essay4 - Gahimbare 1 HIST 100: Inventing Race Yves...

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Gahimbare 1 HIST 100: Inventing Race Yves Gahimbare 5/12/09 The debate over the origins of race and which types of races existed was conducted by 18 th century philosophers and anthropologists who greatly influenced racial ideals in their time. Even though their ideas were immature, naïve and lacked strong scientific evidence, it is still interesting to observe how they adopted each others ideas to form their own claims about race. Furthermore, about two centuries later, the debate evolved into whether race was a social construct or a biological trait. This debate was conducted by Richard Lewontin and Armand Marie Leroi. Even though their completely opposing opinions about the origins of race and the reasons races exist stimulate a strong, thought-provoking debate, it is the ways in which they agree or disagree with the past debates that help one determine whether race is socially constructed or not. In The Idea of Race , Johann Friedrich Blumenbach starts his argument by stating the different races he believes exist: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American and Malay (27). Blumenbach immediately makes it apparent to the reader that his statement is racially favoring Caucasians by stating that they are the primeval race. In the next few pages, he does a fine job of describing the phenotypes of each race. He uses colorful and gentle adjectives such as rosy cheeks, chestnut-colored hair and smooth forehead in order to describe the Caucasian race (28). On that same page, Blumenbach continues his racial favoritism towards the Caucasians by stating, “In general, that kind of appearance which, according to our opinion of symmetry, we consider most handsome and becoming.” It is important to notice that Blumenbach is indirectly making the point that Caucasians are the primeval and most beautiful race. Even though he attempts to
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Gahimbare 2 separate all races based on their overall phenotypic differences, it seems that he instead classifies race based on how they differ from Caucasians. For this reason, it can be concluded that Blumenbach’s ideas of race were socially motivated. Even though other anthropologists were influenced by his ideals, they were mostly attracted to the research he performed. Blumenbach studied many skulls that belonged to various races and used the results from his studies to further aid him in forming his racial ideals. In The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race, Bruce Baum presents a British physiologist who agreed with Blumenbach’s ideals is William
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This note was uploaded on 07/07/2008 for the course HIST 100 taught by Professor Bailey,christopher during the Spring '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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essay4 - Gahimbare 1 HIST 100: Inventing Race Yves...

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