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Opening the Archive Thinking about collections

In the Archive: Scientific Racism is Still Racism

By Hattie

While the majority of the boxes in our archive contain uplifting material about the lives and experiences of black and minority ethnic people and their histories, there are inevitably some boxes that are far from uplifting. Though difficult to read and controversial in content, this smaller and lesser-known part of the collection reminds us that racism has always existed and should not be excluded from our collective memory.

This is one of the reasons I decided to take a look in our box labelled ‘Scientific Racism’, a certain type of racism that claims to be backed up by scientific research. The other reason is the unwelcome fact that scientific racism never truly went away, and is once again rearing its head in an increasingly mainstream corner of America, according to several recent news articles. A small group of political scientists is attempting to revive the types of findings that are recorded in our archive, which are then being used to a certain degree by members of the ‘alt-right’ to justify their nationalist and racially discriminatory politics. Searching through the box I noticed that the material in our archive and the claims made in the past few years are alarmingly similar, but so are the methods of scrutiny, backlash and protest against them.  I hope this blog post will remind us that racism never disappeared and is still a threat to racial equality today.

A cartoon belittling scientific racism by depicting Racism with a KKK type figure and Scientific Racism as a mask the figure is choosing to wear, announcing it 'just the thing for the eighties'.
Anti-racism cartoon from Science for the People, Vol. 14, No. 2, March/April 1982
Categories
Book Reviews Roving Reader

The Skull Measurer’s Mistake

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

This title caught my eye: The Skull Measurer’s Mistake. Skull measurer? Mistake? What could this mean? We know it’s not great to measure our waists inaccurately, as we burst out of our clothes if they’re too small. But skulls?

Image of book covers

Once I’d picked up Skull Measurer (published 1997) I was hooked. The rest of the title tells you why: and Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism. Concisely and deftly Sven Linqvist navigates the intellectual currents around the ethnic stereotyping that characterised popular imagination on both sides of the Atlantic during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and those who opposed it.