The uncanny return of the race concept

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-12-23 15:35Z by Steven

The uncanny return of the race concept

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume 8, 2014-11-04
DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00836

Andreas Heinz
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Charité—University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Daniel J. Müller, Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Department of Psychiatry
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sören Krach
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Philipps-University Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Maurice Cabanis
Center for Mental Health, Klinikum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany

Ulrike P. Kluge
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Charité—University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany

The aim of this Hypothesis and Theory is to question the recently increasing use of the “race” concept in contemporary genetic, psychiatric, neuroscience as well as social studies. We discuss “race” and related terms used to assign individuals to distinct groups and caution that also concepts such as “ethnicity” or “culture” unduly neglect diversity. We suggest that one factor contributing to the dangerous nature of the “race” concept is that it is based on a mixture of traditional stereotypes about “physiognomy”, which are deeply imbued by colonial traditions. Furthermore, the social impact of “race classifications” will be critically reflected. We then examine current ways to apply the term “culture” and caution that while originally derived from a fundamentally different background, “culture” is all too often used as a proxy for “race”, particularly when referring to the population of a certain national state or wider region. When used in such contexts, suggesting that all inhabitants of a geographical or political unit belong to a certain “culture” tends to ignore diversity and to suggest a homogeneity, which consciously or unconsciously appears to extend into the realm of biological similarities and differences. Finally, we discuss alternative approaches and their respective relevance to biological and cultural studies.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • The Origin of the “Race Concept” and Controversies about its Biological Usefulness
  • Cultural Impact on Race Classifications
  • Racial Classifications, Colonial Hierarchies and the Construction of the Psychotic Patient as Primitive Man
  • The Social Impact of “Race” Classifications
  • “Culture” as a Proxy of “Race”
  • Implications of Cultural and Genetic Diversity in Psychiatry
  • Summary and Outlook
  • Conflict of Interest Statement
  • Acknowledgments
  • References

Read the entire article here.

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