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Concept of "human races" - short Physical Anthropology essay

FredParisFranceThreads: 61
Posts: 72
Author: lionel villard
Jul 11, 2007, 03:42pm   #1

Could you please read my short Physical Anthropology essay and give me some feedback?

The prompt is:

What do you think about the notion that race is a socially viable construct but not a biologically useful one? What are the implications of such a view?

Thank you in advance.

With a view to the United States presidential election, on November 4, 2008, candidates have started fundraising and campaigning. Although they diverge on foreign and domestic policy, they converge on, at least, one point: they are proud of being American citizens. However, foreign observers, like me, could, at first sight, doubt whether all of them belong to the same race. Indeed, in what ways do the Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican Mitt Romney culturally resemble? Moreover, in what ways do they biologically differ? Such questions raise a long-lasting controversy that has marked the world history: are humans members of separate races? To address such an issue, one should contemplate whether the notion of race is based on biology or culture.

From a biological point of view, all contemporaneous humans are components of a species that is said polytypic, i.e. populations of the Homo sapiens species differ in the expressions of some traits. Those characteristics divide into two broad categories. First, geneticists emphasize genotypic and phenotypic variations between individuals. The former refers to an organism's entire genetic makeup or to the alleles that are at a particular locus. The latter refers to the detectable expressions of the genotype, namely the observable physical characteristics of an organism. The objective of this brief reminder is to highlight the fact that the genetic diversity is only partly visible. Besides, some traits of phenotypes, which are conspicuously distinguishable through the sight such as the skin colour, correlate with the idea of racial unity. Conversely, some traits of phenotypes, which are not conspicuously distinguishable through the sight such as the ABO blood types, contest the idea of racial unity. For example, the distinction in skin colour between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is only the tip of the entire iceberg. The "submerged part" may be far more similar than one could suppose. Consequently, the notion of race and the phenotypes do not necessarily corroborate the idea that the folk taxonomy of human races is accurate.

On the other hand, since the notion of human races is not accurate, it seems that cultural factors pressurize the construction of that view. A simple account of the various criteria that characterise human races allows one to notice simple facts. That taxonomic classification lies on two main categories of standards. First, a specific human race encompasses a pack of common physical similarities, such as the skin colour, the sex, or the age. Those standards are rather equivocal because they instil the idea of irrefutable correspondences between human races and phenotypes. Second, a definite human race covers purely cultural discriminators such as the religion, the ethnicity or the nationality. Consequently, one may consider that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney belong to a same race, the "Americans", because they have the same nationality and religion. In contrast, other observers may deem that they belong to different races because they differ in skin colour, age or corpulence.

Finally, it appears that the human race classification may suffer from serious gaps or antagonism because it is a practical means for the individuals to frame their worldview. A human race refers to the general trend of a certain type of people who broadly think the same thing about their vision of the world. Consequently, it would be more appropriate to speak of schemes of classification rather than of a single classification because each individual has his or her understanding and his or her representations. Although racial classifications are not biologically accurate and are too diverse to be universal, they have evident practical applications. Such a folk taxonomy stresses the disparities in a group and the distinctions between groups. Consequently, individuals can clearly organize their worldview based on the opposition between the two main characteristics of Homo sapiens that constitute the human peculiarity, namely the association of culturally defined variables with phenotypes. Such representations may appear completely irrational, and even foolish, but they have political consequences and, as a consequence, social repercussions. Indeed, the main implication of the oversimplification of the human biological & cultural diversity leads to adopt an erroneous theory of biological determinism to address the complex relations between culture and biology of the Homo sapiens species.

EF_Team2Threads: 1
Posts: 2,195
Author: Sarah, EssayForum.com
Jul 12, 2007, 04:49am   #2

I always enjoy reading your excellent essays! Here are a few editing suggestions:

It can be difficult to figure out when to leave out articles, especially "the," in English. While perhaps not technically "wrong" from a grammatical standpoint, the following are more "right" without the article:

Indeed, in what ways do Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney culturally resemble each other?

such as skin colour, sex, or age.

such as religion, ethnicity or nationality.

In the next sentence, you could also use "one" instead of "us":
Indeed, the main implication of the oversimplification of the human biological & cultural diversity leads us to adopt an erroneous theory of biological determinism to address the complex relations between culture and biology of the Homo sapiens species.

Excellent work!


Sarah, EssayForum.com

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