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The Origins and Demise of the Concept of Race

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  • Charles Hirschman

Abstract

Physical and cultural diversity have been salient features of human societies throughout history, but "race" as a scientific concept to account for human diversity is a modern phenomenon created in nineteenth-century Europe as Darwinian thought was (mis)applied to account for differences in human societies. Although modern science has discredited race as a meaningful biological concept, race has remained as an important social category because of historical patterns of interpersonal and institutional discrimination. However, the impossibility of consistent and reliable reporting of race, either as an identity or as an observed trait, means that the notion of race as a set of mutually exclusive categories is no longer tenable. As a social science term, race is being gradually abandoned. Physical differences in appearance among people remain a salient marker in everyday life, but this reality can be better framed within the concept of ethnicity. Copyright 2004 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Hirschman, 2004. "The Origins and Demise of the Concept of Race," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(3), pages 385-415.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:30:y:2004:i:3:p:385-415
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    Cited by:

    1. Jen’nan Read, 2013. "Measuring Ethnicity with U.S. Census Data: Implications for Mexicans and Arabs," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 32(4), pages 611-631, August.
    2. Abdallah Zouache, 2014. "De la question coloniale chez les anciens et néo-institutionnalistes," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 124(1), pages 129-149.
    3. Nancy Landale & Stephanie Lanza & Marianne Hillemeier & R.S. Oropesa, 2013. "Health and development among Mexican, black and white preschool children: An integrative approach using latent class analysis," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 28(44), pages 1302-1338, June.
    4. Wendy D. Roth, 2010. "Racial Mismatch: The Divergence Between Form and Function in Data for Monitoring Racial Discrimination of Hispanics," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(s1), pages 1288-1311.

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