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Viewing: ANTH 140 C2: Race & Science in Phila.

Last approved: Tue, 24 Mar 2020 15:00:59 GMT

Last edit: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 16:53:34 GMT

First Name Last Name Userid Title Home School Org Short Name
Katherine Moore kmmoore Practice Professor School of Arts and Sciences Anthropology
Fall 2020 (Non-Substantive Changes ONLY)
Spring 2020
Race & Science in Phila.
The history of race and science has its American epicenter in Philadelphia. Throughout this Academically-Based Community Service (ABCS) course, we will interrogate the past and legacy of racial science in the United States; the broad themes we broach will be met concretely in direct engagement with Penn and the Philadelphia community. As an extended case study, students will undertake independent research projects using primary source documents from local archives, tracing the global history of hundreds of human skulls in the 19th century Samuel G. Morton cranial collection at the Penn Museum, a foundational and controversial anthropological collection in the scientific study of race. These projects will be formed through an ongoing partnership with a Philadelphia high school in which Penn students will collaborate with high school students on the research and design of a public-facing website on the Morton collection and the legacy of race and science in America. In our seminar, we will read foundational texts on the study of racial difference and discuss anti-racist responses and resistance to racial science from the 19th century to the present. Throughout, we will work directly with both primary and secondary sources, critically interrogating how both science and histories of science and its impacts on society are constructed. Throughout this course, we will explore interrelated questions about Penn and Philadelphia’s outsize role in the history of racial science, about decolonization and ethics in scholarly and scientific practice, about the politics of knowledge and public-facing scholarship, and about enduring legacies of racial science and racial ideologies. All students are welcome and there are no prerequisites, save for intellectual curiosity and commitment to the course. This course will be of particular interest to those interested in race, American history and the history of science, anthropology, museum studies, education, and social justice.
AFRC 141 - Histories of Race and Science in Philadelphia
HIST 154 - Histories of Race and Science in Philadelphia
STSC 140 - Histories of Race and Science in Philadelphia

Foundational Approach

Cultural Diversity in the US
Paul Mitchell
This course is situated at an important place in the curriculum in that will allow students to: think about the role of academic disciplines and universities in the construction of race both historically and in the present; give students tools to understand human difference in a social context; learn how to talk about race from a respectful, informed, and critical perspective; understand and explore their university and city in its historical context and broader role in discourses about race and science in the United States. Students will achieve these intellectual ends through an interdisciplinary approach founded on historical research methods and social scientific conceptual paradigms useful for an integrative, nuanced understanding of the course content. This ABCS course will also allow students to make personal and intellectual connections in Philadelphia outside of the Penn community. The seminar portion of the course allows for a space for students to practice and hone sustained, considered dialogue and debate on complex and contentious issues.
First, to introduce students to both primary and secondary (and tertiary, etc.) source materials about the course content and to bring students to a critical understanding about the choices made in the act of turning “sources” or “data” into knowledge, narratives, and ideas. Part of this process will involve (described in point four, below) students participating in their own research on primary source documents and producing a public-facing website, giving them a chance to both exercise and reflect upon how they engage with translating ambiguous, polyvalent, and incomplete historical information into stories about the past.

Second, to familiarize students with the history of race and science, with particular reference to the United States and the ways in which sciences (with special reference to anthropology and medical science, but also to biology, psychology, sociology, and related disciplines) were integral to processes of racialization in U.S. history, with a particular focus on the 19th century and its long legacy. Through this study, students will be able to understand the dynamic between science and society bidirectionally, both how science influences society, and how society influences science in the US context.

Third, the course will emphasize diverse voices and contestations at the border of politics of science. These discussions will help situate and complicate understandings of the creation of the racial categories of “white,” “black,” and “Native American” in the United States.

One theme which we will engage at length is how both racist and anti-racist actors engaged each other in scientific debates, each attempting to create and deploy scientific knowledge in the service of their respective viewpoints. Black scientists and intellectuals (e.g. W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Anténor Firmin) will be counterposed with white race scientists, each arguing for different political and scientific conceptions of racial difference. Another topical area will consider how ownership and control over human remains, DNA, artifacts and archival sources figures into questions about repatriation in museums, especially within the context of NAGPRA (The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act) and relations between indigenous people in the United States and scientists who have studied them.

Fourth, Penn students, with their high school partners, will be creating content for a public website on the history of the Morton collection and its history. Website design will be facilitated by Penn Libraries and the Price Lab for the Digital Humanities (who are supporting this course). Through their work with high school partner students and for their midterm and final papers, students will research and write content that can be, after edited, posted on the website. Inevitably, this website can be added to in future years with the work of other students. Inspirations for this website come from GSE Professor Emeritus John Puckett’s West Philadelphia Collaborative History Project and Professor History Kathy Brown’s Penn and Slavery Project website. Each have incorporated original student research into a public-facing website.

Methods of Assessment

Students will be responsible for 10 short (300-400 word) responses to assigned readings.

Two papers will be assigned: one midterm (5-7 pg.) and one final (10-12 pg.) paper. The final paper may be an extension of (but not merely a revision of) the midterm paper. These papers will focus on one particular aspect of the Morton cranial collection and its social and scientific context.
Penn students will be required to meet weekly (after the first few weeks of the course) with high school students at the partner school to work on collaborative research projects. The topics that Penn students and their high school student partners collaboratively research will be the subject of their midterm/final papers and later posted on the public website. Penn students must therefore be able to meet their high school student partners weekly, which comprises about half of the course time for the majority of the semester. Particular logistical details of class time spent with partner students will be arranged with students individually. These arrangements will be facilitated by a dedicated ABCS course TA which will be provided by the Netter Center.

Cross Cultural Analysis


Cultural Diversity in the US

This course directly engages questions of race and ethnicity through a critical historical examination of the history of race and science. The social-historical formation of racial categories is a primary concern of this course, especially insofar as these processes of racial formation occur in conversation with scientific discourses in natural history, anthropology, and biology, from the 19th century to the present. Another significant focus of this course is how racialized identities influence the production and interpretation of knowledge: we interrogate how white and black anthropologists differently conceptualized their research and its meaning, and how race science was disseminated and used by different racial groups in the United States. Inevitably, these concerns engage questions about the relation of race to social class and immigration, concerning how the poor, enslaved, and dispossessed were overwhelmingly targeted as both the subjects and objects of race science, and how racial science was informed by and informed beliefs and policies relating to immigration and settler colonialism in the United States through the 19th century. One emphasis of this course will be why the formation of American racial science and racial thought is distinctive, shaped by the particularities of American history, and how it differs from racial thought in other parts of the world. Philadelphia plays a large part in this story and will feature prominently in the course. Finally, approximately the last quarter of the course concerns the physical remains of those whose bodies were collected in the production of knowledge about race in the 19th and 20th century. The North American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA, stipulating the repatriation of human remains and sacred and funerary objects held in museums to the federally recognized Native American tribes from which they were taken) and its ramifications will be an aspect of our discussion, broaching questions about the religious and spiritual significance of human remains to indigenous people in the Americas, as well as to other groups.
Although the course considers the expanding global reach of American racial science in the 19th century, its primary concerns are about the construction of three broad racial categories in the United States: those of Euro-, African-, and Native Americans. The ways in which histories of exploitation and the appropriation of land and labor figure into the production of scientific knowledge about race in the 19th century, and how these contribute to the shifting meaning of racial categories through time, will be primary foci of the course. For example, explicit comparisons investigating the political and economic concerns behind the scientific tools devised to account for hypodescent (“the one drop rule”) and blood quantum laws for Native people in the United States, or the history of anthropological justifications for expanding the category of “white” to include Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants to the United States over time, etc., will serve as a comparative lens to critically examine the differential racialization of people slotted into different racial classifications.
In broad strokes, this course is about how and why scientific knowledge is produced and interpreted in a particular historical context, with the major context relevant to the American story in the 19th century being one in which slavery, “manifest destiny,” and immigration are the major relevant political contexts. For example, in one part of the course, we will be examining the historical construction of “whiteness” as a racial category. One important aspect of the history of whiteness in the United States is the elasticity of this category in relation to changing economic and political conditions, especially concerns about labor and immigration. We will interrogate how anthropological racial classifications like “white” or “Caucasian” (or subdivisions within this category, like “Nordic,” “Mediterranean,” “Alpine,” etc.) change through time in order to reflect changing political circumstances rather than enduring truths about purported racial divisions.
This course will address issues of inequality, stratification, and power in a variety of ways, including:
1. Interrogating power relations between scientists and the subjects of (anthropological) study;
2. Interrogating power relations between different racial groups, and how this features in questions of who gets to create knowledge, and or whom;
3. Interrogating the ways in which scientific knowledge production about race served to justify social inequality and stratification in the United States, and how, why, and by whom this knowledge was critiqued and contested;
4. Interrogating questions of power in relation to how museums have acquired and continue to research and curate human remains, and how more diverse voices might be included in considering the ethical and educational issues relevant to these remains in museums
This course is integrative, but at its core is the critical reading of historical primary source materials alongside secondary literature which interprets that material. Students will read primary texts (eg. Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro, Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race) and secondary literature critically interpreting and addressing these texts and putting them in their historical and social context. Moreover, students will be working directly with primary archival sources, mostly from Philadelphia anthropologist Samuel George Morton’s correspondence, and producing their own critical, integrative research around these primary sources. Most parts of the course concern primary source materials, and most primary source materials are paired with a directly referential secondary source, as a major aim of the course, beyond increasing content knowledge, is to give students the tools to decipher and interpret historical texts and archival materials by taking part in this process themselves.

Quantitative Data Analysis


Formal Reasoning


Administrative Fields

College Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Committee
Key: 883