Donovan M. Adams, Marin A. Pilloud
Human Biology 93 (1), 9-32, (7 March 2022) https://doi.org/10.13110/humanbiology.93.1.01
KEYWORDS: racism, public engagement, education, HUMAN VARIATION
The concept of race has a complex history in the field of biological anthropology. Despite increased recognition of the racist origins of the discipline, there remains little agreement about what the concept means, how it is used, or how it is discussed. This study presents the results of a survey of biological anthropologists to investigate the relationship of biological anthropologists with race and ancestry. The survey focuses on the areas of research, public engagement, and teaching as related to these concepts. Results indicate that a large majority of biological anthropologists agree that race (as a social not biological concept) is separate from ancestry. The majority of respondents agreed that ancestry categories should be based on geography (e.g., Asian, European, and African), and more anthropologists thought the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” were inappropriate ancestry categories. While most respondents felt that discussions of these terms were not matters of “political correctness,” nearly a quarter of respondents suggested that concerns over the moral and ethical implications of research (e.g., photos, terminology, and ancestry) result in the silencing of anthropological research. Overwhelmingly, respondents felt that anthropologists have a responsibility to ensure the avoidance of misappropriation of their work by race science and by white nationalists/supremacists. Some differences in survey responses were found relating to respondents' subdiscipline, educational level, location, age, self-identified racial/ethnic categories, and gender. In regard to teaching, survey results indicate that these concepts are minimally covered in university classrooms. When taught, topics focus on the colonialist/racist history of anthropology, the presence of white privilege/supremacy, and racism. Based on the results of this survey, the authors argue for greater public engagement on these concepts, a standardized system of teaching race and ancestry, and a disciplinary conversation about practice and terminology. In this way, biological anthropologists can best place themselves to combat racism in a socially responsible way.