Cultural Anthropology

Explaining the Anthropology of Race

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"Explaining the Anthropology of Race"
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Defining "race" within the human context means one thing - the stigmatization of some, and the reinforcement of elitism for others. It defines those who "have" and those who "have not" in life, and trying to find an answer through scientific means have left modern anthropologists agreeing that race is a social concept, not a biological one.

Past scientific study has shown us that there is no evidence to show that there are different groups of human beings that can show a biologically superior distinction over others, and so the question of racial superiority is now mostly defunct save for that pervasive force in society, known as racial discrimination.

Anthropologists would assert that the human situation and how mankind has developed is not down to a means of "natural selection" but more a development of social and economic influence defined by culture and religion.

However it can be seen that Mankind has become master of all he surveys because of his opposable thumb and his supreme expertise in the manipulation of his environment. Some anthropologists feel that evidence doesn't just point to one single "Eve" of common man and still pursue the answer to the biggest question of all - that of "the missing link".

Will we ever indeed find the final piece of the jigsaw that will explain everything that we need to know about our initial ancestor? Or will we eventually gather enough evidence to show natural evolution came from a combination of factors involving other members of different subspecies?

Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele, in "Race: The Reality of Human Differences" say, "racial differences in humans exceed the differences that separate subspecies or even species in such other primates as gorillas and chimpanzees" and that "race is a biologically real phenomenon with important consequences"

This implies that there was a "pecking order" in relation to the evolution of man involving a different rate of biological development in each sub species. Has that pecking order endured over the years? Do we have a racial patterning that we feel on an instinctive level?

The discovery of a skin color gene, SLC24A5 will give credence to the theory that there is a molecular indication between different types of people. However, the question of environmental influence still plays an important part in the theory of the diversity of race bolstered by the research made into the chemical melanin and its reaction to sunlight.

For example, those that have been exposed to more sun, tend to have darker skin tones, as opposed to their more light sinned contemporaries who live further away from the equator. Can this be proved to be a biological variance in race due to external environmental exposure?

Ultimately, time will show whether we all have just one common ancestor. There are new discoveries being made every day, and new theories discussed and controversy and debate will serve to discuss the question of human race in an enlightened and reasoned manner.

And if anthropology does find that the answer to the "missing link" is indeed one of racial diversity?

I shall look at my hubby, and say, "OK, so your ancestor was a gorilla and mine was a chimp. Get over it, it is still your turn to wash the dishes tonight!"

More about this author: Jane Allyson

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