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I.9.5 Race and racism,

Previous Year Questions:

  1. Differentiate between Race and Racism. What are three major races of the world?
  2. Give important biological criteria used frequently for such a classification.(15Marks 2013)
  3. Discuss race Crossing in humans with suitable examples (20Marks 2012)
  4. Is Race a valid concept? Critically assess the relevance of racial classification in the Indian Context. (30 Marks — 2010)
  5. Racial Criteria (S.N-2006)
  6. Race & Racism (S.N – 2004)
  7. What is ‘race? Enumerate and discuss the factors responsible for the formation of races. (S.N 1998)
  8. Controversies of race (S.N – 1996)
  9. Discuss the role of heredity and environment in formation of race. (L.Q – 1994)
  10. Racial types of lndia (S.N – 1993)
  11. Discuss the main processes involved in the formation of races. (L.Q – 1992)
  12. What is race? Describe the criteria employed for the classification of human races. (L.Q – 1991)
  13. Causes of human variation (S.N – 1990)
  14. How are the races formed? Describe the physical characteristics and distribution of different racial types in India (L.Q – 1990)
  15. Examine critically the bases of racial classification in the light of modern developments in Physical Anthropology (L.Q – 1989)
  16. Define race as a biological concept and discuss the various criteria of racial classification (L.Q – 1988)
  17. Racism (S.N – 1987)
  18. Factors involved in race formation in man. (S.N – 1985)



“a great division of mankind, characterised as a group by sharing certain combination of features, which have been derived from their common descent, and constitute a vague physical background, usually more or less obscured by individual variations, and realised best in a composite picture.”


“a population which differs from other populations with regard to the frequency of one or more of the genes it possesses.”


“a breeding population, partially isolated reproductively from other breeding populations.”


“a subspecies is an aggregate of phenotypically similar populations of a species, inhabiting a geographic subdivision and differing taxonomically from other populations of the species.”


“genetically distinct Mendelian populations. They are neither individuals nor particular genotypes, who differ genetically among themselves.”

Vogel and Motulsky

“a large population of individuals who have a significant fraction of genes in common and can be distinguished from other races by their common gene pool.”


“distinct evolutionary lineage within a species, genetically differentiated due to barriers
from genetic exchange that have persisted for long periods of time.”

While these gave (Hooton -essentialist concept , Mayr- taxonomic concept, Dobzhansky – population concept, Montagu – genetical context, Templeton -the lineage concept ) different concept, for anthropologist, race is a zoological concept.

The term ‘race’ is applied to a physically distinctive groups of people, on the basis of their difference from other groups in skin colour, head shape, hair type and physique. ie “If the people of one race may be distinguished by physical markings, then they constitute a race.”

Features of race as per definition by Theodosus Dobzhansky,

  1. Group Of Population : All populations have their own gene pool with differing gene frequency. If race is defined in term of gene frequencies, all populations would qualify to be called a race. Race is higher in hierarchy than populations, and consists of many populations that have gene frequencies related to one another.
  2. Genetic Differences : The group of populations forming a race have some genes in very high frequency and some in very low frequency and these genetic differences characterize a race. ‘ Such differences in gene frequency arise partly as a result of
    selection and partly as a result of chance.
  3. Reproductively Isolated : The group of populations forming races are reproductively isolate. This reproductive isolation, in fact, maintains the genetic differences between the races. The reproductive isolation, however, is not complete. Whenever races expand their range and come into contact of
    other races, they potentially hybridize and a now gene-frequency is set up.
  4. Biological Concept : Race is different from national, religious, and cultural groups. Indians or Germans are not racial groups, they are national groups. Buddhists and Protestants are religious groups. Aryans and Dravidians are linguistic groups. Race
    is a biological concept and there is no race except biological races. Such races are identified because of differing gene frequencies resulting from isolation, hybridization, selection, small mutations, and chance.

Races may “be defined as group of population that share a common gene pool and is differentiated from other groups in gene-frequencies.

The characters upon which races are distinguished-

  1. must be non-adaptive hence least influenced by environmental factors.
  2. must be hereditary hence genetic in origin.


“a belief that human races have distinctive characteristics that determine their respective cultures, usually involving a false notion that one’s race is superior and has the right to control others.”

Racialism is the belief in or practice of the doctrine of racism. The concept of racial superiority and inferiority is not based on any scientific facts. This racist outlook may be a remnant of slavery days.

The UNESCO statement on racial classification stated –

    1. Fundamentally, the entire human species has one origin and all men are Homo sapiens.

    2. National, religious, geographical, cultural and linguistic groups are entirely unconnected with and unrelated to race. These groups do not give indication of any race. Distinctions can be made between different races on the basis of differences in physical features but not on the basis of cultural characteristics.
    3. The differences that exist between the physical characteristics of men are due both to heredity and to environment. Differences in heredity arise due to the processes known as mutation and inbreeding.
    4. Some race may claim of purity but this not true. Today pure races cannot be found anywhere in the world. The process of mixing of races originated long back.
    5. Human races can be classified but these classifications are based solely on physical traits. They have no relation of any kind with mental or intellectual superiority or inferiority.
    6. The inner capacity for the development of mind and culture is found equally in every race. Hence distinction between races cannot be based on cultural differences and levels of intelligence.
    7. It is possible that in one nation the degree of racial difference may be greater while in another nation lesser degree.
    8. Evidence in support of the fact that the race has no important effect in the social and cultural differences between various human groups has been found in historical and sociological studies – By no stretch of imagination can one conceive of any relation between changes in racial form and social changes.
    9. That from the biological view point, mixing of races in deleterious, is an essentially incorrect and invalid belief.

In short, it may be stated that race is a group of intermarrying individuals, who are born of common ancestors, possess’ similar physical characteristics and primarily heritable physical differences from other human populations.


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