How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Photography in Economies of Demonstration: The Idea of the Jews as a Mixed-Race People

Posted in Articles, History, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Religion on 2014-12-02 02:34Z by Steven

Photography in Economies of Demonstration: The Idea of the Jews as a Mixed-Race People

Jewish Social Studies
Volume 20, Number 1, Fall 2013
pages 150-183
DOI: 10.1353/jss.2013.0015

Amos Morris-Reich, Director of the Bucerius Institute
Department of Jewish History
University of Haifa, Israel

Photographs played an important role in the development of the idea of the Jews as a mixed-race people. This article tracks the trajectory of this idea from the 1880s, when it was first introduced by the liberal Austrian anthropologist and archaeologist Felix von Luschan, through the works of American Jewish physician Maurice Fishberg and German Jewish linguist Sigmund Feist, to its appropriation and inversion by the prominent Nazi theoretician of race Hans F. K. Günther in the 1920s. By tracing the circulation of one photograph, analyzing the roles of photographs in argumentation, comparing their status with other types of empirical sources, and arguing that the key to their analysis is performative, pertaining to the relationships photographs form, I argue for the essential contingency of ideas that in retrospect have been identified as fundamental to antisemitic arguments.

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Race, Color, Identity: Rethinking Discourses about ‘Jews’ in the Twenty-First Century

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, History, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2013-07-19 00:38Z by Steven

Race, Color, Identity: Rethinking Discourses about ‘Jews’ in the Twenty-First Century

Berghahn Books
May 2013
398 pages
bibliog., index
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-85745-892-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-85745-893-3

Edited by:

Efraim Sicher, Professor of Comparative and English Literature
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Advances in genetics are renewing controversies over inherited characteristics, and the discourse around science and technological innovations has taken on racial overtones, such as attributing inherited physiological traits to certain ethnic groups or using DNA testing to determine biological links with ethnic ancestry. This book contributes to the discussion by opening up previously locked concepts of the relation between the terms color, race, and “Jews”, and by engaging with globalism, multiculturalism, hybridity, and diaspora. The contributors—leading scholars in anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and cultural studies—discuss how it is not merely a question of whether Jews are acknowledged to be interracial, but how to address academic and social discourses that continue to place Jews and others in a race/color category.


  • Foreword / Sander Gilman
  • Introduction: Rethinking Discourses about “Jews” / Efraim Sicher
    • Chapter 1. “I’m not White – I’m Jewish”: The Racial Politics of American Jews / Cheryl Greenberg
    • Chapter 2. Reflections on Black/Jewish Relations in the Age of Obama / Ibrahim Sundiata
    • Chapter 3. Stains, Plots, and the Neighbor Thing: Jews, Blacks and Philip Roth’s Utopias / Adam Zachary Newton
    • Chapter 4. Spaces of Ambivalence: Blacks and Jews in New York City / Catherine Rottenberg
    • Chapter 5. African-American Culture, Anthropological Practices and the Jewish “Race” in Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men / Dalit Alperovich
    • Chapter 6. Jewish Characters in Weeds: Reinserting ‘Race’ into the Postmodern Discourse on American Jews / Hannah Adelman Komy Ofir and Shlomi Deloia
    • Chapter 7. A Member of the Club? How Black Jews Negotiate Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism / Bruce Haynes
    • Chapter 8. Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel: The Discourses of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Racism / Steven Kaplan
    • Chapter 9. Black-Jews in Academic and Institutional Discourse / Yonah Zianga
    • Chapter 10. The “Descendants of David” of Madagascar: Crypto-Judaic identities in 21st century Africa / Edith Bruder
    • Chapter 11. After the Fact: “Jews” in Post-1945 German Physical Anthropology / Amos Morris-Reich
    • Chapter 12. Genes as Jewish History?: Human Population Genetics in the Service of Historians / Noa Sophie Kohler and Dan Mishmar
    • Chapter 13. Sarrazin and the Myth of the “Jewish Gene” / Klaus Hödl
    • Chapter 14. Blood, Soul, Race, and Suffering: Full-Bodied Ethnography and Expressions of Jewish Belonging / Fran Markowitz
    • Chapter 15. Jews, Muslims, European Identities: Multiculturalism and Anti-Semitism in Britain / Efraim Sicher
    • Chapter 16. Brothers in Misery: Re-connecting Sociologies of Racism and Anti-Semitism / Glynis Cousin and Robert Fine
    • Chapter 17. Race by the Grace of God: Race, Religion, and the Construction of “Jew” and “Arab” / Ivan Davidson Kalmar
  • Select Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
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Race, ideas, and ideals: A comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F.K. Günther

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive on 2012-12-27 21:08Z by Steven

Race, ideas, and ideals: A comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F.K. Günther

History of European Ideas
Volume 32, Issue 3, 2006
pages 313-332
DOI: 10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2006.05.001

Amos Morris-Reich, Director of the Bucerius Institute
Department of Jewish History
University of Haifa, Israel

This article compares two radically opposed views concerning “race” in the first half of the 20th century: the one of Franz Boas (1858–1942), the founder of American cultural anthropology, and the other of Hans F. K. Günther (1889–1968), the most widely read theoretician of race in Nazi Germany. Opposite as their views were, both derived from a similar non-evolutionist German anthropological matrix. The article reconstructs their definitions of racial objects and studies their analyses of racial intermixture. Although both believed that contemporary peoples were racially deeply mixed, Boas moved towards an antiracist conception of race-as-population, whereas Günther moved towards a racist conception of homogenous races in mixed peoples. The comparison shows that the major difference between them concerns their ideals or guiding principles. Their respective ideals seeped into their versions of science and transformed the nature and the significance of their respective ideas.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Sigmund Feist and the End of the Idea of the Jews as a Mixed Race

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion on 2011-12-09 21:49Z by Steven

Sigmund Feist and the End of the Idea of the Jews as a Mixed Race

Shpilman Institute for Photography

Amos Morris Reich, Senior Lecturer of Jewish History
University of Haifa

Sigmnud Feist (1865-1943) is mostly remembered because of the orphanage for Jewish children that he directed in Berlin, as well as for his work in German linguistics. A collection of recently published letters written to him by 77 of his pupils during their service in the German military during the Great War has brought him back to public attention. But in 1925 he published a widely circulating book entitled Stammeskunde der Juden: Die jüdischen Stämme der Erde in alter und neuer Zeit. Historisch-anthropologisch Skizzen (A History of the Jewish Stock: ancient and modern Jewish tribes of the world. Historical-anthropological Sketches).

While “race” and “type” are central to Feist’s 1925 book on the Jews, in no place does he define them. Indeed, biological and, most notably, Mendelian principles are absent from his discussion. The chapters move from discussion of the Jews as a race in ancient times and the Jews in the Diaspora to a discussion of geographically ordered Jewries, including chapters on the Jews of Palestine, Near East, China, India, Ethiopia, North Africa, Spain, and Ashkenazy Jews, before turning to pseudo- and cryptic- Jews, and ending with a discussion of modern Jews as a race. The book’s structure, therefore, corroborates the argument concerning the heterogeneity of the Jews as geographically spread and as anthropologically diverse and the photographic appendix indicates similarity between Jews and their environments and Jewish anthropological variation…

….After providing historical evidence for mixture between non-Jews and Jews throughout history, his basic thesis throughout the book, Feist asked whether this process had already in ancient times aligned Jews with the peoples among whom they lived. This question, Feist wrote, is not easy to answer because of the scarcity of visual material (Bildmaterial). Feist’s assumption, therefore, was that the question was a visual one.

If we follow Feist’s argumentation here, we see the degree of internalization of widespread assumptions concerning the realistic status of photography with regard to race. Franz Boas, to whom he turns explicitly in his conclusion, ruled out on methodological grounds the ability to know what previous types looked like. Feist here argues differently. Because of the state of empirical evidence, according to Feist, the question pertains to the appearance of Jews in the medieval period. Instead of viewing medieval depictions as proof of the degree of Jewish mixture, Feist asserts that, as opposed to ancient Hittite, Assyrian, and Egyptian monuments, medieval Christian and Muslim chronicles and illustrated Bibles do not provide “truthful depictions of Jewish types” (naturgetreue jüdische Typen). He here mentions several medieval sources, in which, he claims, depicted Jews cannot be identified through their physiognomic features but only through social markers attached to them. While this, precisely, could corroborate his argument concerning Jewish mixture, Feist in fact chooses to rule out the realism of these images. While he does not say so explicitly, it is likely that the reason for this is that the depictions do not resemble the photographs of the old monuments of and the modern photographs of Jews. Based on the assumption that medieval images did not depict Jews realistically, Feist declares that only with early modern painting, specifically with Rembrandt, Rubens, and van Dijk, did representations of Jews regain an ancient realism; only here did the realistic character of Jewish faces and Jewish forms (jüdische Gestalten) reappear in art. The Jewish type, then, is constant – change was only the attribute of artistic representation…

Read the entire article here.

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