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Could Early Anthropologists Be Called Racist?


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#1 IamJoy

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 05:57 PM

I'd like to know how early anthropologists in the 1800s described the hunter-gathers and planes people that they studied. Did they understand them, or did they perceive them as being a different class/breed of human? Even today we still refer to tribes people as being 'primative', which I believe is wrong. So I'm wondering whether in the earlier history of anthropology the attitudes and perceptions towards so-called 'primative' peoples were far worse than today.

I get the general impression that in the 1800s researchers who studied 'primative' peoples believed they were kind of 'sub-human'. I know that sometimes public displays of people were arranged; but I'm not interested in that. I want to know about the attitudes of the anthropologists and what they wrote in those times.

I've done a lot of searching online without success. So I was wondering whether anyone here knows of suitable books, papers, websites where I could find this information and be able to read the actual impressions that the early anthropologists had about races and cultures other than their own.

Thank you.

#2 CraigD

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 06:35 PM

I'd like to know how early anthropologists in the 1800s described the hunter-gathers and planes people that they studied. Did they understand them, or did they perceive them as being a different class/breed of human?

I believe most anthropologists and biologist prior to the mid 20th century would, by present day standards, be considered racist, because their understanding of human genetics was insufficiently advanced to discredit the conclusion that different ethnic populations did not have greatly different intellectual, moral, and other mental facilities, and that these traits could persist across many generations.

It's only been fairly recently - around 2002, as the human genome was completely sequenced, and large amounts of analysis began to give an more advanced understanding of the actual biochemical mechanism of physical and mental traits and their transmission across generations, that its been possible to scientifically conclude that the "racist" conclusions of previous scientists and non-scientists are incorrect, not just morally, but scientifically.

There's a lot of material on this subject available online. A search for the phrase "no such thing as race" is a good starting point for reading it.