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Book review The Nature of Difference Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 141:163–167 (2010)
Book Reviews
THE NATURE OF DIFFERENCE: SCIENCES OF RACE IN THE
UNITED STATES FROM JEFFERSON TO GENOMICS. Edited by
Evelynn M. Hammonds and Rebecca M. Herzig.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2008. 368 pp. ISBN 9780-262-58275-9. $45.00 (paper).
We can all agree that science does not proceed in a
vacuum. The nature of scientific inquiry and the interpretation of results are shaped by the wider culture and
the history of the field of research. It is, therefore, important that we teach students about where our ideas
come from and how they are informed by the community
in which we live. Hammonds and Herzig have gathered
both common and obscure primary literature that
clearly indicates that American concepts of race have
been far from static. The works in this volume, coupled
with a basic knowledge of the history of the United
States, would make clear to any student that science,
especially the study of human variation, is inextricably
intertwined with contemporaneous cultural events and
trends.
After an interesting introduction, the papers are
grouped under nine subject headings: ‘‘Dictionary Definitions of ‘Race’’’; ‘‘Anatomical Observations’’; ‘‘Immunity and Contagion’’; ‘‘Evolution and Degeneration’’;
‘‘Techniques of Measurement’’; ‘‘Glandular Differences’’;
‘‘Hybridity and Admixture’’; ‘‘Toward Genetics’’; and
‘‘The End of Race?’’ Each section includes between
four and 15 original pamphlets, lectures, opinion
pieces, research reports, or other writings. For each
section, there is an introduction that includes some
excellent, thought-provoking questions and a short
bibliography.
In their introduction to the book, the editors posit that
group name changes, such as from ‘‘Negro’’ to ‘‘Black’’ or
‘‘Chinese’’ to ‘‘Asian-American,’’ indicate ‘‘substantial
material transformations: a reorganization of the lived
experience of difference’’ (p. xiv). This is an intriguing
statement that brings up many questions. In what way
do name changes reflect the experiences of the people so
described? Is there any consistency through time or
among groups in what name changes mean? What is the
relationship between the mutability of race and the
mutability of names for races? What evidence is there
that name changes are a sign of ‘‘substantial material
transformations’’? Unfortunately, neither the editors nor
their selections from the literature explore these topics,
nor do the editors provide references to support their
contention.
The subtitle of the book is From Jefferson to
Genomics. However, in making their selections, the
authors chose to concentrate on the time immediately
after the Civil War, when a great deal of research on
race was being conducted. Both earlier and, especially,
much later works seem to be included only as an
afterthought. The justification for the focus on the
Reconstruction Era when important works in each
subject area are still being written today seems
unclear.
Several sections of the book had the potential to provide new or important insights into the development of
C 2009
V
WILEY-LISS, INC.
race concepts. The section on glandular differences was
especially intriguing, as even among scholars on the subject of race, that material is likely the least well known.
The editors chose five papers for this section, all written
between 1920 and 1939. The first two papers provide a
discussion of a few endocrine disorders and a justification for gender discrimination. Although the other three
papers mention a supposed relationship between hormones and race, only the one by Louis Berman discusses
the subject in any real detail. Although the papers are
all interesting, their overall orientation is tangential to
the science of race. It may have been better to have
included fewer and grouped them under one of the other
subject headings.
The section on hybridity and admixture includes only
four papers, tying for the fewest of any section. This is
surprising, as the subject is of more general interest
today than are, for example, anatomical observations.
The selections were written between 1917 and 1944 and
are all very good choices, if a bit repetitive, because they
reflect the cultural and scientific perspectives of a relatively limited period. A much broader perspective could
have been achieved if the papers on this subject really
did range from the time of Jefferson to today. Inclusion
of an early pamphlet on miscegenation would have provided examples of the science that grew out of the political debate over slavery. Similarly, the addition of a
report showcasing contemporary genetic research would
have provided examples of the kinds of admixture studies that are possible using modern statistical approaches
and large data sets.
The editors explain that their choices for inclusion
were intended to facilitate exploration of science and
race as concepts that shape American culture. A
thoughtful consideration of what science is and how it
relates to pseudoscience and popular literature is certainly interesting conceptually. This text might be valuable for a course that looks at the history of American science, with race as a case study. However, if
the goal is to understand how ideas about human
races have changed through time, there are a number
of important works that are omitted, which prevents
this book from being useful on its own. Excerpts from
Samuel Morton’s Crania Americana or one of Louis
Agassiz’s papers from the Christian Examiner would
have been invaluable. Perhaps, the most important
omission is that of Richard Lewontin’s 1972 paper,
‘‘The apportionment of human diversity’’ (Evol Biol 6:
381–398). There is simply no way to understand contemporary race pedagogy in any field without reading
this paper.
Of course, any edited collection can be critiqued for
leaving out this or that paper. Papers must be included
that are most appropriate for the editors’ intended audience. In their introduction to the book, the editors state
that their primary intended audiences are students of
the histories of science, race, and United States culture.
This edited volume could be useful as a text in a course
on these subjects, albeit with supplementation. Aside
from the value it may have in other fields, the intent of
this review is to consider whether the volume is of interest to biological anthropologists. Unfortunately, as a
stand-alone text, the materials included do not provide
164
BOOK REVIEWS
the core of historical knowledge needed for a scholar of
human variation as seen from the perspective of biological anthropology.
HEATHER J.H. EDGAR
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
FINDING OUR TONGUES: MOTHERS, INFANTS, AND THE ORIGINS
OF LANGUAGE. By Dean Falk. New York: Basic Books.
2009. 240 pp. ISBN 978-0-465-00219-1. $26.95 (Cloth).
The origin of language is one of those ‘‘bottomless pit’’
topics that has inspired a continuous flow of books in the
last few decades. Each new book faces the increasingly
difficult task of differentiating itself from all the previous
ones that have drawn on the same set of standard references. Not so with Finding our Tongues! Dean Falk offers a
totally fresh hypothesis for language origins that is presented in friendly, authoritative but not patronizing prose.
General readers will find it engaging, while specialists
can add it to Dean Falk’s long list of quality publications
on brain and language evolution dating back to 1973.
This book is the distilled and enhanced version of Falk’s
‘‘putting the baby down’’ hypothesis (PTBD), which she
published with major peer commentaries in 2004. It is distilled because all nonessential references are stripped
away and enhanced because it builds on the same core
ideas and supporting evidence while addressing many of
the critiques the article received. Besides being an impressive feat of thorough, multidisciplinary research that will
inform many academics in the fields of primatology, linguistics, human evolution, ethnography, and archaeology,
Finding our Tongues is an excellent entry point for general
readers interested in language origins and evolution.
The first chapter immediately grabs the reader with
entertaining stories about chimpanzee mothering to
illustrate what is unique about human mother–infant
interactions. The next four chapters carry readers on a
whirlwind tour of anthropology, human evolution, and
linguistics in order to explore cross-cultural universals
in human mothering. Fossil evidence for bipedalism is
described succinctly, although it is crucial for Falk’s
argument that hominin mothers were forced to let go of
their infants while obtaining food. Falk’s remarkable
skill at writing for all types of readers is evident
throughout, such as in the way she neatly explains evolution and natural selection in one paragraph (p. 44).
Having established most of the empirical bases of her
hypothesis, Falk then devotes the second half of the
book to ‘‘reasonably speculat[ing] about the emergence of
vocabulary during hominin evolution’’ (p. 113). In Chapter 6, she objectively discusses the main theories of the
emergence of words, interweaving them with primatological data. Falk’s primatological expertise runs like a
thread through the whole book. She deftly combines two
unexpected topics in Chapter 7 to describe how music
soothes the brain and how primate song can strengthen
social bonds. In contrast, the final two chapters bombard
the reader with loosely related information on gestures,
sign language, imitation, iconicity, brain evolution, and
grasping and almost seem like a hasty addition.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.21198
Published online 20 October 2009 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
Although Falk does ‘‘tick all the boxes’’ (language-trained
apes, vervet calls, Japanese macaques, hominin brain size,
cave art, symbolism, mirror neurons), her discussions of
these topics are a pleasure to read because she does not
dwell on them. A pleasant surprise is that the footnotes are
as interesting to read as the text: they not only expand on
important topics such as human variation or the universality of music, but they also contain diverting anecdotes.
Through them she lets the reader know when a topic is hot,
making this book a valuable and current research tool. For
example, she explains the Paradox of Continuity—human
language seems qualitatively different from other animal
communication, yet it must have evolved from something
similar—in a page-long footnote (pp. 197–198).
Another highlight is that Falk bravely engages with
major debates in linguistics and primatology. Linguists
argue endlessly over what is universal in human languages, whether language emerged from primate calls or
gestures, or what behaviors are uniquely human. Still, I
would have preferred to see Falk be more partisan in
some places, such as when she impassively describes
Harlow’s cruel experiments with baby macaques and
surrogate mothers (pp. 41–44). Another example is when
she uncritically explains the ‘‘constantly moving goalposts’’ of language uniqueness, i.e., how every time
someone finds evidence for a feature of human language
in other animals, the Chomskyists just redefine human
language to maintain its status as ‘‘special’’ (p. 198).
What readers may not expect from a world expert on
brain evolution is that she devotes much of her book to
linguistics. This is probably because PTBD’s harshest critics have been linguists. Her most impressive contribution
to anthropological linguistics is her dismantling of the
widely held idea that some of the world’s languages do
not have motherese. Using the writings of three different
linguistic anthropologists, Falk conclusively demonstrates
the fallacy of their claims. In searching for negative
points, I can only find one quibble: that Falk doesn’t give
a fair treatment to the Theory of Mind debate. Theory of
Mind is enormously controversial, especially in languageorigins circles. However, she simply accepts it as unique
to humans (pp. 148, 171) although a debate is still raging.
True, Theory of Mind has no bearing on the core of
PTBD, but the absence of even a footnote on the issue is
conspicuous. However, the key message of Finding our
Tongues is clear: the shift to bipedalism was the real root
of all changes that later caused problems of protection
and infant care. And as Falk elegantly argues, ‘‘the solutions to both problems were social’’ (p. 65).
The book’s production standards are excellent and its
message is enhanced by illustrations such as the memorable photo of a gleeful baby wired up for EEG! As an
academic, I find the Mother Goose rhymes in each chap-
165
BOOK REVIEWS
ter just bizarre, but I must admit they do fit well with
the mothering theme. In fact, moms and future moms,
in addition to doctoral students, will find this book
packed full of useful information. It will be valuable for
university libraries as well as being something you can
proudly leave on your coffee table to attract your nonacademic friends to the exciting field of language origins.
NATALIE T. UOMINI
British Academy Project ‘‘Lucy to Language’’
BABIES REBORN: INFANT/CHILD BURIALS IN PRE- AND PROTOHISTORY. Edited By Krum Bacvarov. Oxford, UK: BAR
International Series 1832. 2008. 213 pp. ISBN 978-14073-0316-1. £38.00 (paper).
Bioarchaeological studies of non-adults (individuals
who are 17 years of age or younger) provide us with a
window to the dynamism of past societies. However, the
funerary contexts of non-adults are complex and perplexing. They are veiled by questions of sacrifice, symbolism,
ritual, and status. Biocultural approaches that involve
the study of non-adult skeletal samples and their contexts, therefore, represent a serious challenge to anthropologists, and it is not a coincidence that until recent
times the great majority of anthropologists preferred to
focus on the analysis of adults.
This proceedings volume (based on a session at the
XVth Congress of the International Union for Pre- and
Proto-historic Sciences, Lisbon, 2006) contains 21
contributions on non-adult burials and their funerary
contexts in pre- and proto-history. All contributions
share a common theme: the assessment and reconstruction of non-adult burial practices from the
archaeological record of numerous sites across Eurasia.
The volume is organized into four chronological sections: Paleolithic (two chapters); Neolithic, Chalcolithic,
and Early Bronze Age (13 chapters); Later Bronze Age
and Iron Age (four chapters); and later perspectives
(two chapters). This division is logical but somewhat
weakens the topical cohesion of the volume. Readers
who wish to gain knowledge about non-adult burial
practices will find in this volume numerous informative and stimulating analyses, interpretations, and syntheses, which illustrate the complexity of the topic at
hand. The vast majority of contributions are written
by well-established researchers and are of high-academic quality. Most chapters are accessible to scholars
who are not necessarily familiar with this field of
research, and they include good-quality, grayscale diagrams, and illustrations.
The main substance of the volume contains contributions on burials from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and
Early Bronze periods in Southeast Europe, Anatolia, and
the Levant. Contributions vary not only in the number
and type of aspects examined but also in overall scope.
Some contributions are reports on mortuary practices in
a given site (for example, chapters by Le Mort, Moses,
Hopwood, and Stefanović), whereas others apply broader
regional and/or diachronic perspectives. Others provide a
wider regional synthesis and a few are studies that
investigate diachronic patterns or a specific question.
The latter address a wide range of themes, including the
School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology
University of Liverpool
Liverpool, United Kingdom
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.21201
Published online 20 October 2009 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
question of intentional burials of non-adults in the Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) record of Southwest Asia
(Tillier); Greek funerary practices during the Neolithic
(Pomadère); the appearance and development of jar burials (Bacvarov); the ‘‘visualization’’ of children in the Mesolithic and Neolithic archaeological records of the
Dnieper Rapids, Ukraine (Lillie); and correlation
between infant burial and structures at Anglo-Saxon
sites (Crawford). The majority of contributions assess
burials in multiphased sites with an extensive cultural
occupational sequence.
An interesting recurring theme is the heterogeneity
in burial practices not only between periods and regions
but also during a specific cultural phase. A major question is whether variations in burial practices in terms
of both funerary contexts and grave artefacts of nonadults can tell us about social stratification and the
emergence of elite classes. Artin’s study of the Byblos
population and Pomadère’s chapter on non-adult burials
in the Greek Neolithic highlight the difficulties encountered by the bioarchaeologist who attempts to detect
broader trends. Le Mort’s study of non-adults from the
Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Khirokitia, Cyprus, indicates a high percentage of infant burials and a rather
homogenous funerary practice that is not age specific.
The contribution by Kogălniceanu involves a diachronic
analysis of non-adult burials from Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites across Romania. Results suggest that in the
majority of cases non-adults were not given differential
treatment and that their percentage in burial age
groups is in accord with the expected mortality limits
of 15–30%. Lillie’s study of the funerary practices of
Mesolithic and Neolithic populations from the Dnieper
Rapids, Ukraine, shows that hunter-gatherer children
often achieve high status at an early age and hence
points to the early integration of children into the
social context.
The majority of contributions focus on the funerary
(archaeological) contexts. However, only some of the
contributors provide an account as to how site formation processes, taphonomy, and excavation sampling
affect the archaeological funerary record. Physical
anthropologists will notice that most contributions do
not include bioarchaeological analysis of the skeletal
samples, and thus there is no information about nonadult paleodemography, health, and well-being.
However, some contributions, such as the one by
Oxenham et al. (on late Neolithic Vietnam) and Murphy (Scythian period cemetery complex in Eastern
Siberia) successfully apply biocultural approaches that
combine funerary archaeological and bioarchaeological
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
166
BOOK REVIEWS
methods and draw interesting syntheses about the
social context and mortuary treatment of healthy versus morbid non-adults. Of particular interest is the
chapter by Stefanović, which addresses the complex
relations between sex, age, and kinship of non-adults
from the Late Neolithic site of Gomolava, Serbia, by
combining archaeological, biological, and molecular
(ancient DNA) methods. Her finding that only boys
were buried in this site illustrates how biocultural
approaches that utilize crossdisciplinary methodologies
can challenge some of our current misconceptions
regarding the attitude of past societies to their nonadults.
Despite some of the issues mentioned above, which
are mainly due to the complexity of this topic, this edited
volume is highly recommended to both archaeologists
and physical anthropologists whose research involves
the study of non-adults. As the editor Krum Bacvarov
indicates that this collection of contributions does not
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American Journal of Physical Anthropology
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