MIT21A_226F09_lec1213

MIT21A_226F09_lec1213 - Oct. 19 and 21, 2009 12-13: RACE I...

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Oct. 19 and 21, 2009 12-13: RACE I & II Read: Wade, Defining Race, 1-15; Existing Approaches to Race, 16-36; Historicising Racialized Natures, 37-68; Genetics and Kinship: The Interpenetration of Nature and Culture, 69-96; Race, Nature and Culture, 97-111; Embodying Racialised Natures, 112-122 I. Conceptions of race 1 A. Race is a social fact 1. Wade emphasizes that when studying the history of race, one always needs to unpack the terms 2. For example, an earlier notion about racial type: 3. Saw it as something not directly observable 4. But rather, seen to be an underlying essence, subject to all kinds of variation in its observable manifestations 5. DISCUSS : to what extent is this notion the opposite of current notions about race? B. We must pay careful attention to how such notions change 1. Wade discusses various notions about how a changing environment creates ‘fixed’ qualities a. Contradiction b. E.g., God created humanity, but sometime in the remote past the races were established c. Some believed in polygenesis: distinct origins of the races 2. He cites Todorov: a. “The inside that was supposed to be opposed to the outside is only a slightly older outside” 3. He also cites Young: 1 The first part of this lecture follows Wade’s exposition of race. 12-13, Race 2008 1/19/10
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2 a. “The question is whether the old essentialising categories of cultural identity, or race, were really so essentialised, or have been retrospectively constructed as more fixed than they were. When we look at the texts of racial theory, we find that they are in fact contradictory, disruptive and already deconstructed.” C. Earlier meanings of race included seeing it in terms of lineage 1. All the descendants of a given set of ancestors were members of a common stock a. E.g., the race of Abraham D. The meaning changed so that by the nineteenth-century the concept of race was a system for classifying types 1. Humans were divided into a limited number of permanent racial types, sometimes seen as having distinct origins 2. Static, relatively unchanging—although keep in mind Wade’s point about internal contradictions challenging this notion of fixity II. Today: A. A typical definition of race: “an interbreeding population whose members share a greater number of traits with one another than they do with people outside the group” (Ferraro) 1. Unambiguous categories based on distinct sets of biological attributes and inferred distinct descents 2. Note that establishing a boundary using this definition would be very difficult III. Underlying premises of the social construct of race: A. First: biology determines behavior 1. Many earlier racial schemes included traits we no longer consider to be physically inherited—“degeneracy,” drunkenness, poverty a. Wade discusses earlier “racial” classifications that allow for environmental influence, effects of culture 2. Cultural, moral, aesthetic traits were included as “racial” traits
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3 a. This continues, in a sense, today: Wade’s points about “cultural
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MIT21A_226F09_lec1213 - Oct. 19 and 21, 2009 12-13: RACE I...

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