In this clear, concise, and well-written book, Alland provides his readers with a measured, thoughtful and compelling critique of historical and contemporary theories about the supposed genetic basis for group (i.e., racial) differences in social achievement and intelligence.
Alland begins by providing the reader with a refreshingly accessible treatment of evolutionary theory, Mendelian genetics, and their relevance to current discussions about the social construction of”race”. As a professor of cultural anthropology who also has substantive training in physical anthropology, Alland is able to problematize taken-for-granted assumptions that reify and naturalize racial categories with recourse to faulty understandings of natural selection, heritability, and speciation. His convincing explanation of race as “a flawed concept” helps to ground his critique of its usage in biased scientific and pseudo-scientific studies (by the likes of Carlton Coon, Arthur Jensen, Cyril Burt, Leonard Jeffries, J. P. Rushton and others) that purport to ‘prove’ (i) that there are statistically significant differences in intelligence between racial groups (for Burt, the IQ groupings were class-based) and (ii) that those differences are due to genetic (and not environmental) factors. With a careful reading of these highly publicized studies and their epistemological presuppositions, political biases and methodological flaws, Alland undeniably shows that these attempts at operationalizing, geneticizing and racializing intelligence say more about the political interests of these scientists than anything else. What makes this book so useful (I have advised some of my colleagues to think about including it in their courses on the anthropology of race) is that Alland is able to show the linkages between and among seemingly disparate spheres: afrocentricism, social constructionism, genetics, evolutionary psychology, physical anthropology, linguistic ideology, archeology and fossil-naming, biological determinism, culture of poverty arguments, sociobiology, and even census-categorization. Alland illustrates just how all of these fields/spheres have a role to play in the international drama that is irrational racial thinking. Moreover, Alland takes these scientists and their theories seriously enough to carefully delineate why environmental explanations still offer the most compelling ways to understand group differences in social performance.
See also the works of a Polish anthropologist – Jan Czekanowski – a pioneer in developing the Types instead of Races approach, though starting with the widely used “race” nomenclature. I consider it really amazing that already in 1909 (sic!) he was NOT using a “white” “black” or “yellow” nomenclature. He was also a distinguished linguist and statistician, one of the first in the field of corpora linguistic resarch. – note by stovokor
note from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Czekanowski