Firstly to understand how race is socially and spatially constructed we must first understand what race actually is. Alex Watson an opinion columnist for the Western Herald stated that race does not and never has existed, “It is an almost entirely social construct with extremely minor differences in external appearance at its root. The entire concept of race is a misbegotten stepchild of 19th century pseudoscience…….” (Western Herald Online:
Today race is described is a popular marker of human difference based upon; physical criteria of a person i.e. skin color, national heritage, cultural affiliation and history, ethnic classification, and the needs of a population socially, politically and economically (R.J Johnston. etal 2000, Dictionary of Human Geography).
However, throughout time the perception of race has varied from person to person, community to community and the understanding of race in society has also changed considerably.
The History of ‘Race’ as a Social Construction
The indigenous people of their colonies were seen as pagan, animalistic, uncivilized and almost un-evolved human beings. Europeans classified peoples in their colonies into a hierarchy of categories, which placed Europeans at the top of a pseudo-evolutionary scale. The stereotypes created are still evident in today’s society (Rebecca Riehm Homepage: http://www.gossamer-wings.com/soc/Notes/race/tsld002.html) 11/03/04.
Early definitions of race around the 17th and 18th Centuries were based upon biological differences of people. The influence of Darwinism (evolution of humans) began to influence people to believe that the human species were divided into sub-species and that people of a different ‘race’ were biologically different i.e. different levels of intelligence.
In 1758, botanist Carolus Linnaeus, famous for his system of classifying plants and animals, declared that the human species was made of four sub-categories, which he called, red, yellow, black... [continues]
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