The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea

Robert Wald Sussman. Harvard, $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-674-41731-1
Sussman, an anthropology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, explores and explodes the concept of race. He contends that, in the face of a longstanding scientific consensus that race possesses no biological basis, many people still mistakenly believe that traits like aggression, intelligence, and generosity can be traced to it. Noting that racial distinctions between humans have no biological basis is not new, Sussman makes his contribution by exposing the ways that academic “science” is invoked to authorize an outmoded concept. He traces the history of ideas about race, moving briskly from the Spanish Inquisition to Linnaeus and Kant, and offering a detailed discussion of eugenics. Lest readers imagine this is all in the distant past, Sussman devotes his last three chapters to the funding mechanisms that keep racist research alive today. He shows that “science” has been used in efforts to overturn civil rights legislation, and he examines the ways racist discourse has become intertwined with immigration policy. This book, which is both provocative and commonsensical, will be useful to scholars, but may also spark a broader conversation. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/25/2014
Release date: 09/08/2014
Ebook - 385 pages - 978-0-674-73616-0
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-674-66003-8
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