The Real Race Problem – Part 2

On the eve of the one-hundred and eighth anniversary of W.E.B. Du Bois’ newspaper The Crisis, we are presenting, in its entirety, a lecture from the distinguished anthropologist, mentor and head of the Anthropology Department at Columbia University for many years – Dr. Franz Boas on the subject of the “race” problem.

THE REAL RACE PROBLEM – PART 2
By FRANZ BOAS, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
DECEMBER, 1910

[Professor Franz Boas, who writes the leading article this month, is a member of the Department of Anthropology in Columbia University. The editor of Science reports that the leading scientists of America regard this department of Columbia as the strongest in the country. This gives a peculiar weight to Dr. Boas’ words, which were first delivered at the Second National Negro Conference in May, 1910.]– W.E.B. Du Bois

CASE OF THE MULATTO


The question that confronts us is not alone the question of the mental aptitude of the full-blood Negro, but also the question of the ability, vigor, and adaptability of the mulatto. In the course of time, since the Negro has been imported into America, a very large amount of influx of white blood has taken place, which has had the result that in those parts of the country where the Negro does not form a very great majority, full-bloods are presumably quite rare. Owing to the peculiar manner of development of this mulatto population, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to trace the exact amount of white blood and of Negro blood in the mixed races; but even a cursory examination of the prevalent types of the colored population shows clearly that the mixture is very extended. Here the point has often been raised that the mulatto population is inferior to either pure race, or, to use the popular form of expression, that they inherit all the evil characteristics of both parental races, and none of their good qualities. It is obvious that in this exaggerated form the statement is untrue. As a matter of fact, this theory is generally used only so far as it may suit our purposes; and the statement that a mulatto of exceptional ability and strength of character owes his eminence to the white strain in his blood is seriously made without being felt as a contradiction to this theory. Serious attempts have been made to investigate the social and vital characteristics of the mulatto as compared to the Negro race and to the white race; but here again we must recognize with regret that a sound basis for safe conclusions has not been gained yet. It is very difficult to differentiate clearly between those characteristics of the mulatto that are due to the social conditions under which he lives, and those that are due to hereditary causes. In order to determine the actual conditions with any degree of accuracy, extensive investigations would have to be carried through with this specific object in view. It seems to my mind that the assumption which is generally made is very unlikely, for it ought to be possible to find, either in history or in biology, parallel cases demonstrating the evil effects of intermixture upon mixed types. It seems to my mind that the whole early history of our domesticated animals indicates that mixture has hardly ever had detrimental effect upon the development of varieties. Practically none of our domesticated animals are descendants of a single species. The probable history of our European cattle will illustrate what presumably happened. In all likelihood cattle were first domesticated in Asia and came to Europe in company with a number of tribes that migrated from the East westward. At this period large herds of wild cattle existed in Europe. The herds attracted the wild native bulls, which belonged to a distinct species of cattle, and a gradual mixture of the blood of the domesticated and of the wild cattle took place, which had the effect of modifying the type of the animal that was kept.


MODIFICATION IN TYPE


In the same way domesticated cattle would from time to time escape and join the wild herds; so that admixture occurred also in the wild species. This gradual modification of the type of both wild and domesticated animals may be observed even at the present time in Siberia and in Central Asia; and a zoological investigation of our domesticated animals has shown that practically in all cases this has been the development of the existing types. It is a peculiarity incident to domestication that intermixture of distinct types is facilitated. Among wild animals, mixture of different species is, on the whole, rare; and mixture of distinct varieties of the same species does not ordinarily occur, because each variety has its own local habitat. If we want to understand analogous conditions in mankind clearly, we must remember that man, in his bodily form and in his physiological functions, is strictly analogous to domesticated animals. Practically everywhere human culture has advanced so far that the anatomical type of man cannot be compared to that of wild animals, but must be considered as analogous to the type of domesticated animals. This condition has brought it about that intermixture of distinct types has always been easy. The types of man which were originally strictly localized have not remained so, but extended migrations have been the rule ever since very early times; in fact, as far back as our knowledge of prehistoric archaeology carries us. Therefore, we find mixtures between distinct types the world over. For our present consideration the mixed types that occur on the borderland of the Negro races seem particularly interesting. I mention among these the Western people of the Polynesian Islands, who are undoubtedly a mixture of negroid types and of another type related to the Malay, a highly gifted people, which, before European contact, had developed a peculiar and interesting culture of their own. More interesting than these are the inhabitants of the southern borderland of the Sahara.


HOW POPULATIONS WERE MIXED


In olden times this was the home of the darkest Negro races; but immediately north of them were found people of much lighter complexion, which, in descent, belong to the group of Mediterranean people. They belong to the same group which developed the ancient Egyptian civilization. For long periods these people have made inroads into the Negro territory south of the Sahara, and have established the empire of the Sudan, whose history we can trace about a thousand years back. In this manner a mixed population has developed in many of these regions which has proved exceedingly capable, which has produced a great many men of great power, and which has succeeded in assimilating a considerable amount of Arab culture. It is quite remarkable to see how, in some of the more remote parts of this country, where intermixture has been very slight, the pure Negro type dominates and has developed exactly the same type of culture which is found in other regions, where the North African type predominates. The development of culture, and the degree of assimilation of foreign elements, depend, in this whole area, not upon the purity of the race, but upon the stability of political conditions, which during long periods have been characterized by an alternation of peaceful development and of warlike conquest. The history of East Africa, with its extended migrations of people from north to south, is another case illustrating the infusion of foreign blood into the African race without in any way modifying the cultural conditions of the continent, except so far as the introduction of new inventions is concerned.


MULATTO NOT INFERIOR


I think, therefore, that biological analogy as well as historical evidence do not favor the assumption of any material inferiority of the mulatto. The question, however, deserves a painstaking investigation. The simple facts that Negroes and Europeans live side by side in our country, that the European receives constant large additions from abroad, while the amount of Negro blood receives no additions from outside, must necessarily lead to the result that the relative number of pure Negroes will become less and less in our country. The gradual process of elimination of the full-blooded Negro may be retarded by legislation, but it cannot possibly be avoided. It seems to my mind that a very serious misunderstanding of the actual conditions of intermixture between Negro and white prevails in many parts of our country. The fear is often expressed that by intermixture between whites and Negroes the whole mass of the white population might be infused with a certain amount of Negro blood. This is not what has actually occurred, but what would result if unions between white women and Negro men were as frequent as unions between Negro men and white women. As a matter of fact, however, the former type of unions—that of the Negro male and of the white female— are exceedingly few in number as compared to the others. It therefore follows that our mulattoes are almost throughout the offspring of Negro mothers and white fathers. Now, we must remember that the total number of children born in the community depends upon the number of mothers, and that the number of children born of the Negro or mulatto women would be approximately the same, no matter whether the fathers are Negroes, mulattoes, or white men. It thus appears that in all cases where mixture between whites and Negroes occurs, as long as this mixture is predominantly a mixture of white fathers and colored mothers, the relative proportion of Negro blood in the following mixed generation becomes less, and that therefore a gradually increasing similarity of the two racial types may develop. I think we may say with safety that the intensity of racial feeling always depends upon two important causes. The one is the relative number of the two races which come into contact. Where one of the races is overwhelmingly in the majority, and the other race is represented by a few individuals only, intensity of race feeling is generally rather slight; while in all cases where both types are so numerous as to form large social divisions, characterized by habits of their own, and representing a strong economic influence, intense race feelings easily develop. These feelings are strongly emphasized by a second consideration: namely, the amount of difference of type. This is true, at least, in all countries inhabited by north European, particularly by Teutonic, nations. As long as the general emotional state of our society persists— and there is no reason to assume that our general attitude will change to any appreciable degree within a measurable time —it seems obvious that our race problems will become the less intense, the less the difference in type between the different groups of our people, and the less the isolation of certain social groups. From this point of view, it would seem that one aspect of the solution of the Negro problem lies entirely in the hands of the Negro himself. The less Negro society represents a party with its own aims and its own interest distinct from those of the members of the white race, the more satisfactory will be the relation between the races. On the other hand, it would seem that the inexorable conditions of our life will gradually make toward the disappearance of the most distinctive type of Negro, which will again tend to alleviate the acuteness of race feeling. It may seem like a look into a distant future; but an unbiased examination of conditions as they exist at the present time points to the ultimate result of a levelling of the deep distinctions between the two races and a more and more fruitful co-operation.


SOURCE:

Boas, Franz. “The Real Race Problem.” The Crisis: a record of the Darker Races Dec. 1910: 22-25; Photo: Courtesy of wnycstudios.org

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The Real Race Problem – Part 1

On the eve of the one-hundred and eighth anniversary of W.E.B. Du Bois’ newspaper The Crisis, we are presenting, in its entirety, a lecture from the distinguished anthropologist, mentor and head of the Anthropology Department at Columbia University for many years – Dr. Franz Boas on the subject of the “race” problem.

THE REAL RACE PROBLEM
By FRANZ BOAS, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
DECEMBER, 1910


[Professor Franz Boas, who writes the leading article this month, is a member of the Department of Anthropology in Columbia University. The editor of Science reports that the leading scientists of America regard this department of Columbia as the strongest in the country. This gives a peculiar weight to Dr. Boas’ words, which were first delivered at the Second National Negro Conference in May, 1910.]– W.E.B. Du Bois


The essential problem before us is founded on the presence of two entirely distinct human types in the same community, and relates to the best possible correlation of the activities of these two types. On the whole, the answer to this problem has been based on the assumption of the superiority of the one type and the inferiority of the other. The first question to be answered by scientific investigation is, in how far the Negro type may be considered the inferior, the white type as the superior.

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The Culture of Corruption



Many of us know that political corruption is not new to the world. It is an unsavory, human practice with a history that extends far back into ancient times, countries, and rulers. Unlike modern times, there were no checks and balances of power then and rulers were free to rule however they saw fit. During those times, political corruption focused itself mostly in a single civilization at a given time. But nowhere did this phenomenon reach such a height of prevalence and sophistication as in the Roman Empire. All one has to do is read the voluminous work of Edward Gibbon to realize the depth of perversion and destruction this practice brought to a once high civilization. This blog has focused on corruption before but mostly in Latin America, however recently it seems that corruption has reached “epidemic” levels throughout the entire world and this will be our focus.

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Teaching Anthropology in 2018

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Recently, a colleague contacted me with a very interesting and specific question. At the time, I was on the road and too busy to address his inquiry. I asked him to hold on until I had time to think about how to approach the question. After some thought, I decided to respond by penning this opinion piece to express my ideas. It seems that everything around us these days are changing, so the interest of academicians in wanting to “open up” to possible new approaches to the discipline is refreshing.  These are some of the main subjects that, in my opinion, would be interesting to those wanting to study the discipline.

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There’s Something in the Water



A recent death in the family necessitated a return to the United States after living abroad for the past ten years. A family member in Miami has a large home, so I stayed there for six months while handling family business. From the very beginning, I noticed a slight discoloration in the tap water in Miami. It was not a thick discoloration but more like a light “tea” color something akin to Chamomile tea. Of course, I made inquiries but everyone seemed to be accustomed to it. No one seemed to think that there was anything unusual about the color or the after taste of the water. Most people just passed it off and stated that they buy “purified” water anyway (whatever that means). All of this prompted me to look further into the situation of the water supply in the US and particularly the Flint Michigan water crisis.

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The Struggle for Power by Keith Hart

 

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Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ten Rules of Change in the Post-Crisis World by Ruchir Sharma, London: Allen Lane, 2016; pp 464, £25.

Ruchir Sharma grew up between Mumbai,  Delhi  and  Singapore. He entered the world of international investment in the early 1990s as a specialist in emerging markets. He has travelled  a  lot  ever  since—around  one week a month on average. He was also an  active  journalist  at  first,  posting vignettes drawn from his travels in the mass media. In 2012, he published Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles which is said to have broken sales  records.  He  is  now  the  head  of emerging markets and chief global strategist  at  Morgan  Stanley  Investment Management in New York. In his earlier book,  he  reported  the  views  of  village barbers as well as celebrities, but in the present one, we just get the celebrities.

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Anthropology and the New Human Universal by Keith Hart

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World society today resembles nothing so much as the eighteenth century ancient régime that Kant had every reason to believe had been abolished by revolution. Now a rich, aging white minority inured to luxuries unimaginable two centuries ago presides over masses whose passivity is measured by their lack of spending power (Hart 2002). The institutional legacy of 5,000 years of agrarian civilization, Childe’s (1954) “urban revolution”, still weighs heavily with us. The traditional recipe for managing inequality, to inject as much distance as possible between rich and poor, is contradicted by a world being drawn closer together by the digital revolution in communications. Yet, rather than embrace as inevitable its demographic replacement by the young, darker, poor masses, the dominant white elite frantically erects further barriers against entry whose principle is apartheid generalized to a world scale.

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Gun Violence in American Schools

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There is something terribly wrong going on in American schools today. A silent epidemic is spreading throughout the country like a cancer. What does it say about a society when children and adolescents can get their hands on military grade weapons, somehow get them into their schools and gun down dozens of fellow classmates and teachers? Where are all the scientists (CDC, think tanks, privately funded research firms) and why aren’t they screaming from the top of the roofs about the dangers of such a phenomenon becoming “normalized”? When we step back and take a sobering look at the facts, we will find that we are closer to normalizing such behavior than we actually realize. Without a doubt, these horrific acts are becoming more frequent.

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The Bitcoin Controversy


Most people have already heard of Bitcoin. However, very few know what it is or how it originated. Many people know that it is some form of “cryptocurrency” but only a few know what that term means. Those of us that spend time on the Internet are familiar with the term but do not know that Bitcoin is just one form of cryptocurrency – there are others. Also, a lot of people are familiar with PayPal and other online payment platforms but do not associate cryptocurrencies in the same way. There is a lot of controversy but there is also a sign that cryptocurrencies may be here to stay.

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Brazil’s Dichotomous Treatment of Corruption – PT 3


Brazil had an opportunity to be a leading, democratic, Latin American country but lost its sense of direction. The political system designed to assist emerging countries grow and prosper does not work there. Instead of growing, as so many predicted it would, over the last seven years the country has fallen apart.

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Brazil’s Dichotomous Treatment of Corruption – PT 2


After the end of the Brazilian military dictatorship, the Liberal Front Party (LFP), Democratic Social Party (PMDB) and Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) dominated the government of Brazil. For more than 20 years, right wing and centrists autocrats controlled the government and struggled with enormous foreign debt, rampant hyperinflation, and the difficulties of transitioning to democracy.

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Brazil’s Dichotomous Treatment of Corruption – PT 1

Brazil is a country saturated with corruption. From the small, family-owned mom and pop neighborhood grocery store to the hallowed halls of the Senate and Congress, the country suffers from a cancer that consumes the bone marrow of its political elements, economic structures, and social relationships. The one-time rising star of Latin America and its fall from grace has been both dramatic and shocking. Political chaos, administrative mismanagement, and digressive legislation now overwhelm this once hopeful democratic republic.

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The Open Anthropology Cooperative: Towards an Online Public Anthropology

 

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We attempt here to explore the relationship between anthropology, social media and public engagement through a web-based network that we helped to found and manage. We argue that obscure social and technical dynamics are at work here, but academic anthropology today also poses significant obstacles for this enterprise.

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Preface to the Coming World Crisis


Trump’s election has accelerated talk on the left of the end of (neo-) liberalism and the rise of fascism in the West. The prospects for world war seem closer now. As when the 2008 crash is placed in history, comparison is usually with the 1930s. We need rather to develop a perspective on 1900-2100 as a whole. There have been enormous demographic shifts in that time: Europe had 25% of the world population in 1900, Africa 7.5%; Europe is predicted to have a 6% share in 2100 and Africa 40% — all the Americas, Europe and Russia, Australasia and Oceania together will then account for only 18%, Africa and Asia 82%.

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What Anthropologists Really Do


The Summary


The new anthropologist is a self-appointed people’s representative in the double sense of writing them up and acting as their advocate. And anthropology is a sort of democratic politics, informed by long-term, empty-headed exposure to strangers wherever they live and shaped by the main public issues of the day. This populism is hostile to elites, especially experts; it is anti-intellectual and definitely anti-scientific. The ethnographer is confident of making a difference simply by being open to what ordinary people think and do. There are no shared ideas in this discipline and whatever passed for theory before is now dismissed as a preoccupation with outlandish customs for their own sake.

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Mess in the Middle East


Many people throughout the Western world do not understand what is happening in the Middle East. Much of the confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the complicated relations between countries, land, people, and political objectives. One particular myth is these conflicts go back as far as the Crusades and the wars between Muslims and Christians. However, this is not the case for current modern day conflicts, wars, and the destabilization that has taken hold of the region. Although, one could argue that outside foreign influence is responsible for starting the present day chaos, still there exist conflicts between different Muslim countries, people and rulers.

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The Second American Revolution


Well, it only took about two-hundred and forty years but the greatest fear of the writers of the Constitution of the United States has taken place. A rich, capitalist class of billionaire Americans have finally taken over the government. It seems that political representatives from states all over the country have sold out their constituents and are peddling themselves to billionaire donors. Of course, many of us already knew that these interests had been working in the shadows to usurp the power of the Constitution and civil liberties for decades. But now, these interests have come out of the darkness into the clear light of day in full array and unbridled hubris.

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Religion and Economy – Part Two

Religion and Economy – Part Two


We need to understand better how we build the infrastructures of collective existence, money among them. How do meanings come to be shared and memory to transcend the minutiae of personal experience? Property must endure in order to be property and that depends on memory. Money thus expands the capacity of individuals to stabilize their own personal identity by holding something durable that embodies the desires and wealth of all the other members of society. Money is a ‘memory bank’ (Hart 2001 Money in an Unequal World; http://thememorybank.co.uk/book/), a store allowing individuals to keep track of those exchanges they wish to calculate and a source of memory for the community. Economic history is dialectical. Most people become quite anxious when they depend on impersonal and anonymous institutions. This is an immense force for reversing the historical pattern of alienation on which the modern economy has been built. How we combine the personal and impersonal aspects of money has much in common with religion.

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Religion and Economy – Part One

Religion and Economy – Part One


Religion belongs to a set of terms that also includes art and science. Science began as a form of knowledge opposed to religious mysticism, but is now often opposed to the arts. If science may crudely be said to be the drive to know the world objectively and art is mainly a means of subjective self-expression, religion typically addresses both sides of the subject-object relationship by connecting our inner being to what is outside. Religion binds something inside each of us to an external force; it stabilizes our meaningful interactions with the world, providing an anchor for our volatility.

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Capitalism, revolution and racism in the US and the world

Capitalism, revolution and racism in the US and the world


In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, we would do well to recall Hegel’s maxim that difference-in-sameness moves history. Max Weber used a similar argument to moderate the polarised Methodenstreit (Battle over Methods) between Berlin and Vienna about economics in the late 19th century. We would not be interested in the Greeks if they were the same as us, he wrote, and we couldn’t understand them, if they were completely different.

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Brexit: Where once was an empire


Separation from Europe has opened up the real possibility that the United Kingdom will break up. Scotland is already bent on secession and the two Irelands may resolve the problem of belonging to different commercial regimes by reunification. The London media portray such an outcome as unthinkable. My aim here is to recall the violent innovation of the United Kingdom’s formation 300 years ago, lest we forget where the ‘UK’ came from and how.

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Measures of Quality Education

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Measures of Quality Education

When I first came to Brazil, I quickly became aware of the problem in the educational system here. So, I began to collect statistics and study why the educational levels were so low. During that time, Lula was the president and Brazil was making a serious effort to address its problems in education. The country was allocating an increasing amount of the GDP to improving the schools, opening new colleges and universities across the country and providing programs to finance education to deserving students. As I delved deeper into this study, I began to widen the scope of the research to include other countries. Along with the World Economic Forum’s reports, there are several other watchdog organizations monitoring this area and several other sources reporting on it. So, why is this so important? Well, believe it or not education is an indicator of how economies shape up and a country’s growth factor. Some of those factors include the quality of products manufactured, the amount of a country’s productivity, the future of the countries industries, projected economic growth, competitiveness, and the quality of its leadership.
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Why do Leaders Fail?

Augusto Pinochet
Why do Leaders Fail?

This is an opinion piece that some might say loosely fits within the realm of anthropology. And yet, if one could say that anthropology is the genealogy and archaeology of human activity, then under those circumstances it should be appropriate. I wish to discuss those things that any head of State, President, or sovereign leader should attempt to avoid in order not to be hated or despised by their people, the military of their country, or the rich and wealthy. Characteristics that will succeed in preventing them from being fearful of danger or reproach.
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Perennial Narratives in Anthropology

Perennial Narratives

Since the 1960s, there has not been any new innovative advances in the field of anthropology. Although some good work has been done, most of it has been concerned with fleshing out the subtler nuances of what was discovered during that time. The 1960s and 1970s brought to anthropology issues of critical theory and awareness in American, British and French anthropology. Scholars focused on discovering important similarities and establishing links between factors that previously were hidden. It is safe to say that it was a period of reflection that sought to diversify conventional views by yielding new constitutive elements to a traditional practice. Armed with meticulous research, scholars sought to analyze the relations within politics, science and ethics and the processes that interacted with one another in their formation. This movement became known as the “crisis of representation” (Marcus and Fischer) whose purpose it was to lay bare the conditions and show the generative factors behind discourses in civil and political activism, feminism, environmental pollution, the growth of ghettos, health and wealth disparities between the rich and poor, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, the impact of globalization, migration, material culture, and economic development. Continue reading “Perennial Narratives in Anthropology”