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Race, Genes & Anthropology

One of the most astonishing features of the contemporary discussion of race is the fact that anthropology, the science that deals with human biological and cultural variation, has managed to be marginalized.(1)

Regardless of reason, it is clear that there is no consensus and great confusion exists in the discipline [biological anthropology] with regards to race.(2)

The biological concept of race . . . has no basis in science.
Dr. Harold Freeman, Celera Genomics Corp., quoted in the SJ Mercury, "Race not seen as factor in variation of genetic code," Feb. 20, 2001, G1.


Race & Anthropology | Genes & Human Behavior | Race, Racism & Human Genomics | Genes, Fossils & Human Evolution

Jonathan Marks' articles 1995-
Annual Reviews Social Sciences full text

Race & Anthropology

American Anthropological Association's Statement on Race and related documents.
"DNA Studies Challenge the Meaning of Race" Science 282 (23 Oct 1998): 654-655.
For an overview of recent writing: Howard Winant, "Race and Race Theory" Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2000. 26:169-185.

The Green reference collections have useful sources to begin to understand anthropological perspectives on race:

  • Shanklin, Eugenia. 1994. Anthropology & Race. LOCATION: IC/Green Library Stacks GN269.S43 1994. A concise textbook that provides a historical perspective on various issues of race and racism up to 1992.
  • Faye V. Harrison. 1995. "The Persistent Power of 'Race' in the Cultural and Political Economy of Racism." Annual Review of Anthropology. 24:47-74. LOCATION: IC GN1.A47. Literature review of recent anthropological writing.
  • Allan Goodman. 1995. "The Problematics of "Race" in Contemporary Biological Anthropology." In Biological Anthropology: The State of the Science. LOCATION: Green Library Stacks GN50.B56 1995. Topics covered include:
  • Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 1945-. LOCATION: Green Library Stacks GN60.Y4 (Latest three years in IC) regulary publishes relevant reviews.
    • "Melanin, Afrocentricity...," 36(1993):33-58.
    • "Clines and Clusters vs Race: a test in Ancient Egypt and the cause of Death on the Nile," 36(1993):1-31.

    In addition to Shanklin's Anthropology and Race, other works useful for a historical perspective include:

    • Spencer, Frank. 1986. Ecce Homo. LOCATION: IC Z5118.S7S64 1986. Extensive notes and references on such topics as comparative (racial) biology, craniology, and human population biology.
    • Boas, Franz. 1934. "Race," Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences. XIII-XIV:25-36. LOCATION: IC H41.E5.
    • Harris, Marvin. 1968. "Race," International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.13:263-269. LOCATION: IC H41.I5.
    • United States. Immigration Commission (1907-1910). Dictionary of races or peoples. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1911. LOCATION: SSRC GN11.U6
    • Stephens, Thomas M. Dictionary of Latin American racial and ethnic terminology. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, c1989.LOCATION: IC GN564.L29S84 1989.

    Genes and human behavior

    The nature-nurture debate seems neither capable of being won nor lost. For every article claiming either "nature" or "nurture" has won [e.g., D. Koshland (1987) "Nature, nurture and behavior," Science 235:1445] there is soon a response [J. Horgan (1993) "Trends in behavioral genetics: eugenics revisited" Scientific American 268:122-131] that shows the earlier opinion was either based on flawed evidence or flawed methodology. Reviews of research include Richard Rose's (1995) "Genes and human behavior" Annual Review of Psychology 46:625-54 and D. Wahlsten's "Single-gene influences on brain and behavior" Annual Review of Psychology 50:599-624. Steven Jay Gould says, "no issue could be more prominent for an evolutionary biologist, or more central to a broad range of political questions, than genetic versus environmental sources of human abilities and behaviors." Read his Dolly's Fashion and Louis's Passion" in Natural History, vol. 106, June 1977, n.5, p.18+.

    There are a growing number of books and articles dealing with evolutionary psychology (the current formulation of sociobiology), and many reviews (check MAGS) of key works as Matt Ridley (1994) The Red Queen: sex and the evolution of human nature, and Robert Wright (1994) The moral animal: the new science of evolutionary psychology. For a critique of evolutionary psychology see John Horgan (1993) "The new social darwinists. (evolutionary psychologists)" in Scientific American 273:174-182. (Abstract from MAGS). The controversial book by Herrnstein and Murray The bell curve: intelligence and class structure in American life ( New York: Free Press, c1994) has a book published about it and its fallout, and psychologist J. Philippe Rushton is at the center of a continuing, bitter controversy over race and intelligence: "J. Philippe Rushton Riles Colleagues and Publisher with Booklet on Race and Intelligence," The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 14, 2000. (Fulltext of this and other related articles in Academic Universe for SU).

    From Anthropology there is the development of Evolutionary culture theory (ECT), a "growing corpus of principles and arguments that attempt to explain the "descent and modification" of human cultural systems." See William Durham (1992) "Applications of Evolutionary Culture Theory" Annual Review of Anthropology 21:331-55. For a comparison of evolutionary anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists, see Khalil (1995) "Individual separateness or universal scheme? A note on neo-Darwinian vs. non-Darwinian evolutionary social science" Human Nature 6(1):91-94.

    Race, Racism, and Human Genomics

    The Human Genome, Science 291 (16 Feb 2001):Special Issue.
    "DNA Studies Challenge the Meaning of Race" (SU users) Science 282 (23 Oct 1998): 654-655.
    "The Legal, Ethical, and Social Implications in Human Genome Research" (SU users) ARA (1998): 473-502.

    The Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) assumes understanding the variation of living populations can provide insight into evolutionary processes and the pattern of past population expansions and migrations. A reference publication arising from work coming out of the HDGP is Luigi Cavalli-Sforza's The History and Geography of Human Genes, 1994.(3). John Relethford's review states:

    Overall, this book has an immense amount of information, ranging from data tables to maps to results of the authors' analyses. It is definitely the place to start in any study of human population genetics. I recommend this book to all researchers in the field, but I do have some complaints. Throughout the book the authors use the term "physical anthropology" to refer almost exclusively to anthropometrics, anthroposcopics, and skin color. In each chapter, when the "physical anthropology" of a region is reviewed, it is in these terms (including previous "racial" classifications). This outdated usage tends to convey the image that physical or biological anthropologists are not interested in genetics (although many of the data references are to biological anthropology journals and to studies conducted by biological anthropologists).(4)

    For a negative assessment of the HGDP undertaking see Goodman's chapter on this topic. There is a collection of critical articles available from the NativeNet: Human Genome Diversity Project articles from NATIVE-L. Also see the comment by Wheeler, "A Worldwide Effort to Collect DNA Encounters Opposition," in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 27, 1996):A20.

    The library subject heading is: Human Genome Project.
    Web resources:


    (1) Jonathon Marks (1995) The Race Gallery: The Return of Racial Science (book review) Nature 113:337. If this assertion is indeed true, it may be that anthropological rhetoric plays a role in the alleged neglect.

    (2) Allan Goodman. 1995. The Problematics of "Race" in Contemporary Biological Anthropology. In Biological Anthropology: The State of the Science: p.232.

    (3) Cavalli-Sforza, L. L.. The History and Geography of Human Genes, 1994. LOCATION: Green Lib. Ref (on order); Biology Ref QH431.C395; Meyer QH431.C395; Green Library Stacks QH431.C395.

    (4) Relethford, John H.(1995) "The History and Geography of Human Genes." (book review). Human Biology 67:673-678.

    (4) "Natural selection theory plays a major role in social science research, as indicated by the growth of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES). Some HBES members eschew the term sociobiology, but others continue to use it. HBES members' theories on mate selection, language, and docility are examined." John Horgan (1973) The new social darwinists. (evolutionary psychologists) Scientific American 273:174-182.

    (5) Recent Books. Checkout the subject headings, icluding "Nature and nurture":

    • The Adapted mind : evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. New York : Oxford University Press, 1992. 666 p. LOCATION: Green Library Stacks BF711.A33 1992 TOPICS: Genetic psychology. Cognition and culture. Behavior evolution. Sociobiology.
    • Wright, Robert. The moral animal: the new science of evolutionary psychology. 1st ed. New York : Pantheon Books, c1994.LOCATION: Green Library Stacks GN365.3.W75 1994. TOPICS: Sociobiology. Genetic psychology. Human behavior. Behavior evolution.
    • Ridley, Matt. The Red Queen: sex and the evolution of human nature. New York : Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994. LOCATION: Green Library Stacks GN365.9.R53 1994. TOPICS: Human evolution. Social evolution. Sex.
    • The bell curve wars: race, intelligence, and the future of America. New York: BasicBooks, c1995. vi, 216 p. ; 21 cm. LOCATION: BF431.B3749 1995; Education BF431.B3749 1995. TOPICS: Intellect. Nature and nurture.

    Genes, Fossils & Human Evolution

    Genetics of Modern Human Origins and Diversity (1998). (SU Users)

    Last modified: June 22, 2005

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