Barter, exchange, and value: an anthropological approach by Caroline Humphrey, Stephen Hugh-Jones

By Caroline Humphrey, Stephen Hugh-Jones

This booklet matters barter, a transaction within which gadgets are exchanged without delay for each other wit....

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In the same manner, the achievements of groups at the top of the social hierarchy are seen as a product of innate superiority, not of favorable social opportunities. Racist thought is inherently ethnocentric. Those espousing racist ideas invariably view ethnic out-groups as inferior. Moreover, such thought naturally leads to the idea that ethnic groups must be kept socially and physically apart. To encourage social integration is to encourage physical integration, which, it follows, contributes to the degeneration of the superior group.

The differences among groups are innate, not subject to change, and on the basis of their genetic inheritance, some groups are innately superior to others (Banton, 1970; Benedict, 1959; Montagu, 1972; Shibutani and Kwan, 1965). In sum, racism is the belief that humans are subdivided into distinct hereditary groups that are innately different in their social behavior and mental capacities and that can therefore be ranked as superior or inferior. The presumed superiority of some groups and inferiority of others is subsequently used to legitimate the unequal distribution of the society’s resources, specifically, various forms of wealth, prestige, and power.

As we will see in Chapter 14, Brazilians do not see or define races in the same way that Americans do, nor do they necessarily use the same physical characteristics as standards with which to categorize people. Obviously, different criteria and different categories of race are operative in each society. So subject to cultural definition is the idea of race that the selected physical attributes used to classify people need not even be obvious, only the belief that they are evident. In Northern Ireland, for example, both Protestants and Catholics sometimes say they are able to identify members of the other group on the basis of physical differences, despite their objective similarity.

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