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The Construction of Human Kinds$
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Ron Mallon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198755678

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198755678.001.0001

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Constructing and Constraining Representations

Constructing and Constraining Representations

Was Race Thinking Invented in the Modern West?

Chapter:
(p.15) 1 Constructing and Constraining Representations
Source:
The Construction of Human Kinds
Author(s):

Ron Mallon

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198755678.003.0002

The idea that genuinely racial thinking is a modern invention is widespread in the humanities and social sciences. Some defend this idea by suggesting that the scientific revolution brought with it the articulation of racial essentialism. In contrast, recent work by cognitive and evolutionary psychologists suggests that racial essentialism is a product of culturally canalized, domain-specific, and species-typical features of human psychology. This evolutionary cognitive work thus suggests that racial essentialism is probably not culturally and historically local, and it casts some doubt on the thesis that genuine racial thinking is a culturally and historically local invention. More generally, the example of race suggests that the social construction of representations of human categories may be qualified by appeal to psychological constraints without lending credence to the content of the representations.

Keywords:   representation, race, essentialism, psychological essentialism, conceptual break hypothesis

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