of Morton’s bias which was initially raised by Stephen Jay Gould in his 1978 article (Gould, 1978) and elaborated in his book, The Mismeasure of Man (Gould, 1981, 1996). Mitchell uses Morton’s contemporary, Friedrich Tiedemann, as an exemplar of someone using cranial measurements to come to the exact opposite conclusion, that the races were equal (Tiedemann, 1836).
Here are some resources about this controversy:
Publications by Mitchell:
Gould’s paper and book:
Tiedemann on skulls:
Our episode about Thugee Skulls and phrenology: Phrenology, Race, and Thug Heads
In this episode, Jo invites Alan Goodman back to review Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste. They provide some context from a science and history perspective on both caste and race.
Here’s the source that Alan refers to: Egorova, Y. (2009). De/geneticizing Caste: Population Genetic Research in South Asia. Science as Culture, 18(4), 417-434. doi:10.1080/09505430902806975
Speaking of Race, Race in India playlist: https://soundcloud.com/user-88955638/sets/race-in-india
Wilkerson, I. (2020). Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. New York: Random House.
In this episode we discuss a speaker who came to UA in Fall 2019 to give a presentation about the evolution of human diversity—but it was actually a presentation of scientific racism in evolutionary clothing. Erik and Jim were part of a panel that rebutted his presentation and we share our experience with Jo.
Low quality (especially the audio) videos of our rebuttal presentations are available here:
Jim’s presentation: https://www.facebook.com/ALLELEseries/videos/1011372252533221/
Erik’s presentation: https://www.facebook.com/ALLELEseries/videos/955242114852838/.
In this episode we discuss issues surrounding the demonstrations in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
In this episode we talk with two past presidents of the American Anthropological Association who played key roles in presenting the public face of American anthropology with regard to race over the past several decades: Yolanda Moses and Alan Goodman. They discuss the outreach efforts of the AAA.
Blog posts on Sapiens:
Five posts on race from 2016 and 2017 by Yolanda Moses: https://www.sapiens.org/authors/yolanda-moses/
Goodman’s post from Mar 2020: https://www.sapiens.org/body/is-race-real/
Goodman, Alan H., Yolanda T. Moses, and Joseph L. Jones. (2020) Race: Are We So Different? 2nd Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.
Moses, Y. T. (1989). Black Women in Academe. Issues and Strategies. In F. Foundation (Ed.). Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges, Project on the Status and Education of Women.
Project website: Race: Are We So Different?
In this episode we give our take on the rapidly growing information about racial disparities in the face of the current pandemic.
In this episode we continue our discussion with the sociologist, David Embrick. Here, we talk first about white public space including academia and anthropology as well as museums, where Dr. Embrick has looked at this issue. Next we talk about reverse racism as illustrated by Dr. Embrick’s work on the imbalance of racial slurs.
Embrick, D. G., & Henricks, K. (2013). Discursive colorlines at work: How epithets and stereotypes are racially unequal. Symbolic Interaction, 36(2), 197-215.
Embrick, David G., Simón Weffer, and Silvia Dómínguez. (2019). White sanctuaries: race and place in art museums. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 39(11/12), 995-1009.
Feagin, J. (2013). Systemic racism: A theory of oppression. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Zuberi, T., & Bonilla-Silva, E. (2008). White logic, white methods: Racism and methodology. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
In this episode we interview the sociologist, David Embrick, about structural and institutional racism and diversity ideology. If you’d like to learn more about the relationship of structural racism and other inequities to the impact of the COVID pandemic, listen to this podcast from This Anthropological Life: https://anchor.fm/thisanthrolife/episodes/A-Virus-Without-Borders-The-Design-of-Public-Health--Inequality--and-Hope-ebot2d.
Resources for this topic:
We finally fulfill our promise to talk about the seven thug skulls that arrived at the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1833. We also discuss how phrenology has been used to bolster biological ideas about race.
Franz Boas is the father of racial constructivism. In this episode we interview an expert to learn more about how Boas came to his views on race and how he followed them with actions throughout his life.
In this episode we explore the history of racial ideas about blood pressure. We focus on problems with many genetic explanations of racial differences seen in hypertension in the U.S. Finally we discuss some of the better alternative explanations for racial differences based on the history of racism in America.
In this episode we tackle one of the most misunderstood aspects of race and biology: sickle cell. We demonstrate how the history of its discovery in the U.S. combined with the historical demography of North American colonialism and the slave trade all conspired to create the illusion of a race-based genetic condition. The history of this first "molecular" disease along with its connection to malaria can help to dispel lingering ideas of genetic races.
In this episode we begin the long and sordid saga of how race is entangled with health and medicine, and along the way you’ll find out how a rail-riding hobo took over two issues of the Journal of the American Economic Association in 1896 with 329 pages that shaped ideas about African American health for decades. Sources are available in the transcript.
Listener Al Ryan, a biological anthropologist, offered this comment: Excellent episode! Another lesson in history. I think you should give proper attribution to the famous quote highlighted a few times in your talk: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding something." Upton Sinclair, a socialist, journalist, and politician wrote the fabulous book, The Jungle. It described the poor working conditions of new immigrants. Although he was disliked by many, especially Teddy Roosevelt, what caught people's attention was the filthy conditions in a Chicago meatpacking plant. This led to new Federal regulations regarding food safety manufacturing processes etc. (Oops, sorry, different story but of interest to many who worked in the food/nutrition business).
Remember when we talked about race science and caste in India last summer? Here, we return to that thread with historian of science Projit Mukharji, whose work traces the ways scientific racism has persisted in India since the end of the colonial period and right up into the present. Once again, we find that scientific racism is not just a Euro-American phenomenon! And (spoiler alert) it hasn’t gone away!
Some sources (unfortunately, these are all behind pay-walls, but you can see the abstracts of the articles):
In this episode, we discuss the racial term Caucasian: origins, uses (and abuses) and how it figures in the racial conversation today.
In the fourth and final installment of our mini-series on race and intelligence, we get right-up-to-the-minute with James Watson’s recent (unfounded) claims that genetics and IQ are linked. Along the way, we figure out how IQ research has changed since the 1990s (spoiler alert: not much), and—most importantly—why people keep returning to this stuff even though it’s never been substantiated.
In this episode we try to shed some light on the shadowy Pioneer Fund which has supported racist science and white supremacist political activism since the 1930s. From its founder Wycliffe Draper through Henry Garrett and Roger Pearson with Mankind Quarterly to William Shockley and Arthur Jensen and finally The Bell Curve, we trace some of the racist threads that dogged the 20th century and are still active. Resources are available with the transcript.
History of race
Race in India
Race and Biology
Race and Health
Race and Intelligence