Review of This is Race edited by E.W. Count

Ellsworth Faris

This is a collection of extracts from the writings of sixty authors who have discussed the subject of race. They cover a time span from 1749 to 1950. As many as ten disconnected pas-sages are printed from the larger books, while the fugitive material from journals is usually printed entire. The selections vary in length and in merit, but the reader will learn how difficult is the task of classifying the races of man.The ward "anthology" suggests a collection of short poems and seems out of place here. But the editor may have had in mind the highly imaginative character of some of his authors.

At the end of the volume there are brief biographical and bibliographical notes an each of the sixty writers, which add interest to the book, since many of the authors are little known and a number of the selections have been made available by translations first appearing here. The book will be of interest as revealing the history of efforts at classification, though it leaves unanswered the inquiry as to the number and names of the races of men either extinct or extant. It does not provide a substitute for a course in physical anthropology.

For the most part, a system of classification is relative to a purpose. The Dewey system of library classification makes ten classes of books, using Arabic digits. The Library of Congress system has twenty-six classes, using the letters of the roman alphabet. Neither can be said to be "wrang," for every book can be listed under one of the classes in each. The only question is which is the more useful.

Zoölogists have brought their classification of all the animal forms to relative completion. With their dual nomenclature and their inter-national society to arbitrate differences, every species can be designated in a manner intelligible to any other scholar. With their apparatus of phylum, class, subclass, order, sub-order, genus, arid species, every living thing can be put in its proper pigeonhole. Thus man is located as vertebrate, mammal, placental, anthropoid, Homo, sapiens.

But there the zoologist ceases, for his work is done. The varieties, breeds, stocks, and races of domestic animals and of man are of no interest, and the task is taken over by the physical anthropologist. It is often taken over by those who have no competence in anthropology.

( 389)

Conflicts between races and groups have brought it about that the subject of race is often discussed in an atmosphere of emotion. Boas wrote a pamphlet advocating the boycott of any book that contained the word "race," and he gave a List of some of the books in question. To the sociologist this attitude is not surprising. Words do sometimes acquire powerful emotional content. In polite discourse we are forbidden to call a female dog by her name.

The book under review does not attempt to go into the literature of race psychology or racial attitudes. A few incidental passages do appear, but, for the most part, it is the classification into races which is the subject of the book.

Lake Forest, Illinois


No notes

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