Re: Coon and the Middle East

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Thu, 23 Nov 1995 12:37:38 -0500

On Thu, 23 Nov 1995, Rob Prince wrote:

> As for Pat Shipman's book, from my perspective, what a disappointment. She
> turns racism on its head, especially in the last half the book when she
> tries to make Coon into a kind of martyr facing the wrath of overzealous
> 'politically correct' liberal minded anthros making up for a half century
> of having been silent about racism in anthropology. As they say, gimme a break.

I agree with much of what Rob Prince has said regarding racism in
physical anthropology, but Coon was not Hooten, Wissler, or Hrdlicka, and
I've read a fair amount of Coon and don't recall encountering any strong
eugenic disucssions. I could well be wrong because I certainly haven't
read everything, which was the thrust of my question regarding Coon's
Middle East book.
When it comes to the Pat Shipman book, I do disagree with Rob
Prince. The reaction against Coon's ideas were off the wall, and I
suspect, mostly self-promoting. I will never forget aas a graduate
student, standing in one of the book stores in Berkeley looking at Coon's
Origins of Races and wanting to buy the book because it had so much
information on all of the fossil hominids, and I was saturated with Boule
and Vallois's book. Behind me is Dr. Sherwood Washburn voicing his
opinion that it was a terrible book and that I would be well advised to
avoid it... Ditto for Ashley Montague's Textbook on Physical
Anthropology.(Both were (are) ardent belittlers of Coon). This was in the
early '60's, and Washburn was at that time one of my mentors. That was my
first introduction as a grad student to the politics in PA.
I happen to be interested in the evolution of the brain, and I have
done research on sexual dimorphic differences in human and nonhuman
brains. And I assure you, that I have certainly felt the chill of
political correctness from my institute, colleagues, and many others in
various walks of life regarding this research. I feel very strongly
that research as been curtailed, limited, and discouraged by so-called
liberals particularly situated within Anthropology, and I do believe that
Pat Shipman's second half of the book provides a refreshing and neccesary
different voice on the role of Coon in American racism. He was savaged
and undeservedly so, IMHO.
Ralph Holloway