Cover image for Living color : the biological and social meaning of skin color
Title:
Living color : the biological and social meaning of skin color
Author:
Jablonski, Nina G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, 2012.
Physical Description:
xiii, 260 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 24 cm
Summary:
This book investigates the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our body's most visible trait influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. The author begins with the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, explaining how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe. She explores the relationship between melanin pigment and sunlight, and examines the consequences of rapid migrations, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that can create mismatches between our skin color and our environment. Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning-- a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, the author suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.
Language:
English
Contents:
pt. 1. Biology -- Skin's natural palette -- Original skin -- Out of the tropics -- Skin color in the modern world -- Shades of sex -- Skin color and health -- pt. 2. Society -- The discriminating primate -- Encounters with difference -- Skin color in the age of exploration -- Skin color and the establishment of races -- Institutional slavery and the politics of pigmentation -- Skin colors and their variable meanings -- Aspiring to lightness -- Desiring darkness -- Living in color.
ISBN:
9780520251533

9780520283862
Format :
Book

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Central Library GN197 .J34 2012 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Living Color is the first book to investigate the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our body's most visible trait influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. In a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, Nina G. Jablonski begins with the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, explaining how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe. She explores the relationship between melanin pigment and sunlight, and examines the consequences of rapid migrations, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that can create mismatches between our skin color and our environment.

Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning-- a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history--including being a basis for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.


Author Notes

Nina G. Jablonski is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Skin: A Natural History , (UC Press), and was named one of the first Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellows for her efforts to improve the public understanding of skin color.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Children begin to attribute significance to skin color at about three years of age," observes anthropologist Jablonski (Skin: A Natural History). "But," she continues, "they don't develop ideas of race based on what they see." The book's first half addresses the biology of skin color, lucidly explaining the science of what happened with skin color as "people moved into solar regimes markedly different from those under which their ancestors had evolved." The second half focuses on the social consequences of skin color; Jablonski moves succinctly through recorded history from ancient Egypt, the early faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, a review of the "natural philosophers" (such as Kant), a consideration of the impact of slavery and the slave trade in modern Europe and the Americas, and a review of how skin color is regarded in South Africa, Brazil, India, and Japan. In the concluding chapters, Jablonski brings biology, culture, and health together. Her fresh approach to the skin color/race conundrum is not only provocative, but persuasive and exceptionally accessible whether she's writing about the science of skin color or Kant ("one of the most influential racists of all time"). Agent: Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

This slim volume devotes 89 pages to the biology of skin color and 108 pages to its social meanings. The 25 pages of footnotes enrich the text; they are not mere scholarly apparatus. The first part updates the author's 2006 Skin: A Natural History (CH, Jan'07, 44-2689), reflecting the rapid advance of research in genetics and simplifying the scientific content. This new book is more accessible to general readers but less generous in explaining research findings as a result. The second part--covering social issues of skin color from antiquity to globalization, art history to psychology to history of science, the slave trade to apartheid, and skin whiteners to tanning booths--is a broad critique of the concept of race. Inevitably, some of this coverage is superficial, and readers will search in vain for a clear definition of race. Jablonski (anthropology, Penn State Univ.) does not link the colonial Spanish castas system for classifying persons of mixed race to religion or to access to professions. She does not explain degenerationism as an 18th-century scientific theory. Her account of Portuguese slaving depends on a 1937 text, and indigenous slavery in Africa and the Americas is slighted. Nevertheless, the book fascinates! Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. D. C. Cook Indiana University


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Biology
1 Skin's Natural Palettep. 9
2 Originalo Skinp. 24
3 Out of the Tropicsp. 34
4 Skin Color in the Modern Worldp. 47
5 Shades of Sexp. 64
6 Skin Color and Healthp. 72
Part 2 Society
7 The Discriminating Primatep. 93
8 Encounters with Differencep. 103
9 Skin Color in the Age of Explorationp. 117
10 Skin Color and the Establishment of Racesp. 134
11 Institutional Slavery and the Politics of Pigmentationp. 142
12 Skin Colors and Their Variable Meaningsp. 157
13 Aspiring to Lightnessp. 169
14 Desiring Darknessp. 182
15 Living in Colorp. 194
Notesp. 199
Referencesp. 225
Indexp. 249

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