I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Race and perception

Interesting research project...An anthropology undergraduate bought paint samples in a range of shades from light to dark. She then had other students order them from lightest to darkest and place a dividing line between "white" and "black." She found that where people placed the line varied widely. She concluded that this was an indication of "the arbitrariness and subjectivity of racial categories."

One can certainly argue that paint and skin color are not necessarily comparable, but the results are interesting (though as an anthropologist I certainly don't need convincing about the arbitrariness and subjectivity of race). I wonder if one could repeat the experiment, with pictures of skin as opposed to paint swatches? I am sure the results would be the same, but what other impressions people carry with them change when you only see a small piece of a person?

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