RaceSci
Syllabi
RaceSci

 

Science and the Origins of Race

B. Ricardo Brown
Asst. Professor, Cultural Studies
School of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Pratt Institute

Email: B.Ricardo.Brown@att.com
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7364

Spring 2000

Course Description

We often try to understand "race" as it confronts us today, either as a source of diversity and multiculturalism or as a social problem. This is not surprising given the fact that racism is a historical process that still exists today. But racism presupposes the existence of Race, of something so much an essential part of ourselves that it is visibly manifested by our bodies, and these manifestations fall into a limited number of scientifically defined types. Race began as a scientific concept within the discourse of Natural History, but with far reaching connections to nationalism, sexuality, industrialism, and authoritarianism. To place our contemporary discussion about race into a historical context, this class will investigate the history of scientific discourses on race from Blumenbach's classification of humanity into the five familiar races, to Gobineau's Essay of the

Inequality of Human Races, the Social Darwinists, and Dugdale's classic study of degeneration The Jukes. Along the way, we will examine the debate on the origin of species, whether races represent different species of humans (the monogenesis/polygenesis dispute in Antebellum America), phrenology, intelligence testing, criminal anthropology, the culture of poverty, and degeneration. Throughout the semester, we will apply what we are learning to the discussion of contemporary ideas and conflicts regarding race and racism.

The following sources provide the background for this examination:
Appleman, Philip, ed. 1979. Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton.
Burstyn, Joan N. 1968. "Brain and Intellect: Science Applied to a Social Issue: 1860-1875," Histoire des Sciences de l'Homme, Tome IX. Paris.
Combe, George. 1841. Notes on the United States of North America During a Phrenological Visit in 1838-9-40. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart.
Comas, Juan. 1956. "Racial Myths" from Race and Science: The Race Question in Modern Science. New York: Columbia University Press.
Dugdale, Thomas. 1899. The Jukes.
Egerton, Frank N. 1968. "The Concept of Competition in Nature Before Darwin," Histoire des Sciences Naturelles et de la Biologie, Tome VIII, Paris.
Foucault, Michel. 1973. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage.
_____________. 1981. The History of Sexuality. New York: Vintage.
Gossett, Thomas. 1963. Race: the History of an Idea in America. Dallas: Southern Methodist University. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1996. The Mismeasure of Man. New York, W.W. Norton.
Green, John C. 1959. The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
Hodgen, Margaret T. 197? "Diffusion, Degeneration, and Environmentalism" from Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventh Centuries. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.
Hofstadter, Richard. 1955. Social Darwinism in American Thought. Boston: Beacon Press.
Lanham, Url. 1968. Origins of Modern Biology. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lombroso, Cesare. 1911. Crime: Its Causes and Remidies. Montclaire, New Jersey; Patterson Smith.
McConnaughey, G. 1950. "Darwinism and Social Darwinism". Osiris, 9.
Nordau. Max. 1892[1968]. Degeneration. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Nordenskiold, Erik. 1929. The History of Biology: A Survey. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Pick, Daniel. 1993. Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848-c.1918. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ritvo, Harriet. 1997. "Zoological Nomenclature and the Empire of Victorian Science," from Bernard Lightman, ed. Victorian Science in Context. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Savage, Thomas S. and Jeffries Wyman. 1847. "Notice of the External Characteristics and Habits of Trolodytes Gorilla, A New Species of Orang from the Gaboon River". Boston Journal of Natural History.
Singer, Charles. 1957. A History of Biology: A General Introduction to the Study of Living Things. New York: Henry Schuman.
Stanton, William. 1960. The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America: 1815-1859. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stocking, George W. 1994. "The Turn of the Century Concept of Race". Modernism/Modernity, 1:4-16.

Course Requirements

Presentations
Participants are expected to give at least one presentation during the semester on the readings for the class. In addition, a final brief presentation on your paper/project is also required. The presentations and class participation will account for 40 percent.

Final Paper
One paper, 10-20 pages in length (typed and double-spaced) or a demonstration (public exhibit, performance, film, etc.) with a textual description of 8-12 pages is required. (The demonstration option must be approved beforehand.) The paper will count for 60 percent of the final grade.

Class Participation
Education is not a one way street and we can not expect to simply passively receive knowledge unless we expect to live a passive life. Participation is mandatory and will be factored into the final grade.

Absences and Lateness
Persistent absences or lateness will result in a reduction of your final grade.

Grades and Incompletes

Grades will be posted in the department at the end of the semester. Incompletes will be granted only in accordance with the established policy of the college. The request must be made in advance of the last week of class. It must be made in writing. An incomplete is "available only if the student has been in regular attendance, has satisfied all but the final requirements of the course, and has furnished satisfactory proof that the work was not completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond control" (Pratt Institute Bulletin). If you do not turn in your paper on time, and you do not have an approved incomplete, you will fail the course. If you do not complete your work be the beginning of the next semester, I will not issue a change of grade except under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Readings

The readings for the class will be drawn from a wide variety of sources. The primary texts that you will want to purchase for this course are:
Appleman, Philip, ed. 1979. Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton.
Stanton, William. 1960. The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America: 1815-1859. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gossett, Thomas. 1963. Race: the History of an Idea in America. Dallas: Southern Methodist University.
Gould, Stephen Jay. 1996. The Mismeasure of Man. New York, W.W. Norton.

The books may be purchased from the Pratt Bookstore, as well as many other bookstores in the city, including St. Marks Books, Barnes and Nobles, etc. You may also purchase these books, often at a discount, via Amazon.com These are some additional sources for the texts:

The Strand 12th street and Broadway
Advanced Book Exchange (Hundreds of book dealers around the country) http://www.abebooks.com
Academy Books 18th and 5th Ave. or online at http://www.academy-bookstore.com
Hoboken Books 720 Monroe St. Suite E-201, Hoboken NJ 07030 hobbooks@panix.com
Blake's Books in Boston http://www.blakesbooks.com

Outline of the Course of Study

Week I. Introduction to the Course
Cultural Studies of the Relationship between the Concept of Race and the Authority of Science

Week II. Race before Enlightenment
Thomas Gossett, 1963, "Early Race Theories" from Race: the History of an Idea in America, pgs. 3-17.
Aristotle "Concerning the Method of Natural Science" from On the Parts of Animals
Hesiod Works and Days, lines 105- 201.
Audrey Smedley, 'The Etymology of the Term 'Race' from Race in North America, pgs. 36-40.

Week III. Natural History and the Classification of Nature
Michel Foucault "Classifying" The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, pgs. 125-165.
Nicholas Hudson "From 'Nation' to 'Race': The Origin of Racial Classification in Eighteenth-Century Thought" Eighteenth-Century Studies 29.3 (1996) 247-264
Ritvo, Harriet. 1997. "Zoological Nomenclature and the Empire of Victorian Science," from Bernard Lightman, ed. Victorian Science in Context.
Supplemental Readings:
Thomas Jefferson "Productions Mineral, Vegetable and Animal" and "Laws" from Notes on the State of Virginia, pgs. 26-73 and 130-150.
Katie Whitaker "The Culture of Curiosity" from Cultures of Natural History, ed. by N. Jardine, J.A. Secord, and E.G. Spary, pgs. 75-91.

Week IV. The Question Concerning the Origin of Species and the "Regular Gradation in Man"
Dr. W.C. Wells "An Account of a female of the White Race of Mankind, Part of Whose Skin Resembles that of a Negro; With Some Observations on the Causes of the Differences in Colour and Form between the White and Negro Races of Men" from From Lamarck to Darwin: Contributions to Evolutionary Biology 1809-1859.
Thomas S. Savage, 1847. "Notice of the External Characteristics and Habits of Troglodytes Gorilla, A New Species of Orang from the Gaboon River (Osteology of the Same by Jeffries Wyman). Boston Journal of Natural History, 5; reprinted in Science in America: Historical Selections by John C. Burnham, ed.
J.B.P.A. Lamarck, "The Influence of Circumstances" and " Four Evolutionary Laws" from From Lamarck to Darwin: Contributions to Evolutionary Biology 1809-1859.
Gavin De Beer, "Biology before Darwin" in Appleman, pgs. 3-10.

Week V. The Question Concerning the Origin of Species: The American School Monogenesis vs. Polygenesis
Stephen J. Gould, "American Polygeny and Craniometry before Darwin," from The Mismeasure of Man, pgs. 62-104.
Thomas Gossett, 1963, "Nineteenth Century Anthropology" from Race: the History of an Idea in America Supplemental Reading:
William Stanton The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes Towards Race in America, 1820-1859.

Week VI. The Origin Of Species and The Descent of Man
Charles Darwin "Recapitulation and Conclusions" from The Origin of Species, and The Dissent of Man in Appleman, pgs. 43-88, 108-131, 187-210.

Week VII. Inherit the Wind

Week VIII. The Sciences of Life and Man
Thomas Gossett, "Race and Social Darwinism" from Race: the History of an Idea in America, pgs. 144-175
Richard Hofstadter, "The Vogue of Spencer" from Social Darwinism in American Thought, pgs. 389-398.
Marvin Harris, "Spencerism" from The Rise of Anthropological Theory, pgs. 108-141

Week IX. Degeneracy
Karl Marx, "The Mystery of Degeneracy in Society" from The Holy Family, pgs.
Max Nordau, 1892, Degeneration, pgs. 1-40.
Michel Foucault, "We Other Victorians" from The History of Sexuality, Introduction.
Sigmund Freud, Extracts from the Fliess Papers; Letter 55 and "Little Hans", from the Standard Edition, Vol. I (1886-1899) and Vol. X (1909)pgs. 141-147

Week X. Criminal Anthropology
Cesare Lombroso, 1911. Crime: Its Causes and Remidies.
Thomas Dugdale, 1899. The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease, and Heredity, pgs. ba.
Stephen J. Gould, "Measuring Bodies: Two Case Studies on the Apishness of Undesirables" from The Mismeasure of Man, pgs. 141-175.
Stephen J. Gould "Pervasive Influence" from Ontogeny and Phylogeny, pgs. 115-165.

Week XI. The Bad Seed
Week XII. The Germ-Plasm and Racial Destiny
August Wiessmann. 1892. Extracts from The Germ-Plasm: A Theory of Heredity
George Canguilhem, 1988 [1977]. "On the History of the Life Sciences Since Darwin," from Ideology and Rationality in the History of the Life Sciences, pgs. 103-124.
Charles Singer, 1950, "Mechanism of Heredity," from A History of Biology, pgs. 540-572.

Week XIII. Eugenics
Daniel J. Kevles. 1995, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, pgs. 3-20, 70-112, 129-148.

Week XIV. The Floating Signifier
Stuart Hall, Race, the Floating Signifier.


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