Sunday, February 13, 2011

Explorers and Scientific Racism

Here is a interesting NY Times blog post about 19th century scientific racism and the French-American explorer's Paul Du Chaillu's travels and writings about Africa. As we have been discussing the legacy of scientific notions of racial difference, this is an interesting example of some of the questions at hand in our study of race, such as the problem of objectivity in scientific (or pseudo-scientific) enterprises, and the patterns of production and dissemination of knowledge about racial groups.

1 comment:

  1. That post points at one of the most troubling problems - dissemination of information which is regarded as legitimate. There were no fact checkers in the 19th century going behind explorers and the like, double checking any of their "research" on other cultures, so just having gone gives them enough clout to reconstruct the entire society in a sensationalized manner for those back home. The scary part is how each generation of pseudo-scientists is comfortable making caricatures instead of doing real work learning about other cultures.

    The article plainly exposes the real motive behind using race as a a classifier - political and social power. As soon as DuChaillu was found to have mixed ancestry he was turned on by fellow academics like a pack of wolves. Racism is one of the most effective political tools one can wield.


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