Re: Physical nomenclature

Toby Cockcroft (
Sat, 10 Aug 1996 01:30:02 -0400

>In <4tuhp8$>, Riley) writes:
>>Oh dear, have I stumbled into a web of PC activists? Judging by the posts
>>on Amerind whatever and your reply, perhaps so.
>>The political overtones part of my objection to using the Bertillon system
>>was not due to any sensibility on my part but rather I was simply restating
>>what others had told me: "Don't use the Bertillon system, it's too complex
>>and has too many political overtones." Personally I have no idea if it
>>corresponds at all with what I want but it's not worth following anyway
>>because of the necessity to take physical measurements.

In other words 'I don't care a whit about politics I'm not using T.B.S.
because of the methodology'
Well congrats!! I'm glad that you are using all of your critical
abilities to ensure an objective model.

>>Why the need to do it now? For anthropologists, since I only have a vague
>>idea of what you do, I have no opinion.


>>For the field in which I work,

Which is?

>>it's not a question of "do[ing] it now" but rather increasing the
>>precision of the descriptions with which I currently work

Again, the descriptions that you work with are fundamentally wrought with
political overtones and I would question the need to refine such
descriptions. To what ends would more precise descriptions of humans
acheive? What is this need to describe and classify humans and from where
does it originate?

To classify humans by mere physical descriptions is an exercise in
futility. Classificatory systems will always be faulty and betray their
political and ethnocentric ideosyncrasies. A classificatory system can
go one of two ways, one, overly descriptive to the point of dividing each
individual into a 'race/clade/what have you' of one or, two, overly
simplified so as to describe a few groups by generalised and impractical
criteria whereby we describe an archetype and not reality. Any system
inbetween attempts to use different methodes to produce different
archetypes, but it is these archetypes that have political implications.
Why do you use one characteristic over another, why one measurement over
another, etc... these reasons are political ones and the groups that they
end up creating are political ones.

So I put it to you once again: what is it that compels you to classify
humans through physical traits when such an endeavour is futile and
wrought with political implications?

>>, hence my post
>>which still stands. Perhaps you could suggest a simple work from the
>>politically incorrect sixties?
>>Patrick Riley

Toby Cockcroft MA Anthropology University of Western Ontario