Physical Anthropology and Racism Term Paper by Nicky

Physical Anthropology and Racism
A look at how the study of anthropology has contributed to racism in academia.
# 148843 | 1,594 words | 6 sources | APA | 2011 | US
Published on Nov 08, 2011 in Anthropology (Cultural)

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This paper examines claims of racism in the field of anthropology, particularly noting how physical anthropology has been used as a liberator as well as an inhibitor of social equality. According to the paper, anthropologists have used the physical aspects of different human beings classified under 'racial categories' over the centuries to justify pervasive social inequalities and outright segregation and brutal colonialism. The paper analyzes the work of Franz Boas who is cited as representing the outlook of his times. Additionally, the paper addresses the views of German anthropologists during the Nazi regime who supported Hitler's anti-Jewish laws with supposed scientific proof. The paper concludes by stating that physical anthropology has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, and continues to be an evolving field.

From the Paper:

"One of the earliest influences upon concepts of race and racism in the field of anthropology was that of the early 20th century anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas "struggled to reconcile the tension between cultural anthropology and the methodological rigors of physical anthropology," arguing that physically, the "the average African American possessed the same mental capabilities as ordinary whites," but falling prey to the self-serving assumptions of his day, as Boas claimed there was a "dearth of 'men of high genius,' among African Americans (Smithers 2008, p.32). Boas failed to recognize the effects of racism in American society upon African-American young people as well as intellectual luminaries who overcame racism such as Booker T. Washington and W.E. B. Dubois. Boas also stated on other occasions that biologically "the mind of primitive man differed from that of civilized man" even while arguing "for a more rigorous approach to physical anthropology, incorporating political and social milieus into studies of race" "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Gravlee, Clarence, C. H. Russell Bernard, & William R. Leonard. (2003). New answers to old questions: Did Boas get it right? Heredity, environment, and cranial form: A reanalysis of Boas' immigrant data. American Anthropologist, 105(1), 125-138. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from Platinum Periodicals database. (Document ID: 318797191).
  • Goodman, Alan. Interview. Race: The Power of an Illusion. Retrieved May 25, 2009 at
  • Lewontin, Richard. (2003). Interview. Race: The Power of an Illusion. Retrieved May 25, 2009 at
  • Nineteenth-Century racism: The anthropologist who first defined the Negro's place in nature. (2001). The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, (32), 124. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW) database. (Document ID: 494175801).
  • Price, David H. (2005). From racism to genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich. Anthropological Quarterly, 78(4), 1009-1012. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from Platinum Periodicals database. (Document ID: 942729571).

Cite this Term Paper:

APA Format

Physical Anthropology and Racism (2011, November 08) Retrieved May 24, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Physical Anthropology and Racism" 08 November 2011. Web. 24 May. 2022. <>