Re: a new topic

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Sat, 7 Oct 1995 18:07:26 -0500

At 09:43 AM 10/6/95 -1000, Michael Thomas Carson wrote:

>Okay. In my opinion (humble or not), race does not exist except in the
>minds of people. In other words, it is an ideational construct
>funtioning to organize phenomena into easily-identifiable packages.

While I completely agree, from the standpoint of social anthropology, that
race is not a good explanatory category, it is worth noting that in applied
sciences, some of which we share buildings with - like forensics and
physical anthropology - 'race' may be a very useful category of information.
-Emphatically NOT because these sciences are in any way racist, but
rather, because the category 'race' can have a practical meaning in these
disciplines. In disciplines that tend to emphasize social action, form and
function, as opposed to concrete categorical stuff, Mike Carson's comments
generally apply. However, it is possible to argue that race, because
racism exists, is a social fact which can not be casually dismissed by
noting that it has no fixed empirical referent. Note that 'culture' and
'history' equally have no fixed referents. Ignoring race in a world where
racism is rampant (should I bring up the obvious example?) can also be a
recipe for failed analysis.

Matt Tomaso.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
Phone/Fax 512-453-6256