lecnotes_02_19 - 21A.240 Race and Science Spring 2004 MIT...

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21A.240 Race and Science Spring 2004 MIT PART 1: THE ALCHEMY OF RACE: MAKING AND UNMAKING SCIENTIFIC RACISM Lecture 3. February 19 I want us to look today at the rise of the concept of race – with THREE things in mind: 1. its transformation from a largely religious category — with origins in European Christendom — to a scientific category; we’re looking at major shifts in racial formations . 2. the importance of sex, gender, and reproduction for the consolidation of “race” across both religious and scientific racial formations. 3. skulls. What I want to do is explore this history of pre-scientific racial formation and early scientific racial formation with you with the aid of the articles we’ve read, taking them mostly in order, but also jumping back and forth a bit. I’m going to start with a lecture, in which I will tell you about the invention of the concept of race in medieval Europe and how it gradually transformed from a religious category into one employed by scientists, or, as they were called natural philosophers. Blood, Sex, and Skeletons: Colonialism, Climatic Determinism, Cranial Capacity, and the Rise of Monogenist and Polygenist Scientific Racism THE HUMORS AND GEOGRAPHICAL DETERMINISM In Medieval Christian Europe, it was believed that climate and geography could definitively determine people’s constitutions and dispositions. It was believed that there were four elements (earth, wind, and fire — and water) that corresponded to four humors — or fluids — in the human body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile (choler), and black bile. The proper balance of these humors would lead to proper temperament, but improper balance would lead to a person being more or less SANGUINE, PHLEGMATIC, CHOLERIC, or MELANCHOLIC. OVERHEAD 1: HUMOURS European natural philosophers believed that different PLACES in the world were more or less suited to having a balance of humors, and some places would tilt you way out of balance. People thought that Asia, for example, was
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a place of melancholy souls, since black bile predominated in climates that were cold and dry like the Asian steppes. Since the Europeans thinking about these things were medieval Christians, it is not surprising that they thought the perfect climate was to be found in the Garden of Eden, from which humanity had been exiled after the sin of Adam and Eve. The prevailing belief was that as people had moved away from Eden they had DEGENERATED ; their humors had been thrown out of whack. SOME places, like ancient Greece, approximated Eden more closely than others. People from these climates could try to reapproximate a close-to-God state. Some places were lousy and the people who lived there were lazy or mean. This whole cluster of beliefs is called GEOGRAPHICAL DETERMINISM
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This note was uploaded on 11/08/2011 for the course ANTHRO 2.158 taught by Professor Ericajames during the Spring '03 term at MIT.

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lecnotes_02_19 - 21A.240 Race and Science Spring 2004 MIT...

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