Race is a Social Construction

Race is a Social Construction

Living Anthropologically

Jason Antrosio, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York

I usually avoid the phrase “race is a social construction.” It’s become too much of a mantra, it’s too much of a shortcut, and it is wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted. A perhaps better phrase–still concise but more accurate, and hopefully less susceptible to misinterpretation, is from John H. Relethford: Race is a “culturally constructed label that crudely and imprecisely describes real variation” (Race and global patterns of phenotypic variation 2009:20).

It is important to spell out what that means, and what people were after with the “race is a social construction” phrase. I am going to go out on an optimistic limb here and say that some recent posts on popular genetic-sorting blogs–Gene Expression and Dienekes–demonstrate these bloggers 1) acknowledge the genetic clustering data exhibits much more complexity and tells a much more complex story of human movement and mixing than is popularly understood; and 2) therefore acknowledge that the lived experience of racial classification can be much more real than the kinds of genetic clustering they are outlining; so that 3) correctly understood they are at least tacitly acknowledging that indeed “race is a social construction.”

Now before any of these bloggers or the people who inhabit their comment streams jump in and crush me, I want to make clear that this is an optimistic reading of some recent posts; that these comments apply to the main bloggers and not necessarily the commenters; and that since I am not a regular reader of these blogs, this may not be a new development even as I am reading a difference in tone…

Read the entire article here.

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