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    Volume 40, Issue 2 (March 1995)

    Region Does Not Mean “Race”—Reality Versus Convention in Forensic Anthropology

    (Received 13 June 1994; accepted 9 August 1994)


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    Norman Sauer has posed the rhetorical question: if races do not exist, how come forensic anthropologists are so good at identifying them? The simple answer is that, as members of the society that poses the question, they are inculcated into the social conventions that determine the expected answer. They should also be aware of the biological inaccuracies contained in that “politically correct” answer. Skeletal analysis provides no direct assessment of skin color, but it does allow an accurate estimate of original geographical origins. African, eastern Asian, and European ancestry can be specified with a high degree of accuracy. Africa of course entails “black,” but “black” does not entail African. The significant identifying features of a given region then are stochastically determined and are not the products of natural selection. If they are valuable for purposes of identification, they have no coherent adaptive, that is, biological, significance. Neither individual traits nor a configuration of them associated with a given region have any adaptive significance and thus have no comparative worth. Traits of adaptive value however are not constrained by region and cannot be used to identify “race.”

    Author Information:

    Brace, CL
    Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Biological Anthropology, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

    Stock #: JFS15336J


    DOI: 10.1520/JFS15336J

    Title Region Does Not Mean “Race”—Reality Versus Convention in Forensic Anthropology
    Symposium ,
    Committee E30