Gender and the Deconstruction of the Race Concept

by Leonard Lieberman
Gender and the Deconstruction of the Race Concept
Leonard Lieberman
American Anthropologist
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Gender and the Deconstruction of the

Hierarchies, relations of domination, subordination, power and control are not necessarily inherent in nature but are an integral part of the conceptual framework of persons bred in a civilization constructed on principles of stratifi- cation. [Bleier 1984:200]

For centuries race and gender have been integral parts of the conceptual framework used to maintain hi- erarchies of domination and control. But in this century both concepts have undergone deconstruction. Race as a scientific concept has lost consensus, while gender concepts are being newly reconstructed by feminists working in several scientific and humanistic disci- plines. The deconstruction and reconstruction of the notions of race and gender are related in diverse ways.

In this essay I utilize historical, biographical, and survey data to clarify, in part, the role women have played in deconstructing the race concept in anthropol- ogy. This was accomplishedin three ways: first, through the participation of women in the critique of racism; second, through their participation in the construction of the concept of culture, which provided an alternative explanation to that of racial determinism; and third, and most recently, through the higher frequency of rejection of the race concept by women. I first discuss the role women played prior to 1960 in challenging the racism that lay at the core of the race concept. Then I analyze why the acceptance of race declined to different levels in four separate disciplines after 1965 and consider the role played by women in this shift.

Women and Racism

Both men and women have worked to curtail rac- ism. Among the men were Franz Boas (Barkan 1992),

LEONARD LIEBERMAN is a professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1906), Otto Klineberg (1935), and Ashley Montagu (1942, 1962). Although it was not the explicit intent of Boas to cast aside the concept of race, his critique of racism contributed to that conceptual revolution, as we shall see. Among the women directly or indirectly involved in challenging racism in the first half of this century were Ruth Benedict, Ruth Bunzel, Caroline Bond Day, Ella Cara Deloria, Ellen Irene Diggs, Katherine Dunham, May Edel, Dorothy Keur, Ruth Lan- des, Nancy Oestreich Lurie, Margaret Mead, Hortense Powdermaker, Gitel Poznanski Steed, Gladys Reichard, and Gene Weltfish. (See Table 1for life spans, early pub- lications, and references.)

A number of these women experienced racism and prejudice because of their African, Jewish, or Native American ancestry (e.g., Day, Deloria, Diggs, Edel, Green, Landes, Powdermaker, Steed, and Weltfish). To- gether with women of European origin, they met obsta- cles to their careers in colleges and universities, obsta- cles usually based solely on their status as woman or wife. A number of them never held an "official univer- sity position, a full-time appointment or tenure, and/or [they] faced years of unemployment after receipt of their degree" (e.g., Landes, Powdermaker, Steed, and Weltfish) (Gacs et al. 1989:xvii). All of them conducted fieldwork in which they participated in the lives of ex- ploited people of the third world, inside and outside of the United States, and all lived through the period of shocked awareness when the Holocaust was fully re- vealed after World War 11.

Almost all were encouraged by Boas at Columbia University, as well as by Benedict, Mead, and Weltfish. During the time that Benedict was active in Columbia's Department of Anthropology, 19 women (and 20 men) received Ph.D.s (Babcock and Parezo 1994:112). But even after their training, there remained obstacles in the path of a woman's career (see Parezo 1994a). Many of these women took their stand against injustice even

American Anthropolo~ist 99(3):545-558. Copyright @ 1997, American Anthropological Association.

Table 1

Women and antiracism through 1960

Anthropologist Publication(s) or Activity Source(s)

Ruth Benedict, 1887-1948 1940,1943 Babcock 1994; Caffrey 1989; Modell 1989
Ruth Leah Bunzel, 1898-1990a 1972 [I9291 Bunzel1959; Hardin 1994
Natalie Curtis Burlin, 1875-1921 1904 Babcock and Parezo 1988, Hinton 1994
Ella Cara Deloria, 1888-1971 1929,1944 Medicine 1989
Ellen Irene Diggs, 1906- Cofounded Phylon with Bolles 1989
  W. E. B. DuBois, 1940  
Katherine Dunham, 1912- 1941 Aschenbre~er 1989
May Edel, 1909-1964a see Weltfih 1981 Bunze11966
Alice Fletcher, 1838-1923 1883 Lurie 1966
Estelle Fuchs, 1922- 1991b 1991b
Esther S. Goldfrank, 1896- 1927 Lange 1994
Zora Neale Hurston, 1903-1960 1934 Hemenway 1980; Mikell1989
Bernice Kaplan, 1923- 1954 Kaplan 1954
Dorothy Keur, 1904- 1941 James 1989
Ruth Landes, 1908-1991a 1952,1955 Park and Park 1989
Eleanor Burke Leacock, 1922-1987 1949 Gailey 1989
Dorothea Leighton, 1908-1992a 1946' Griffen 1989
Nancy Oestreich Lurie, 1924- 1944 Ganteaurne 1989
Alice Marriott, 1910-199Za 1948 Gordon 1994
Margaret Mead, 1901-1978 1928,1930 Yans-McLaughlin 1989
Elsie Clews Parsons, 1875-1941 1919,1936 Babcock and Parezo 1988; Hieb 1994
Hortense Powdermaker, 1896-1970 1939,1944a, 1944b Silverman 1989
Gitel Poznanski (Steed), 1914-1977 1946 Berleant-Schiller 1989
Gladys Reichard, 1893-1955 1928,1943 Gordon 1994; Larnphere 1994; Leacock 1989
Matilda Coxe Stevenson, 1849-1915a 1881,1888,1898 Parezo 1989
Ruth Underhill, 1883-1984 1936,1938 Babcock and Parezo 1988; Halpern 1994; Tisdale 1994
Gene Weltfiih, 1902-1980 1945 Path6 1989

Note: This list cannot be complete and is only meant to underline the signficance of the work of women in constructing ethnography, the culture idea, and antiracism. My apologies to the many women whom I have not been able to include. Consulted were all volumes of the American Anthropologist and the American Journal of Physical Anthropology up to and including 1960, and anthropology books listed in the Central Michigan University computer catalogue for the same period. Especially helpful were Parezo 1994% Babcock and Parezo 1988, Gacs et alia 1989, and Lurie 1966. a See Price n.d.

Estelle Fuchs, personal communication, 1991.

See Leighton and Kluckhohn 1946.

before their commitment to anthropology, largely are the works of Ruth Benedict (1943) and Gene Welt- through involvement in "women's rights, civil rights and fish (1945) correcting racial misinformation, and the labor activism, social work, teaching in other academic work of Caroline Day, an African American anthropolo- disciplines, and writingn (Gacs et al. 1989:xv). As an-gist trained under Earnest A. Hooton, disproving ideas thropologists, many combated racism through their about the allegedly harmful effects of racial cross- teaching and publications. In 1935, Gene Weltfish mating (Day 1932; Harrison 1992). Also from this sub- taught one of the earliest courses on race problems field came Bernice Kaplan's (1954) essay stressing envi- (Path6 1989:375). In 1940, Ellen Irene Diggs cofounded ronment and human plasticity and Lois Mednick and Phylon (The Atlanta University Review of Race and Martin Orans's (1956) discussion of the sickle-cell gene, Culture) with W. E. B. Du Bois. In 1944, Ella Cara De- which demonstrated that it is not confined to a sub- loria wrote Speaking of Indians, in which she rejected Saharan population. All of these women helped to com- stereotypes and stressed the importance of kin obliga- bat racial stereotypes involving biological dimensions. tions and the obstacles faced on reservations (Medicine In 1926, Zora Neale Hurston began her fieldwork 1989). measuring physical characteristics in Harlem as a part

Among the relatively few contributions listed in Ta- of Franz Boas's research challenging the prevailing ble 1 that spring directly from physical anthropology ideas of African American inferiority (Hemenway 1980:88). In the 1930s she assisted a research team headed by Otto Klineberg investigating "musical ability in black communities of New Orleansn (Mikell 1989: 161). Hurston was committed to identifying unrecog- nized dimensions of black culture. Her later work in the Caribbean was concerned with "women as culture bear- ers," and the exploitation of black women, whom she re- ferred to as "the mules of the Caribbean" (Mikell 1989:162-163). Her contribution to combating racism was vigorous.

In Hidden Scholars, Nancy J. Parezo reports that 3,500 men and 1,600 women have published on Native Americans in the American Southwest (1994:xii). The names of the men are well known in anthropology- Bandelier, Cushing, Devereaux, Eggan, Haury, Kluck- hohn, Kroeber, and Powell-but Ruth Benedict is the only woman widely acknowledged in the discipline's histories (Kehoe 1995:1600). Clearly women scholars were viewed with ambivalence and intolerance and not given the recognition due them. Exemplary of this pat- tern is Matilda Coxe Stevenson, the first woman to work in the Southwest. A pioneer ethnologist, as well as "ex- plorer, scholar, activist, organizer, and wife" (Parezo 1994b:38), Stevenson first went to the Southwest in 1879 and published Zuni and the Zunians in 1881. In time she became the first woman paid as a government anthropologist for the Bureau of Ethnology. Her work was an attempt to change the idea that Indians were be- reft of religion, emphasizing instead that they had a real religion of their own (though she viewed it, in accord- ance with the notion of cultural evolution, as less ad- vanced than monotheism). Deborah Gordon comments that, while woman anthropologists in the Southwest were participants in the white governance and manage- ment of Native Americans, they also desired to

educate the lay public as a means of countering a general lack of empathy for and interest in Native Americans on the part of members of the white culture. Like their white male counterparts, these women saw themselves as fighting ig- norance and racism through education and supporting val- ues of tolerance, curiosity, and openness in the face of cultural differences among whites and Native Americans.

[1994: 1321

At first, female anthropologists were welcomed be- cause they complemented male fieldworkers by estab- lishing contact with Native American women, a vital area inaccessible to males. But their work was more ho- listic than was recognized.

In the first decades of the 20th century, Elsie Clews Parsons and a number of other women, inclulng an- thropological linguist Natalie Curtis Burlin,

used their fathers' fortunes or family influence to finance expeditions, collections, field schools, research, and publi- cations; to fight for Indian rights and to support and encour- age Indian arts and crafts; to persuade Theodore Roosevelt to lift the assimilationist ban against the singing and playing of Indian music; to lobby for the preservation of prehistoric ruins and for the establishment of national parks; and to build lasting and influential institutions such as the School of American Research, the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Wheelwright Museum, and the Millicent Rogers Mu- seum. [Babcock and Parezo 1988:2IA

Through such efforts, these women "laid the foundation for Pueblo ethnographic studies and made a place for women in southwestern anthropology" (Babcock and Parezo 1988:5) and the field of anthropology. As Alfred Kroeber wrote of Parsons, "Her society had encroached on her; she studied the science of society better to fight back against society" (Spier and Kroeber 1943:252). Par- sons taught graduate courses on family and sex roles at Columbia University from 1902 to 1905 and at the New School for Social Research in 1919 (Babcock and Parezo 1988: 15).

At a meeting of the American Anthropological Association in 1939, Weltfish, May Edel, and Gladys Reichard formed a small group voting, with Alexander Lesser and Edward Sapir, in support of "a resolution against Nazi classification of the racesn (Lesser 1981: 30). The resolution was overwhelmingly defeated (Barkan 1992) but was passed at a subsequent session at that conferen~e.~

Hortense Powdermaker's work in- cludes an ethnography of a Deep South community (1939) and a book on prejudice for high school students (1944b). In 1943, Katherine Dunham established a School of Arts and Research for dance in New York City, which included an Institute for Caribbean Research. She and her dancers appeared in concerts and movies, and toured Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Encountering segregation in accommodations and audience seating, she worked with the NAACP and the Urban League to desegregate audiences. Dunham believes this was one of the most important achieve- ments of her dance company (Aschenbrenner 1989; Clark and Wilkerson 1978).

Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, through their popular publications Patterns of Culture (Benedict 1934) and Coming of Age in Samoa (Mead 1928), caught the attention of millions of Americans and helped construct the concept of culture as a part of American popular and scientific reality (see Webb 1968). This enabled them to make a conceptual distinc- tion between biology, which was inherited, and culture, which was learned-an essential step in reducing rac- ism and ethnocentrism.

In Race: Science and Politics (1940), Benedict criti- cized and corrected a number of racist beliefs. Her biog- rapher Margaret Caffrey summarized Benedict's argu- ment this way:

[Benedict] showed that scientifically there were no "puren races; the aeons-long migrations of peoples had seen to that. She stressed that race mixture was not evil but natural and even positive; that when mixed children were inferior it was due to social discrimination, not physical degener- acy. ...On the question of mental superiority, she gave the example of the World War I I.Q. tests, which showed that some whites from the South scored lower than some blacks from the North, and that results of the tests varied by educational opportunity, not innate intelligence. As for the argument that one race was historically destined to lead the rest, she talked of past cultures that had cycled up and then down again. . . . The necessary objective in any program concerning blacks, she wrote, was the "ultimate elimina- tion of legal, educational, economic, and social discrimina- tions."[1989:293-2941

In 1943, Benedict and Weltfish coauthored a 32- page pamphlet incorporating many of the ideas in Benedict's book. It was published by the Public Affairs Committee (a New York City nonprofit educational or- ganization) and sold for 10 cents a copy. Distribution of 55,000 copies by the U.S. Army Morale Division was blocked by Representative Andrew May of Mississippi, who objected to the comparison of intelligence scores of whites in Mississippi to blacks educated in the North, who had higher scores on the average. Controversy en- sued in the media, and thousands heard about the Pam- phlet who might otherwise never have been aware of it. In the United States, sales reached almost three-quar- ters of a million by 1945. It was translated into seven for- eign languages and used asthe basis for a filmstrip (Ed- wards 1945).

Eleanor Burke Leacock participated in antiracist community activities beginning about 1944, while en- rolled in graduate school at Columbia. She received her doctorate in 1952 but was unable to find a full-time ap- pointment teaching anthropology until 1963, when she joined the faculty of New York University. After she se- cured this position, her influence began to be felt. It in- creased after 1972 when she was asked to rebuild the anthropology program at City College. Among the nu- merous books, articles, and reviews which she wrote, the most influential included her critique of the culture of poverty as biased in terms of class and race and her work on Engels. As a faculty she was "extremely sup- portive of junior colleagues, especially those who were marginally employed" (Gailey 1989:216-219).

In general, the women identified here as antiracist did not reject the race concept; it was unthinkable to do so until racism had been reduced. But neither did they necessarily utilize the 19th-century idea of race as a fxed complex of traits or as an essence. Ruth Benedict's reconstruction of race is an example:

An understanding of the distribution of racial types in the world is possible only against this background of multiple centers of characterization in which certain hereditary traits become fixed, only to mingle with those from some other area, and again to become stabilized in a new type after mixture, and then to repeat the cycle.. . . We must accept human history for what it is, and try to think not in terms of a few primary races but in terms of an indefinite number of areas of characterization. [1940:45]

Women in other disciplines have also rejected race typologies, and it is important to note this, because the percentage of women in these disciplines was smaller in the past. An example is provided by the comparative psychologist Ethel Tobach: "On the human social level, I believe, the construct of race is not defensible by any of the acceptable criteria of validity testingn (1968: 107).

The critique of racism was a precursor to that later conceptual revolution in which race would be rejected. Racist beliefs assume race as a reality, and so long as rac- ism was an accepted truth, it would be laughable to criticize the concept of race itself. Racism was a shield that protected the race concept and made it difficult to challenge because it provided the Euro-American be- liever a sense of superiority over other races. There was also profitability in racism, as it justified low wages and other forms of discrimination from which scientists and nonscientists benefited. Beginning about the middle of the 20th century, the concept of race, without racism as its cornerstone, was less able to function in popular thought as either a rational or a romantic justification for colonial and imperial exploitation. It was less able to justify inequalities, scapegoating, and exploitation with- in the state societies of the northern hemisphere; it did not aseasily support the sense of superiority enjoyed by dominant classes. For scientists, the decline of racism made it less worthwhile to propose typologies or classi- fications of race.

Reduced racism enabled many others to concen- trate their energies on the race concept. Paradoxically, one of their reasons for doing so was that, as long as race remained a viable concept, it served to invite a re- birth of racism in some quarters of society.

The decline of racism was facilitated by wide- spread opposition to Nazi Germany and hastened by the necessary propaganda against Aryanism. Then came the shocking knowledge of the Holocaust and growing awareness of how race and racism were used to justify that systematic slaughter. Later the civil rights move- ment clarified the gross consequences of racism within the United States. With the decline of racism in anthro- pology, energies were turned to deconstructing race it- self.

The Debate over Race

The concept of race, a widely accepted scientific idea since the 18th century, was first proposed by several

biologists. The scientific discipline most responsible for its construction was physical anthropology. That few women directly challenged the race concept in pub- lications in the 1960s and 1970s in part reflected their smaller numbers in the discipline at that time. Other fac- tors limiting women's opposition to race included the prevailing absence of blind reviews in the publication process, which may have inhibited women who op- posed conventional thinking. Similarly, their promotion and tenure might have been affected.

Women were more likely to be active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the 1960s, in which they rediscovered that many males did not ex- tend the idea of equality to women. As a result, in the 1970s they turned to developing the feminist movement in the sciences and humanities by creating and publish- ing in new journals devoted to feminist research. There emerged a de facto division of labor in publications. Men more often confronted the race concept, while women in several disciplines challenged the gender concept. The exception to this pattern was Ashley Mon- tagu, who critiqued race in 1942 and gender in 1952.

Montagu vigorously expressed his concerns about the utility and consequences of the concept of race in 1942. In the United States he provided the best known opposition to the race concept until Frank Livingstone published his study (1958) on the distribution of the sickling hemoglobin in Africa. Livingstone's data pro- vided a strong alternative to typological race categories and breathed life into Julian Huxley's (1938) concept of clines (gradations) asan alternative to thinking in racial categories. Livingstone was supported in one way or an- other by Jean Hiernaux (1964), C. Loring Brace (1964), and Gloria Marshall (1968). He was opposed by Theo- dosius Dobzhansky (1963), Stanley Garn (1964), and others. Most of the debate was published in three issues of Current Anthropology, in 1962-64 (see Lieberman 1968).

This debate, coupled with the new data and the an- tiracist effect of World War 11, as well as the social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s, promised to change thinking about the concept of race. Indication of that change was first identified in a content analysis of textbooks of physical anthropology published from 1932 to 1979 (Littlefield et al. 1982). Before 1970 only 3 texts rejected the race concept while 13 presented it as a reality (N =20). The effect of the 1962-64 debate is evident between 1970 and 1979, when 14 texts rejected race and 12 supported it (N =38). Most recently, from 1980 to 1994, 13 books rejected race and 4 supported it (N =25, preliminary analysis). The remainder in each period were noncommittal, did not mention race, or were unclassifiable. By three to one, the authors of text- books in the most recent period seemed to have con- cluded either that the discipline had changed or that it was ready to do so.

The authors of the 1982 study attributed the change to numerous empirical difficulties, the political milieu of the 1960s, and entry into the discipline of scholars from more diverse backgrounds.

In 1984-85 my colleagues and I inquired further into changes in the status of the race concept among faculty at Ph.D.-granting department^.^ We asked mem- bers of four disciplines to indicate agreement or dis- agreement with this statement: "There are biological races in the species Homo sapiens. "4 As of 1985,42 per- cent of biological anthropologists at Ph.D.-granting de- partments disagreed with the concept. Among the much more numerous cultural anthropologists, 52 percent disagreed with the statement. Given the number of cul- tural anthropologists, it is evident that a somewhat larger proportion of anthropologists reject the concept than accept it. By way of contrast, in the discipline of bi- ology, race is rejected by only 12 percent of respondents (ethologists), and in developmental psychology the concept is rejected by about 34 percent.

Women and Race after 1980

The data reported above obscure the fact that women are more likely to reject race than are men in all disciplines except developmental psychology (Table 2, Total column, p =0.03). Women in cultural anthropol- ogy reject race only slightly more frequently than do men. But among respondents who list psychological an- thropology as a specialty, 71 percent of women reject race, while only 40percent of men do (psychological an- thropology: cognitive, educational, developmental, per- sonality, and so forth, p =0.02). When responses from cultural and psychological specialties are combined, 63 percent of women reject race compared to 49 percent of men (p= 0.05).

In biology, 21 percent of women and 9 percent of men reject the reality of race; in biological anthropol- ogy the figures are 50 percent of women, 40 percent of men; and in developmental psychology, 44 percent of women and 35 percent of men. Only in cultural and psy- chological anthropology do the overall majority reject race, and this is due to the votes cast by women. I do not mean to diminish the weight of men's views on race. In fact, a greater proportion of male cultural anthropolo- gists and biological anthropologists reject race than do male biologists or developmental psychologists, and be- tween 1980 and 1994, when almost all textbook authors were male, race was rejected in half of the texts and sup- ported in very few. But it is the views of women which provide the critical margin of rejection.

Table 2

Percentage of agreement with statement "There are biological races in the species Homosapiens," by discipline and gender (M = males, F = females), at Ph.D.-granting departments, 1984-85.

Biological Cultural Psychological Developmental
Biology anthropology anthropology anthropology psychology Total
Amxment M F M F M F M F M F M F
Agree 78 59 53 39 33 22 32 18 40 41 48 38
Neutral 13 21 6 11 15 22 28 12 26 26 17 19
Disgree 9 21 40 50 52 56 40 71a 35 44 35 44b
Total 100 101 99 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
(N) (113) (34) (109) (38) (124) (27) (50) (34) 1 NAc (129) (67) (525) (200) 1 NAc
a X2= 7.1719,2df, p = 0.03; X2 = 7.6963,2df,p = -0.02; NA =: no answer.    

I propose that the variation in the rejection of race and insightful overview, employing genetics to clarify is related to the concepts, traditions, and data of each the misconceptions embedded in the race concept. discipline and that gender is one factor interacting with In science, any question about concepts must also the nature of each discipline and bringing about these consider the nature of available data and how they are patterns. The primary importance of the nature of each interpreted. Many biological and cultural anthropolo- discipline is seen in the similarity of the greater rates of gists have some knowledge of the intense debate, begin- rejection of race by men and women in both biological ning in the mid-1960s, over the existence of race. From and cultural anthropology, and in the difference be- that debate there developed awareness of Livingstone's tween these anthropological disciplines on the one data on the geographic distribution of clines for sickle- hand and biology and developmental psychology on the cell genes in West Africa. Recognition grew that heredi- other. tary variations were usually distributed in continuous

Among women biological anthropologists who geographic gradations. These several variations did not continue to support the race concept is Alice Brues, the covary in their geographic pattern. They overlapped only woman to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard under Earnest each other in a discordant pattern, making boundaries Hooton. Her People and Races (1977) provides an excel- based on multiple characteristics unidentifiable (see lent review of the state of the concept in the 1970s, Lieberman and Kirk 1997 and Lieberman and Rice

when many anthropologists were turning away from 1996). Awareness of this pattern in the Puerto Rican race. As pointed out earlier in regard to Dobzhansky population is expressed by Clara Rodriguez: and Gam, Brues illustrates the possibility of rejecting

People in this society are not really white or non-white. racism while embracing race. Her careful analysis of Indeed, within each of these two categories there are spec- heritability in relation to IQ acknowledged the possibil- trums of color, of facial features, of hair texture, of bodily ity that "the differences between two populations may form, and of cultural predisposition that determine what be entirely due to environment. ... The debate [over kind of non-white or white you are. And these various

race and IQ] will be nicely settled when populations of spectrums overlap. . . . It would seem to me that under these circumstances we will indeed need a reassessment of

the two races are living under conditions exactly the

the definition of race. [1989:20]

same in all respects; at that point no one will care any- more" (1977:245; emphasis in original). I believe that Rodriguez is describing both the idea of

A plea to revive the race concept is presented in Pat clines and her own experience, asa Puerto Rican, of the Shipman's The Evolution of Racism: Human Differ- sociocultural process in which individual and group ences and the Use and Abuse of Science (1994). She identity are constructed, a process in which gender and stresses that the decline of the race concept has pre- class experiences are also crucial. Her writing suggests vented research on human variation. Actually the re- that understanding the newer views held by women verse is the case. It was Livingstone's work (1958,1962) about race requires awareness of the individual experi- on sickle-cell clines and Brace's article (1964) on ana- ences of a society's members, in this case its women. lyzing one trait at a time when studying human variation Insights into this biographical question are not that identified the inaccuracy and uselessness of the forthcoming from conventional sources, which had ear- race concept. Further, much research is currently being lier constructed a largely negative view of females based done on human variation (see Williams 1995). Jonathan mostly on the assumptions of biological determin- Marks's Human Biodiversity (1995) provides a broad ism. Leadership in the deconstruction of such views of women has been provided by women scientists and hu- manists, with newer views currently being constructed. I can only briefly describe a portion of these views. Psy- chologists Patricia Smith and Elizabeth Midlarsky (1989) present data suggesting that men in the sciences are most likely to analyze component parts rather than viewing them as part of the functioning whole. Thus scholars in several disciplines "have suggested that Western women scientists tend to be holistic and inte- grative thinkers, who, as a result of differential sociali- zation practices, may be more attuned than men to the complexities and subtleties of social interactions, and less satisfied with reductionist principles of analysisn (Fedigan and Fedigan 1989:45).5 Psychologist Carol Gil- ligan (1982) suggests that women reason in a way differ- ent from that used by men; women see morality as a matter of care and relationships, while men view moral- ity in terms of a system of law or impartial justice. Biolo- gist Evelyn Keller (1982) refers to the fact that women are both members and outsiders in relation to the pri- marily male scientific establishment; in other words, they experience marginality (Cole 1979; Stonequist


Another suggestion has been that, since women are subordinated to men by their socialization, they may re- order established theories from an underdog perspec- tive (Daniels 1975; Millet 1970). Several anthropolo- gists, including Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1984), Jane Lancaster (1973), and Thelma Rowel1 (1984), have pro- posed that the common experiences of females lead them to "possess an enhanced ability to empathize with, and to comprehend the behavior of, their subjects" (Fedigan and Fedigan 1989:45). Sociologist Alice Rossi (1977) argues for a greater sensitivity in women be- cause of the greater closeness of mothers and daugh- ters. In her biography of Barbara McClintock, Keller (1983) lists several characteristics as present to a greater degree because of feminist ideology, socializa- tion, andlor life experiences. Included among these characteristics is one described by anthropologists Linda Marie Fedigan and Laurence Fedigan as "a reluc- tance to impose an a priori or prematurely theoretical design on the material, but rather a desire to listen to the material . . . to develop a 'feeling for the organism' " (1989:52). The involvement of cultural anthropologists in fieldwork would be one example of a procedure for developing feeling for the organism.

If the psychology of women is applied to explaining their more frequent rejection of race, then turnabout should be fair play. Why do a greater proportion of men support the race concept? It would be consistent with the tradition of past research on male-female differ- ences to ascribe to males the complement of the preced- ing explanations about women. Thus males would be less empathic, less holistic, less marginalized, and so


on. It would also be argued that male scientists would be less often offended by biological reductionism since they were more frequently members of the strata of so- ciety that applied the reductionist explanations to oth- ers. But there are different avenues to holism. Was Jo- hann Blumenbach's (1865[1775]) insightful emphasis on gradations connecting races a kind of holism?

C. Loring Brace (1964) utilized biological reductionism in advocating the analysis of clines for one character at a time, and that enabled him to see the problem of race in holistic fashion.

Linda Marie Fedigan and Laurence Fedigan remind us that "none of the [earlier mentioned traits] are bio- logical capacities exclusive to women. Rather they are traits which are more characteristic of women due to socialization practices and ideological directivesn (1989:52). Socialization, rather than biological factors, is the crucial consideration that brings about some of the above patterns through interaction with the fe- male's experience of motherhood and the role and status of women. I also affirm that there is no universal "essence" of woman or man (Stacey and Thorne 1985), nor should there be any claim to intrinsic "moral supe- riority" of either gender (Longino 1990). While women and men may reject race for different reasons, they may also do so for very similar reason^.^ In The Mismeasure of Woman, Carol Tavris (1992) emphasizes the power of context. By context she means "everything in the envi- ronment of a person's life" (1992:295).

The nature of each discipline provides the context within which daily situations are experienced. For cul- tural anthropology, the context is provided by its dual traditions of scientific research and humanism. Human- ism was strongly revitalized by the social movements of the late 1960s (Hymes 1969) and provides a context that invites iconoclastic examination of established concepts, especially when they concern biological explana- tions of race and gender. Some women in anthropology are likely to be concerned with biological divisions and explanations of the human species because they have experienced the effects of stereotypical gender models based on biology and used to justify sexism. They are likely to be alerted to such abuses by a strong feminist orientation and by participation in feminist networks. It is possible that a greater proportion of women have re- jected race by drawing upon one or more of the experi- ences of women, as suggested by various authors. They have been encouraged by the new data and new fields of study within the context of the dual scientific and hu- manistic traditions of anthropology.

In the population of psychological anthropologists, as noted above, women more frequently reject race than any other group (Table 2), including cultural anthro- pologists. It is possible that those specializing in psychological anthropology are more committed to cultural explanations and less receptive to biological views. By contrast, the lower frequency of rejection of race among biologists may be related to their basic com- mitment to biological practice and concepts and their broad domain of study in the plant and animal kingdoms (in which it is useful to designate a subspecies). It may also be related to less contact with clinal data on human variation, less exposure to the debate over race in the 1960s, greater insulation from the social movements of the 1960s, and their biographical characteristics, in- cluding the greater conservatism of those attracted to biology (Ladd and Lipset 1975).

The frequency of rejection of race by biological an- thropologists is intermediate between that of biologists and cultural anthropologists. As compared to cultural anthropologists, this may reflect the more comprehen- sive commitment of biological anthropologists to bio- logical concepts, of which systematics or taxonomy is part. Several subfields of biological anthropology- such as paleoanthropology, genetic and molecular an- thropology, primate behavior, demography and human population biology, epidemiology, and forensic anthro- pology-involve dedication to biological concepts in which taxonomy is more or less taken for granted. As compared to biologists, however, biological anthro- pologists consider the concept of human culture rele- vant to human evolutionary scenarios, although they give it less emphasis than do cultural anthropologists. Also in comparison to biologists, biological anthropolo- gists are more aware of the debate over race of the late 1960s and are more familiar with clinal data that demon- strates the inadequacy of the concept of race as a tool for research on the geographic distribution of gene fre- quencies. Additionally, there are now many research specialties for biological anthropologists to pursue, in contrast to the emphasis on race that characterized the origins of the discipline. Finally, biological anthropolo- gists are more directly concerned than biologists about the harmful consequences of the race concept.

The very similar rates of rejection and acceptance of race among developmental psychologists may reflect the dual commitment of members of this discipline to the inclusion of both biological and environmental con- cepts in their holistic and eclectic framework (Lerner 1983). This orientation might encompass inclusion by some of a biological concept of race simply because such a concept has not been intensively examined within their research literature. The lack of debate over race also relates to the high frequency of neutral an- swers (28 percent) in this discipline.

It is, in large part, the greater percentage of women in cultural anthropology who reject race which brings the total rejection rate to significant levels, even though female respondents constitute only a minority of all re- spondents in both physical and cultural anthropology. It is apparent that, while women in various fields have been actively deconstructing the Victorian and "scien- tific" concept of woman, those in anthropology have also contributed to the deconstruction of the race con- cept.


The 1982 analysis of textbook content concluded that the demise of the race concept was a potential but not an accomplished fact. Countertrends were identi- fied: "Higher education in the United States is now con- tracting rather than expanding. Cuts in funding are mak- ing a college education less accessible to nonprivileged youth [some of whom are] likely to be receptive to a no- race viewpointn (Littlefield et al. 1982:647). Graduate programs that do not oppose the race concept may be producing more of tomorrow's professors. "In both aca- demic and non-academic arenas, the civil rights gains of the 1960s and 1970s are under attack. These trends sug- gest that the race concept may be with us for some time to come and may even experience a renewal during the 1980s" (Littlefield et al. 1982:647). The conditions that began growing in the early 1980s are strongly evident in the mid-1990s (see Goodman and Armelagos 1996). En- compassing these external conditions is a stagnant or low-growth economy increasingly stratified into a nar- row high-income level and a growing low-wage sector, with national elections determined by a shrinking and fear-ridden electorate.

Within the discipline of anthropology conceptual developments are less than favorable. The cline con- cept was a data-based alternative to the race concept in the period of the great debate (Lieberman 1968), but relatively little research has been generated since then. Exceptions are geneticists Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Albert Piazza's The History and Geogra- phy of Human Genes (1994), presenting a prodigious number of clinal maps, and Joseph B. Birdsell's Microevolutionary Patterns inAboriginal Australia (1993), presenting clinal maps of his earlier research in Austra- lia.

The future of the race concept also depends on its use in other areas of research such as the origins of modern Homo sapien~.~

The two contending sides in the debate over mtDNA and the fossil record both util- ize the ideas of lineages and geographic regions, terms lacking the typological and taxonomic implications of race as a subspecific term. But they also use the race label. Is this an expression of the power of everyday cul- ture or the once great tradition of the discipline? What does the race concept add to the analysis? It seems hardly necessary to use it when geographical designations of origin would do aswell, are more precise, and carry less historical baggage than the race concept.

In terms of the magnitude of influence on the data reported here (Table Z), I conclude that the pattern of results is due to discipline, to the interaction of disci- pline and gender, and to the external social context in which these forces interact. Sociologists Judith Stacey and Barrie Thorne write:

Feminist gains in anthropology are impressive. We believe that the transformation of the core domain assumption of the discipline has been more radical than in any other field. And these conceptual breakthroughs have achieved greater acceptance by many of the prominent scholars in the field. . . . Anthropology seems to provide the best example of a discipline that is benefitting from a feminist "revolution." [1985:306]

Clearly, female anthropologists, from their research situations in primatology and cultural anthropol- ogy, have raised worthwhile challenges to several as- pects of existing anthropological views (see Morgan 1989). Both male and female anthropologists point to primate societies that are "structured around female kinship groups aswell as male hierarchiesn (Linda Fedi- gan 1982:iii) and research concluding that the impetus to the evolution of our bipedal lineage may not have been derived solely from the way of life of man-the- hunter but also from the efforts of woman-the-gatherer in the woodlands and savannas of 3 or more million years ago, foraging for food for herself and her offspring (Linton 1979; Tanner 1981), with assistance .from the foraging male (Zihlman 1989).

I have described the part played by women earlier in the century in the deconstruction of racism and pro- posed that this process preceded deconstructing the race concept in the 1960s. I have presented data indicat- ing that the striking decline of race in anthropology may in part be understood by the large proportion of women who reject the concept, and I have also described trends favoring the continuation of the concept. Increased re- jection of race depends upon studying human variation in terms of gradations or clines, a knowledge of genetics capable of exposing the weaknesses of the race con- cept, the theoretical tradition of anthropology and its dual emphasis on biological evolution and culture, and the continued entry of women into this discipline sensi- tized by feminist perspectives.

The construction of race and gender, the decon- struction of the race concept, and the reconstruction of gender were, and still are, intertwined, as conceptions of race and gender have been mutually reinforcing hier- archies. The deconstruction of both race and gender were facilitated by critiques of racism and sexism, and women played active roles in both of these campaigns. In the case of race, they provided the support in anthro- pology which has resulted in a majority rejecting the concept. In the case of gender, women in many disci- plines are redefining it. These changes are yet another example of how scientific concepts, especially those with biological implications about human nature, are subject to social construction, deconstruction, and re- construction.

Acknowledgments. I am grateful for the very helpful com- ments of C. Loring Brace, Robert L. Blakely, and an anony- mous reviewer for the American Anthropologist. I have also benefited from the long-term cooperation of my colleagues Alice Littlefield and Lany T. Reynolds, the numerous authors of books and articles upon which I rely, and the women and men who have fought racism and the race concept throughout the 20th century. My most deeply felt gratitude is for the encouragement of Leslie Lieberman (1925-1992), professor of family studies, my colleague and wife.

The other women included Mary Colton, Mary Hemen- way, Millicent Rogers, Mary Wheelwright, and Amelia White. See also Hinton 1994 and McGreevy 1994.

Lieberman et al. 1992; Lieberman and Reynolds 1996; Lieberman et al. 1989.

  1. Weltfish believes the defeat occurred because members felt it was proposed by Boas, when in fact E. A. Hooton had written and proposed it (Weltfish 1981). The motion was passed unanimously at a subsequent session (December 30, 1938)after AAA President Edward Sapir explained that it had been written by Hooton of Harvard. Boas attributed the pas- sage to the 1,284 American scientists who had earlier that year signed a manifesto criticizing Nazi ideas about race (Barkan 1992:339).
  2. Utilizing national membership directories, random sam- ples were selected for members of the Animal Behavior Soci- ety, cultural anthropologists in the American Anthropological Association, and developmental psychologists in the Ameri- can Psychological Association. All persons in the AAA listing a specialty in biological anthropology were included. The percentages of returned and usable questionnaires from fac- ulty at Ph.D.-granting institutions were: biologists, 81;biological anthropologists, 71; cultural anthropologists, 69; psychological anthropologists, 54;and developmental psychologists,


Cann et al. 1987;Lieberman and Jackson 1995;Wolpoff 1993.

  1. See also Bleier 1984;Fee 1983, 1986; Gilligan 1982; and Keller 1983.
  2. The described differences between male and female should not be allowed to obscure similarities between men and women (Tavris 1992). Deaux (1984:107) and Eagly and Carli (1981) reviewed the influence of gender differences on influenceability and found they accounted for 1 percent of variance. In everyday language, the measured differences between males and females on various attributes are small.

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