Glossary Term:


For lengthy periods of time in the Western world, race was seen and understood as a biological schema whose function was to both explain and maintain purported differences between groups identifiable by largely phenotypical characteristics (skin color, hair texture, eye and lip shape, head size, forehead slope, etc).

Certain desirable and undesirable qualities were assigned to particular races and such a schema underpinned and provided a justification for the domination and exploitation of some groups (‘races’) by others as ‘natural’, born of biology (see Racism).

Currently, any biological basis of a system of race-identity has been discredited by contemporary Western science, particularly through work in the DNA and human genome areas. Montagu (1974) called race ‘Man’s [sic] most dangerous myth’ and its continued use is seen through largely sociological lenses as a means to exert or maintain political, social and economic control typically through ideological means (see Hegemony).

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