Thursday, February 3, 2011

Locke: The Significance of Culture on Race

In class today we talked about Alain Locke, and his perspective of race as a product of culture. He thinks that race is a product of the culture in which we live, but we shouldn't deny the biological factors which we think determine race. On page 92, " The point that seems to be important to note and stress is that we do not need to deny the existence of these characteristics racial molds in denying that they are rooted in "inherent heredity traits either of a biological or a psychological nature ." Locke thought that the cultures of people are what brought about the stereotypes of particular races today. I personally feel that it is the other way around. We started with races and then began a culture through the commonality of people because of their biological similarities. Locke also states that race is what brings people together, and is the greatest commonality between people within a given culture. This commonality between the races and the bringing together of many peoples creates the stereotypes that are still with us today. I feel like Locke has it backwards, and I know that this was a big debate within class. What are your thoughts on culture being the producer of race?


  1. I think that race produces culture. However, I think that Locke is right to a certain extent when he says that culture is the producer of race in that culture further amplifies our depictions of different racial categories.

  2. It is important to keep in mind what follows from both of these arguments. If we are, as Locke claims, to keep the hereditary factors in consideration as a valid idea, then we must explain the origin of these characteristics. If race produces culture, then those characteristics originate in our race. Alternatively, if culture produces race, those characteristics come from our culture rather than race. I fail to see the difference between culture and race in this context, much like many of us in class had trouble differentiating between Herder's definition of volk and race.

    Agian we have run into the problem of classifying different types of the same species. Biologically, any homo sapien can reproduce with any other of the same species. I think the definition of species is the closest thing we can get to dividing our world into meaningful parts, and under that definition, there is no difference between us.


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