Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning-- a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history--including being a basis for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-30
- Reviewer: Staff
“Children begin to attribute significance to skin color at about three years of age,” observes anthropologist Jablonski (Skin: A Natural History). “But,” she continues, “they don’t develop ideas of race based on what they see.” The book’s first half addresses the biology of skin color, lucidly explaining the science of what happened with skin color as “people moved into solar regimes markedly different from those under which their ancestors had evolved.” The second half focuses on the social consequences of skin color; Jablonski moves succinctly through recorded history from ancient Egypt, the early faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, a review of the “natural philosophers” (such as Kant), a consideration of the impact of slavery and the slave trade in modern Europe and the Americas, and a review of how skin color is regarded in South Africa, Brazil, India, and Japan. In the concluding chapters, Jablonski brings biology, culture, and health together. Her fresh approach to the skin color/race conundrum is not only provocative, but persuasive and exceptionally accessible whether she’s writing about the science of skin color or Kant (”one of the most influential racists of all time”). Agent: Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency. (Sept.)