The Study of Race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2012-04-02 17:43Z by Steven

The Study of Race

American Anthropologist
Volume 65, Issue 3 (June 1963)
pages 521-531
DOI: 10.1525/aa.1963.65.3.02a00010

S. L. Washburn, Professor of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

Delivered as the Presidential address at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, November 16, 1962, in Chicago

The Executive Board has asked me to give my address on the subject of race, and, reluctantly and diffidently, I have agreed to do so. I am not a specialist on this subject. I have never done research on race, but I have taught it for a number of years.

Discussion of the races of man seems to generate endless emotion and confusion. I am under no illusion that this paper can do much to dispel the confusion; it may add to the emotion. The latest information available supports the traditional findings of anthropologists and other social scientists-that there is no scientific basis of any kind for racial discrimination. I think that the way this conclusion has been reached needs to be restated. The continuation of antiquated biological notions in anthropology and the oversimplification of facts weakens the anthropological position. We must realize that great changes have taken place in the study of race over the last 20 years and it is up to us to bring our profession into the forefront of the newer understandings, so that our statements will be authoritative and useful…

…If one were to name a major race, or a primary race, the Bushmen have a far better claim in terms of the archeological record than the Europeans. During the time of glacial advance more than half of the Old World available to man for life was in Africa. The numbers and distributions that we think of as normal and the races whose last results we see today are relics of an earlier and far different time in human history.

There are no three primary races, no three major groups. The idea of three primary races stems from nineteenth-century typology; it is totally misleading to put the black-skinned people of the world together-to put the Australian in the same grouping with the inhabitants of Africa. And there are certainly at least three independent origins of the small, dark people, the Pygmies, and probably more than that. There is no single Pygmy race.

If we look to real history we will always find more than three races, because there are more than three major areas in which the raciation of our species was taking place…

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