`Race' as a scientific and organizational construct: a critique
Author: Cravins, G.G.
Source: GeoJournal, Volume 41, Number 3, March 1997 , pp. 233-243(11)
Abstract:`Race' for many years has been a major construct of science and society. While its importance as such has not historically been particularly pronounced on a global scale, the emergence of its most forceful architects, the Anglophone countries, to pre-eminence since World War II has significantly extended its geographical range and added to its significance as an idea within commercialized culture as well as within social organization.
In the present paper, `race' is critically examined from the following angles: 1) its role in the behavioral and medical sciences; b) its historical origins and manifestations within the Anglophone countries, particularly the United States; and c) its emergence as a `liberal' concept and operating principle since World War II. Questions of why and how `race' arose and its continued use in science, society and culture drive both the trajectory and depth of this research. `Race' is found to be a modern construct which arose as a consequence of colonialism and slavery, and was substantially constructed in its present form and substance by England and its off-spring societies, particularly the United States. `Race' was not used as a term expressing a social idea until modern times, and had no basis in the primordial civilizations which greatly influenced modern Western societies (e.g., ancient Greece and Rome). Efforts undertaken by liberals –particularly in the United States – to `humanize' the concept of `race' since the 1960's have been largely unsuccessful. `Race' is viewed as inherently hierarchical, a fact which is evident from its historical and present role in science and society.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: Department of Geography and Earth Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI 54601, USA
Publication date: March 1, 1997