Darwin sought to not only produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to polygenism, the current scientific discourse on human origins that gave tacit and at times explicit support for slavery: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.’ (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 235)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England, by Piers J. Hale.

B. Ricardo Brown. 2016. BOOK REVIEW: Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England, by Piers J. Hale. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2014.
[[*Unedited/uncorrected Draft*]]
Vol. 51, No. 2, pp. 367–369; Published online: July 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England, by Piers J. Hale. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2014. 465 pp. $45.00 US (hard cover).

Piers Hale has written an engrossing and well argued work on the complex milieu of Darwin’s early evolutionary theory and its subsequent interpreters. In so doing, he places the current disputes on evolutionary theory, particularly those between proponents of individual versus group selection, into a proper social, historical, and intellectual context. The assumptions regarding the social relations of competition and cooperation were no less obvious in Darwin’s day than in our own. Political Descent argues that Malthus, Lamarck, and especially Darwin himself, were well aware of the political, moral,and social implications of evolutionary theory. Likewise, the assumptions grounding our present debates can be seen in these “distant” debates if we take Hale’s invitation to suspend our usual disdainful sense that the arguments have “progressed” since then, or that it was ever simply an argument between Darwinists and anti-Darwinists.

Hale begins with a discussion of Malthus and the politics of evolutionary theory before and after Darwin focused on the role of competition and cooperation in human evolution The question of whether natural selection can account for the existence of altruism and social cohesion produced two ideological formations, one that embraced the social stasis invoked by Malthus, and the other a radical, progressive, anti-Malthusian politics that originates in Lamarck and Darwin’s own Lamarckianism. The opposition is between between those who would interpret Darwin through the lens of Malthus, and those who would have Darwin without Malthus.

Hales shifts the figure of Darwin from its usual role as the organizing center of attention to show Darwin in dialogue with Malthus, Spencer, and Wallace. Hale describes how Darwin’s rejection of Lamarck, and with it the radical politics often attached to the theory of acquired characteristics, facilitated the acceptance of the Origin by placing it within the mainstream of Whig politics. However, this invited Malthusian interpretations of natural selection that Darwin flatly rejected. Darwin insisted noted that his use of Malthus was always metaphorical. Darwin’s use of Malthus certainly influenced the reception of the Origin of Species, but Darwin’s Origin reinterprets Malthus theory in support of an ever changing nature. This, Hale shows, contributed to the diverse politics and social theories that continue to spring from Darwin’s engagement with the species question.

Hale provides a nice account of Wallace’s often overlooked address to London’s Anthropological Society that attempted to reconcile its avowed polygenism with the monogenism espoused in Darwin and Huxley’s Ethnological Society. Despite Darwin’s enthusiasm for Wallace’s paper, he held firmly to his views on the centrality of natural and sexual selection in human evolution while embracing the portion of Wallace’s paper that showed the importance of social relations in the development of moral sentiment and altruism in humans. Darwin praised Wallace’s paper, perhaps a little back-handedly, as the best he had read in the journal of the Anthropological Society.

Darwin’s natural selection faced increasing criticism in the years between the writing of the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man. Wallace’s spiritualism left Darwin without an important ally, and he turned to the work of other liberals during the writing of the Descent. Herbert Spencer, Walter Bagehot, Adam Smith, David Hume, J. S. Mill, Harriett Martineau all appear as influences on Darwin’s monogenic account of how natural and sexual selection could by themselves account for the moral and social evolution of humans. Hale reminds us that the Descent of Man was partly motivated by Darwin’s insistence that “evolution did not endorse the moral standards of every cheating tradesman” nor does “the most noble part of our nature, moral conscience” originate in “the base principle of selfishness” (p. 111).

In chapter four, Hale leaves behind these disputes to consider how important English liberals and socialists responded to their rapidly changing social context. Moving from the debate between Spencer and Huxley over the role of government in the progress of society, Hale describes the radical responses to the Social Darwinism, the most well known of these being the geographer and anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin. Hale reestablishes the place of Kropotkin and radical geography in the history of evolutionary theory. The social and political stakes in the debates between the various interpreters of Malthus and Darwin in the United Kingdom were great. From laissez faire to anarchism, utopian socialism and Fabianism, devotees of Malthus such as H. G. Wells, Henry Hyndman, and G. B Shaw promoted the view that society is itself an organism that evolves. Socialist and non-socialist politics were equally girded by their engagement with Malthusian arguments and Spencerian utopianism.

This theme is continued in the discussion of Weissman, Pearson, and others whose thought fit well with notions of degeneracy and decline that were ubiquitous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hale concludes by bringing the discussion back to the present day to remind us that these fundamental disputes have never been resolved, and that they continue to animate our conflicting approaches to the place of human society in evolutionary theory.

Hale’s excellent essay shows the social and biological sciences to be deeply intertwined from their moment of origin. Political Descent is a valuable corrective to simplistic accounts of the politics of evolutionary theory.

B. Ricardo Brown, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Work-in-Progress: Degeneration, Race, and the Rise of Sociology

Degeneration, Race, & the Rise of Sociology

The work of writing the follow-up to Until Darwin has begun. Below is a little bit about the manuscript and more will be posted here over the next few months as another project draws closer to completion . The motivation for this return is that, in hindsight, my approach in Until Darwin perpetuated a certain silence through its focus on the place of Darwin's encounters with slavery in his thinking about nature, natural selection, and the tangled bank of life. Of course, Darwin is a towering figure across many disciplines whose work simply can not be ignored if we want to understand how we got to the place we find ourselves. However, Darwin's long shadow obscures just how difficult it was for even him to bring an end to the monogenic/ploygenic debates that permeated Enlightenment attempts to understand human variety. Most importantly, in Until Darwin it obscured the continuities of polygenism, degeneracy, and race before and after the publication of the Origin, as well as their place in the emerging fields (systems of knowledge) of sociology and biology.

The persistence of the concepts of degeneracy, race, and to a lesser degree polygenism, is a problem confronting the study of Darwin and Darwinism, but is also one found in the pages of any study of degeneracy or racialism. This begs the so far unanswered question: How is it that theories of race and degeneracy predate the Darwinian revolution and move from a relatively minor position within Natural History to a dominant position within the new sciences of life? By investigating this question, we are led to consider how polygenism, race, and degeneracy were reinterpreted after the collapse of Natural History. If these continuities exist, this investigation should reveal how the fields of biology and sociology relied on each other for validation and legitimacy through their deployment of shared scientific ideologies of race and degeneracy. In Until Darwin, one gets the impression that Darwin's Origin of Species was an epistemological break, but it was an error to have left that impression. It is the persistence of these scientific ideologies that raise questions about the extent of the "revolution" initiated by the publication of the Origin. Degeneracy, race, and polygenism were not discarded as out-date scientific ideologies. In the wake of the Origin of Species, race and degeneracy – at times with an undercurrent of polygenic theory – became objects of scientific study, and their use as dynamic social forces in modern life only intensified. Of course, one must admit that Darwinism in its broad meaning produces its own theories of race and degeneracy, but this only supports the assertion that these notions once comfortably housed within Natural History soon found their place with the new sciences of life. These scientific ideologies gave legitimacy and social relevance to biology and sociology. It is almost impossible to imagine biology and sociology as disciplines apart from their relevance to government and to the health of the governed.

Thomas Huxley wrote that Naturalists like himself – for the term “biologist” was only just coming into use – had been too humble to simply and honestly lay their rightful claim to the entire domain of life, and so for mere convenience the study of modern human life had been ceded to sociology. Huxley was quick to point out that with the inevitable advance of knowledge, biology will one day no longer need to be so humble and will inevitably take its place as the organizing science of social and natural life. Until that day, “...one should not be surprised if it occasionally happens that you see a biologist trespassing upon questions of philosophy or politics; or meddling with human education; because, after all, that is part of his kingdom which he has only voluntarily forsaken” (Huxley. 1876 (1902) “Study of Biology” in Scientific Memoirs IV: 252-253). As told by this foremost of the new scientists, confining themselves to one domain of life contributed to the formation a new system of knowledge that his contemporary William Sumner called “the sciences of life in society” within which “....biology and sociology touch. Sociology is a science which deals with one range of phenomena produced by the struggle for existence, while biology deals with another. The forces are the same... the sciences are cognate” (1881:173; from “Sociology” in War and Other Essays: 165-194).
The question that we will attempt to examine in this manuscript is a deceptively simple one: how is it that notions of polygenism, degeneracy and race survived the end of Natural History and were so easily incorporated into, and transformed by, the new sciences of life? It should be admitted that this question demands a more complex answer than this single – if any work is really singular – manuscript will provide. We can only point out an avenue of critique that has not been fully accessible until recently. These pages will focus on the place of degeneracy and race in the emerging disciplines of biology and sociology, with special attention being given to their place in the emergence and legitimization of sociology in the United States. We can justify this focus on the United States, if indeed it need be justified, because it is here that the polygenic theory reached its zenith and where slavery made questions of human variety and the replies of race and degeneracy aspects of everyday life and politics. The sciences of life and society have always given a special place to degeneracy and race. Broadly speaking, the goal is to demonstrate that the social was always biological and the biological has always been social, at least since the moment when we began to speak of sociology and biology as the sciences of life.

NGRAM (just for fun)
Biology,Sociology,Biologist,Sociologist,biologist,sociologist,degenerate,degeneration,eugenics: 1800-1939

Monday, December 8, 2014

Excerpt from the Introduction to Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race

Excerpt from the Introduction to
Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race (2010)

Pickering & Chatto Publishers
21 Bloomsbury Way London WC1A 2TH E: info@pickeringchatto.co.uk
Hb: c.256pp: October 2010
978 1 84893 100 8: 234x156mm: £60.00/$99.00
978 1 84893 101 5
The complete text of this chapter can be found at: 

Ecce Homo or Slavery and Human Variety

The history of science is a history of forgetting. It is the history of how scientific truth emerges from the murky cacophony of words and things that were once said and built, but are now silenced and buried. At the moment a regime of scientific truth coalesces, this cacophony is enveloped within a rational, ordered and yet arbitrary universal system. But we should pause to remember that the elements of this system were already present in the anarchy it replaced. For reasons of practicality, we are taught to forget the chaos which preceded contemporary knowledge. At the same time, those elements of wretched knowledge that we thought were finally repressed by truth continue to emerge over and over again. In 1999, for example, most of the sociologists and anthropologists in the United States and Canada received in the mail an edited version of a 300 page work purporting to prove the inferiority of Blacks and Asians relative to Whites. The book was by a tenured professor at a respected Canadian university and published reputable press associated with a major American university.

On the other hand, it is certainly true that many insightful critiques of the concept of race have already been produced. The best of these works carry on the tradition of examining race not as an essential aspect of bodies, but as a concept of power that is overdetermined by the ideology of everyday life. In this sense, they have made significant contributions to our understanding of the meaning ---or emptiness--- of race. There are divergent tendencies at play in these works. Some tend to ignore or insufficiently treat the scientific definition of race as a historical problem, or at least they do not delve very deeply into the longe duree of race. Other analyses are much more historical, but often present the concept of race solely in the context of the history of ideas. It is in these works that some argue that racialism is rational and ‘at times’ a useful tactic of those classified as racially inferior by the dominate ideology. Others suggest that racialism can only come from one source ---one people--- and no where else. Few if any of these works, even those histories of ideas, trace the concept of race along the entangled path that leads to the critique of science itself, choosing to reflect on philosophy and meaning. There is little attempt to continue the analysis through to its historical critique of truth. The scientific work is mentioned only in passing, but if reason and domination are connected, as they most certainly are, then the history of science must be of more than mere passing interest to the study of Human variety. Reason --- manifested through science and technological domination --- is central to understanding race. This is especially true because the philosophy of race after Spencer came to serve as an interpretive adjunct to the science of race, just as philosophy came to be the adjunct of science. In the final analysis, the place to find the origins of the ‘meaning’ of race is in the sciences of life, in the magnificent bio-social discourse that spans disciplines from Natural History to Sociology. An investigation here leads one to understand the emptiness of the concept, except in relation to the formations of ideologies which serve as apparatuses for the deployment of scientific knowledge and its subsequent accumulation. In the essay you are now holding and reading, the analysis of race is not about finding the correct view of essential characteristics. This essay is about how the social and biological sciences are invested with authority. In a more theoretical sense, this essay is an attempt to situate the study of race in the context of a more general study of bio-social discourse. There is no better expression of the ideological foundation of modern science than the history of the scientific classifications that form the parameters for most biological and sociological investigations of race and racial differences. 

This essay suggests an avenue of research that might fill in a space made available by a variety of earlier work. An assumption that runs through much of this body of work is that the imperative to describe the experience of race can easily result in the distortion or elimination of the history of race. Relying on the description of this experience can make of the history of race appear as a series of obvious and easily recognizable events that led naturally and inevitably to the present. If "one must notice race" as some sociologists have claimed, then race must be seen not as metaphysical concept or reduced to the level of mere identity. Instead, what we have come to refer to as race is a landscape of conflict. The extent of this conflict is limited by a bio-social discourse on the meaning of being human. This meaning is supposedly manifested by racial differences which we believe are constitutive of what kind of human we are, if indeed allows that others are truly human. In the pages you are holding, race is examined not as a historical truth, but as a moment in the history of truth. This essay is an investigation into the scientific classification of human variety. It is an attempt to recover a past which has been forgotten or repressed by the very sciences of life and society whose origins are to be found in these forgotten errors.

To examine human variety in terms of the history of truth, requires that we understand the history of modern science and the history of race as inwoven histories. Does this mean that science is racist? Such a question rightly sounds absurd, but not for the reasons that the defenders of the privileges of scientific knowledge and the power of science would like us to believe, nor does the simplicity of the question negate its seriousness. To be sure a few scientists actively embrace racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., but the question is not whether science is racist. A more concrete question is: how does race function as a 'scientific ideology'? How has it successfully functioned as a scientific ideology for so long a time despite the considerable efforts that have been undertaken to make it a part of normal science. Race is a powerful expression of the attempt to fix the meaning of life and to determine its value. From their beginning, the human sciences have sought the fixed, unchanging meaning behind human diversity. Until Darwin, this meaning was not discussed in our terms of biological and cultural diversity because the naturalists did not think in those terms. Instead, what stood before them was not biology and culture but essentially one object of study which they understood as a history that was the playing out or unfolding of immanent and often racial determinations ---evolution as understood the preformist sense of the word. An acorn, as the old saying went, can only become an oak.

Historically, the language of race and the language of science reveal a continuity, even if the politics of this continuity is in constant flux. But the ability of science to fix ---however unstable and temporary this might be - the classification of human variety has contributed mightily to the establishment of the authority of science of life in our understanding the truth about human nature and society. The authority of science to construct the degenerate, the criminal, the genius, and the sexes as objects of knowledge is an authority intertwined with the scientific ideology of race and the administration of authority. This essay is an investigation into race only in so far as race exists as a scientific ideology which are, in effect, truths that are never quite true. i

One of many places to contribute to a broad project on the scientific study of human variety is the critical inquiry into the scientific classifications of human variety. One does this knowing that this is a question whose subject constantly refers it back to itself. One can not escape creating classifications at the same time that one undertakes a critical study of fundamental systems of classification. Nevertheless, the task here is not to develop a theory of race, but to ruthlessly critique race as a scientific ideology. This makes the investigation of the history of classifications and their place in scientific ideology absolutely necessary to our obsession with finding the meaning of race.

The history of science is the victim of a classification that simply it accepts, whereas the real problem is to discover why the classification exists, that is, to undertake a ‘critical history of classifications’. To accept without criticism a division of knowledge into disciplines prior to the ‘historical process’ in which those disciplines develop is to succumb to an ‘ideology’.ii
It is not that race is prior to class, sex or gender, nor is it a more essential foundation to the classification of human variety. We might have found all manner of differences on which to base our producing of human types and we have clearly used gender, class, and other cultural differences To argue for the priority of racial classifications would be to re-inscribe the hierarchy that we should be attempting to make uninhabitable. A critical investigation of the many classifications of human variety discloses the history of scientific attempts to establish race. It is a history that should unsettle our most basic assumptions about both race and science. Certainly, nothing less than our faith in an immutable identity is called into question. At the same time, the manner in which science has described race and used it as a means to understand humans calls into question its own authority. ‘The obsolete is condemned in the name of truth and objectivity. But what is now obsolete was once considered objectively true. Truth must submit itself to criticism and possible refutation or there is no science’.iii The process by which we come to place a value on race rests within a hierarchical classification of bodies, attributes, truths, and institutions. While classification is necessary for any production of knowledge, systems of classification also constrict and set the borders of acceptable knowledge. By investigating the scientific classification of human variety, we can begin to dismantle one of the ideological truths which we have since internalized and naturalized. This essay is not concerned with denouncing the disciplines or reproaching them for their errors. Any discipline rests upon its particular regimes of truth: the ‘report, naming, the narration of a Beginning, but also presentation, confirmation, explanation’.iv Often, this includes how a genius lived, a discovery was made, or a theory’s predicted outcome was put to the test and resulted in a group of texts that established both an entire horizon of knowledge and the mythical history of the discipline itself. In contrast to this, the perspective that ‘[c]lassification is a condition of knowledge, not knowledge itself, and knowledge in turn dissolves classification’v neatly captures the process by which the Natural History and political economy became the disciplines of biology and society.

Smedley argued that "the identification of race with a breeding line or stock of animals carries with it certain implications for how Europeans came to view human groups."vi The very use of the term race placed an emphasis on innateness, on the unchanging and unalterable in humans. ‘The term ‘race’ made possible an easy analogy of inheritable and unchangeable features from breeding animals to human beings’.vii The morphology and behavior of humans defined and explained the animal as much, if not more, than the morphology and behavior of the animal explained the human. Race now served as a foundation for creating a new creature: "the European." As a category for classifying humans within a general classificatory chart or Table of Nature, race has had varied and contradictory meanings. It was not the case that new principles of biology were applied to society, but that nature became social at the same time that the social became natural. The belief that they constituted each other took on new meaning after humans were placed in the world by Linne, Cuvier, Darwin and Marx. If the cause of human variety could be found, it would be the explanation for the variety of nature. It is also true that insights gained from animal husbandry could be used to explain human variety. These tendencies are common in the work of Natural History that took ‘the species question’ as a central object of study.viii Indeed, from Natural History to biology, the quest to solve the species question was organized on the generally accepted assumption of multiple contemporary human species. The definition of species, a concept so central to the development of modern scientific thought, was determined within the context of the search for the origins of human variety.

It is not so much that race pervades everything, but that race is one mode of an all pervasive bio-social discourse. Race is said to speak through the living being, who is subordinate to the truth of race. In so speaking, race could be said to pervade the social relations of everyday life: master/slave; creditor/debtor; capitalist/worker; parent/child; etc. But to naturalize race in such a way gives weight to an empty concept and distracts us away from the apparatus of knowledge that speaks through and to race. This bio-social knowledge unites a) discourses on nature and life such as Natural History, biology, medicine, ecology, and their systems of classification; b) discourses on the forces of life, which are of two kinds: first the rational forces of Enlightenment ---like the universals of History, Consciousness, and Reason---and second, the irrational forces of the instincts, the mob, the anarchy of the social relations of capital, and the masses; c) discourses on the stability of society, or social inertia, such as the sociological writings on stability, progress, and degeneration. One might even hazard at this point to again use the word ideology.ix Beneath the argument in this essay is the assumption of a close relationship of authority and scientific ideologies. In one sense, the reader can take away from this work the most timid proposal, that scientific ideologies matter, that they have real effects in the world, and that they are a part of the social relations they describe. A critical analysis that addresses scientific ideology would be impossible if ideology was not located in the materiality of everyday life, i.e., if it did not find expression in the materiality of social relations. What could express this more than the taxonomy of ourselves? What better than the classification of human variety that unites Camper’s finding of beauty in the facial angle with your sideways glance at the suspicious or ‘out of place’ person walking through your neighborhood?

Chapter One delves into the importance of the Species Question itself and the singular importance the riddle of human variety held in its investigation. The question of the existence of species and their origins would be decided by first solving the problem of human variety. It was believed that human variety held the key to understanding why variety existed in Nature in general. We would finally know the reasons for our many differences in physiology, language, and progress towards civilization. Monogenism and the fixity of species had a uneasy coexistence when variety was obvious to any observer and needed explanation.

Chapter Two traces the shift from monogenism to polygenism, or the theory of multiple origins, i.e., the theory that each race originated at a different time and in a geographically isolated and unique locale. The monogenic theories were widely supported and derived most of this support from their seeming agreement with the Book of Genesis. Polygenic theories, on the other hand, were common amongst those who disputed the truthfulness of the Biblical creation story and who were busy building the first respected scientific theory of human origins from the new world. The popular height of the polygenic theory was the publication of Josiah Nott and George Gliddon’s Types of Mankind. Types of Mankind was a tribute to their friend and teacher Samuel J. Morton as well as an open repudiation of religion in favor of free scientific investigation. Such investigation lead them to proclaim that the polygenic origins of human variety. This chapter gives a general discussion of the American School and an account of the brief period before Darwin when polygenism was the predominate scientific theory of the origins and meaning of human variety. This theory falls before Darwin's explanation for a common origin of humans and the chapter which follows puts Darwin in the context of the species question and his intervention against the monogenic/polygenic discourses. Darwin’s title is itself an acknowledgment of the species question. It is suggested that when seen in the historical context of slavery and civil war, Darwin produced a sharp break not merely with polygenic theory, but with the entire discourse between the supporters of polygenic and monogenic theories. Darwin, it is argued, sought to not only to produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to the current scientific discourse on human origins: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death’x.....

....But these general statements on continuity are not particularly insightful or original, for it is a commonplace of our time that the question of chronology receives much serious analysis. Nor can these statements tell the story of how human variety came to be understood according to racial types. Pliny's ‘prodigious’ humans are humans. They are not deviations, degenerates, or deformities, nor are they the result of hybridization, etc. They are not signs or omens, representations or divine favor or wrath, etc. This is a fundamentally different conception of human variety from the Christian one. Monsters marked the limit of Nature, but prodigious varieties did not. What Marx found in capital Pliny found in nature: that the process of accumulation and reproduction marks its own limit.

In Aristotle's works human variety was not a defining characteristic of a particular historical period. The ambition was to define and classify humans through the doubled relation between polis and nature, and between humans and nature. It does not minimize this double relation to recognize that the social relations of master and slave is seen as fixed and permanent and allows race to take on a transhistorical presence, for a slave is now born to be a slave, and the master a master. The everyday social relation between humans in a polis transcends its material basis and comes to stand for all human relationships. On this point Marx and Nietzsche agree: a fundamental social relationship is that of creditor/debtor, and that this relationship has a history that could be excavated through critical and genealogical approaches. The basic social bond that we bring to light is all to often one of cruelty and cooperation - because breaking or transvaluing the already given social relation reproduces the same cruelty that brought it into existence in the first place.i The return of the repressed appears in its most concrete form: the cruelty of the relation never disappears, it simply comes to appear as nature itself, or as the very definition of what is natural in terms of human nature. Nature comes to embody the cruelty found in the State and in Nature and vis versa. ‘The welding of a hitherto unchecked and shapeless populace into a firm form was not only instituted by an act of violence but also carried to its conclusion by nothing but acts of violence---that the oldest ‘state’ thus appeared as a fearful tyranny, as an oppressive and remorseless machine, and went on working until this raw material of people and semi-animals was at last not only thoroughly kneaded and pliant, but also formed’.ii The relationship of slavery to our understanding of human variety is just one specific instance of the broader apparatus of cruelty and cooperation.iii

The complexity of its subject makes a work such as this one difficult and its conclusions ultimately tentative until such time as others take up the task. There are some similarities and alliances that one might expect, but there are also many that are surprising or ironic. What we can definitely say is that this complex arrangement of discourses and institutions producing ---and produced by--- the knowledge of human variety teems with continuities, discontinuities, dialectics, fanciful speculations, frauds, empirical observations, measurements, and classifications. At the very least we can conclude that out of this emerged the authority of the sciences of life and society: biology and sociology as the true sciences of Enlightenment. The assumption underlying this work is that the true meaning of human variety and its origins are like the Ghosts of Africa mentioned by Pliny at the end of his catalog of the notable varieties. He describes them as the species of human that vanish when approached.

The complete text of this chapter can be found at: 

i ‘Scientific ideologies are explanatory systems that stray beyond their own borrowed norms of scientificity’. This is precisely why the history of science is really about the history of truth and error, and not falsity or false consciousness. ‘Scientific ideology is not to be confused with false science, magic, or religion. Like them, it derives its impetus from an unconscious need for direct access to the totality of being, but it is a belief that squints at an already instituted science whose prestige it recognizes and whose style it seeks to imitate’. Which is to say that a scientific ideology will persist until such time as an adjacent discipline demonstrates its potential contribution to ---and alignment with --- an established disciplinary knowledge. G. Canguilhem, Rationality and Ideology in the History of the Life Sciences (Cambridge: MIT Press 1989), p. 38.
ii M. Serres in Canguilhem, Rationality and Ideology in the History of the Life Sciences, p. 34.
iii Canguilhem, Rationality and Ideology in the History of the Life Sciences, p. 39.
iv M. Horkheimer and T. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: philosophical fragments (1947) (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), p. 8.
v M. Horkheimer and T. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, p. 182.
vi A. Smedley, Race in North America: origin and evolution of a worldview, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), p. 40.
vii A. Smedley, Race in North America: origin and evolution of a worldview, p. 40.
viii ‘The questions before us at this time are – 1. What is a species? 2. Are species permanent? 3. What is the basis of variations in species?’ J.D. Dana, ‘Thoughts on Species’, American Journal of Science and Arts, 24 (1857), pp. 305-316, on p. 305.
ix Ideology is not merely the symbolic re-presentation of social production; it is present in every moment in the process of production and accumulation, in every movement, thought, sound, and gesture. Ideology is found in the discourses, technologies, and moralities of everyday life produced by the social relations of capital. The mystification of social conflicts lies in the production and commodification of desire in everyday life, since part of capitalist social production is given over to the production of desire itself (Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment 1969[1944]). Desire, especially the desire for one's own repression, is a social relation located "in the particular social character of the labor that produces them" (K. Marx, Capital, Volume One (New York: Penguin Classics, 1967), p.77.
x Darwin, Descent of Man, 1998 [1874]:188.

i K. Marx, Capital, pp. 439-454.
ii F. Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals [and] Ecce Homo (1887-1888), ed. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale ( New York: Vintage Books. 1969), p. 86.
iii B. R. Brown, ‘City without Walls: Notes on Terror and Terrorism’, Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination, 2:1 (2007), pp. 53-82.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

John James Audubon meets John Bachman: "there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand...."

Audubon recounts meeting John Bachman for the first time: "there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand...."

Audubon was much taken from the first meeting of the Rev John Bachman, a prominent Lutheran Cleryman and one of the foremost naturalists in America.  Below is an excerpt from Audubon's Delineations of American scenery and character where he recounts this meeting with Bachman.  Audubon does not mention just how close the families would become, with Bachman's daughters marrying Audubon's sons, Maria Martin Bachman painting many of the backgrounds for Audubon's Birds of America, and Audubon naming several species in honor of his dear friend including the now extinct Bachman's Warbler.
The Charleston County Public Library has an excellent series on the Audubon, Bachman, and Natural History in Charleston.  Posts on this blog related to Audubon, John Bachman, and Maria Martin Bachman include:

A Short Biography of John Bachman (1790-1874)
Audubon's Birds and some often Overlooked Contributions of Women to Natural History

A brief additional note to Audubon's Birds and some often Overlooked Contributions of Women to Natural History

Maria Martin Bachman's sketches and paintings for Audubon: On-line Exhibition from the Charleston County Public Library
Review of America’s Other Audubon (Brain Pickings Blog)

Podcast - Charleston's Women Naturalists: Jennifer Scheetz, Archivist, Charleston Museum

So, enjoy this meeting of two of the foremost naturalists of their day.

We now proceeded swiftly down the broad Chesapeake Bay, reached Norfolk, and removing into another steamer bound to the capital of Virgina, soon arrived at Richmond. Having made acquaintance, many years before, in Kentucky, with the governor of that State, the Honourable John Floyd, I went directly to him, was received in the kindest manner, and furnished with letters of introduction; after which we proceeded southward until we arrived at Charleston, in South Carolina. It was there that I formed an acquaintance, now matured into a highly valued friendship, with the Rev. John Bachman, a proficient in general science, and particularly in zoology and botany, and one whose name you will often meet with in the course of my biographies. But I cannot refrain from describing to you my first interview with this generous friend, and mentioning a few of the many pleasures I enjoyed under his hospitable roof, and in the company of his most interesting family and connections.

It was late in the afternoon when we took our lodgings in Charleston. Being fatigued, and having written the substance of my journey to my family, and delivered a letter to the Rev. Mr. Gilman, I retired to rest. At the first glimpse of day the following morning, my assistants and myself were already several miles from the city, commencing our search in the fields and woods, and having procured abundance of subjects, both for the pencil and the scalpel, we returned home, covered with mud, and so accoutred as to draw towards us the attention of every person in the streets. As we approached the boarding-house, I observed a gentleman on horseback close to our door. He looked at me, came up, inquired if my name was Audubon, and on being answered in the affirmative, instantly leaped from his saddle, shook me most cordially by the hand— there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand—and questioned me in so kind a manner, that I for a while felt doubtful how to reply. At his urgent desire, I removed to his house, as did my assistants. Suitable apartments were assigned to us, and once introduced to the lovely and interesting group that composed his family, I seldom passed a day without enjoying their society. Servants, carriages, horses, and dogs, were all at our command, and friends accompanied us to the woods and plantations, and formed parties for water excursions. Before I left Charleston, I was truly sensible of the noble and generous spirit of the hospitable Carolinians.
Having sailed for the Floridas, we, after some delay, occasioned by adverse winds, put into a harbour near St. Simon's Island, where I was so fortunate as to meet with Thomas Butler King, Esq., who, after replenishing our provision-stores, subscribed to the "Birds of America." At length we were safely landed at St. Augustine, and commenced our investigation. Of my sojourn in Florida, during the winter of 1831-32, you will find some account in this volume. Returning to Charleston, we passed through Savannah, respecting my short stay in which city you will also find some particulars in the sequel. At Charleston we lived with my friend Bachman, and continued our occupations. In the beginning of April, through the influence of letters from the Honourable Lewis M'Lean, of the Treasury Department, and the prompt assistance of Colonel J. Pringle, we went on board the revenue cutter, the "Marion," commanded by Robert Day, Esq., to whose friendly attention I am greatly indebted for the success which I met with in my pursuits, during his cruise along the dangerous coast of East Florida, and amongst the islets that every where rise from the surface of the ocean, like gigantic waterlilies. At Indian Key, the Deputy-Collector, Mr. Thruston, afforded me important aid; and at Key West I enjoyed the hospitality of Major Glassel, his officers and their families, as well as of my friend Dr. Benjamin Strobel, and other inhabitants of that singular island, to all of whom I now sincerely offer my best thanks for the pleasure which their society afforded me, and the acquisitions which their ever ready assistance enabled me to make.
Having examined every part of the coast which it was the duty of the commander of the Marion to approach, we returned to Charleston with our numerous prizes, and shortly afterwards I bent my course eastward, anxious to keep pace with the birds during their migrations. With the assistance of my friend Bachman, I now procured for my assistant, Mr. Ward, a situation of ease and competence, in the Museum of the Natural History Society of Charleston, and Mr. Lehman returned to his home. At Philadelphia I was joined by my family, and once more together we proceeded towards Boston. That dreadful scourge the cholera was devastating the land, and spreading terror around its course. We left Philadelphia under its chastising hand, and arrived at New York, where it was raging, while a heavy storm that suddenly burst over our heads threw an additional gloom over the devoted city, already bereft of a great part of her industrious inhabitants. After spending a day with our good friends and relatives, we continued our journey, and arrived at Boston....

Audubon, John James.  Delineations of American scenery and character; with an introduction by Francis Hobart Herrick.  New York: G.A. Baker & Company, 1926.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The "American School": A brief timeline of the Monogenist / Polygenist Debate.

12 February Darwin is born in Shrewsbury, England, the son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah Wedgwood. The same day as the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Darwin meets Captain Robert FitzRoy and makes preparations for the voyage. Begins Beagle diary.

Rev John Bachman meets James Audubon and begins a life-long friendship and collaboration.

Bachman's wife Maria Martin becomes Audubon's assistant and paints many of the backgrounds, plants, and insects used in Birds of North America.

In mid-January, Beagle reaches St Jago, Cape Verde Islands. Darwin begins the field notebooks that he will continue to use throughout his life. From February 1832 to May 1834 the Beagle surveys the east coast of South America.

Early part of the year is spent surveying in Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. April to May Darwin and Fitz-Roy travel inland along the River Santa Cruz. From June 1834 to September 1835 the Beagle surveys the west coast of South America.

Beagle departs Lima, Darwin spends 16 September to 20 October exploring the Galapagos Archipelago, then traveled on to spend November in Tahiti and New Zealand.

Beagle drops anchor at Falmouth, England, on October 2 and on October 4 Darwin returns home to Shrewsbury. Begins to publish scientific papers.

George Gliddon and Samuel G. Morton begin corresponding. Gliddon obtains several specimens for Morton's work.

Darwin publishes The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle (1838-43). In July begins his first notebook on the transmutation of species.

Samuel G. Morton, Crania Americana; or a Comparative view of the Skulls of various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America; to which is prefixed an essay on the Varieties of the Human Species (Philadelphia, 1839)

George Combe, Notes on the United States of America during a Phrenological Visit in 1838-1840.

Darwin marries Emma Wedgwood on 29 January; publishes Journal of Researches, later known as Voyage of the Beagle. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Based upon many errors, the US Census suggests that Negroes are prone to violence and insanity in the North. Despite many efforts of Jarvis to correct the results, Secretary of State John C. Calhoun prevents any challenges and the results remain official. The attempts to overturn the Census result in the founding of the American Statistical Association.

Gliddon undertakes a series of widely popular lectures on Egyptology around the United States using a 800 foot long moving backdrop and many artifacts.

Samuel G. Morton, “Distinctive Characteristics of the Aboriginal Man of America,”Annual Address before the Boston Society of Natural History.

George R Gliddon, Ancient Egypt: a series of chapters on early Egyptian history, archaeology, and other subjects connected with hieroglyphical literature.

Samuel G. Morton, Crania Ægyptiaca; or Observations on Egyptian Ethnography, derived from History and the Monuments, dedicate to Gliddon.

Darwin expands an early sketch of the theory of natural selection into a longer essay. He writes a note to Emma Darwin requesting that this essay should be published if he should die unexpectedly, providing some funds as well as the names of possible editors.

Josiah Nott, “On the Pathology of Yellow Fever,” American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 9, new series, 277-293. Nott argues that those “hybrids” of “mixed” race are less likely to contract Yellow fever than Whites or Negroes.

Josiah Priest. Slavery, as it relates to the Negro... and Causes of his State of Servitude ... with strictures on Abolitionism.

Rev. John Bachman, having newly taken over as minister, actively recruits African Americans to join St. John's Lutheran Church in Charleston. Black membership reaches 200. A segregated Sunday School for African-Americans is established with 150 pupils and 30 teachers and staff.

Josiah Nott, “Unity of the Human Race,” Southern Quarterly Review, January 1846.

Louis Agassiz arrives in Boston.

Louis Agassiz in Charleston.

Thomas S. Savage and Jeffries Wyman. "Notice of the External Characteristics and Habits of Trolodytes Gorilla, A New Species of Orang from the Gaboon River." Boston Journal of Natural History. The first anatomical description of a gorilla in the United States, compares its anatomy with that of the Caucasian and the Negro. 

Charles Pickering, a supporter of the polygenic theory, publishes The Races of Mankind and their Geographical Distribution.

Josiah Nott, “Yellow Fever Contrasted with Billious Fever --- Reason for Believing it a Disease of Sui Generis... Probably Insect or Animalcular Origin,” New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. Nott correctly suggests that Yellow Fever is transmitted by an insect.

E. George Squire and Edwin Hamilton Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley: Comprising the Results of Extensive Original Surveys and Explorations.

Josiah Nott, Two Lectures on the Connection Between the Biblical and Physical History of Man Nott advances the polygenic argument against Biblical authority and for what he called “free scientific inquiry.”

George Robins Gliddon, Handbook to the American panorama of the Nile: being the original transparent picture exhibited in London at Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, purchased from its painter and proprietors, Messrs. H. Warren, J. Bonomi and J. Fahey.

John Bachman and John J. Audubon, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.

Louis Agassiz, “The Diversity of Origin of Human Races” Christian Examiner XVIII.

Josiah Nott, “Ancient and Scriptural Chronology” Southern Quarterly Review.

De Bow, “Physical Characteristics of the Negro" De Bow’s Review IX.

De Bow, “Diversity of the Human Race,” DeBow's Review X.

Samuel G. Morton, “Value of the Word Species in Zoology,” American Journal of Science and Arts11, 2nd Series, 275-276, 1851.

Josiah Nott, An Essay on the Natural History of Mankind, Viewed in Connection with Negro Slavery (Mobile, 1851).

Herbert Spencer, originator of the term “survival of the fittest” and advocate of cosmic evolution, publishes his Social Statics.

Samuel G. Morton dies.

John James Audubon dies.

Josiah Nott, “Geographical Distributions of Animals and the Races of Man” New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, IX

John H. Van Evrie, M.D., Negroes and Negro “Slavery”; the first an Inferior Race --- the Latter, its Normal Condition. (Baltimore, 1853)

Josiah Nott “Aboriginal Races of America” Southern Quarterly VIII 1854 - 1855

Josiah C. Nott and George R. Gliddon. 1855. Types of Mankind: or, Ethnological Researches, based upon the ancient monuments, paintings, sculptures, and crania of races, and upon their natural, geographical, philological and Biblical history:/ illustrated by selections from the inedited papers of Samuel George Morton ... and by additional contributions from Prof. L. Agassiz, LL. D., W. Usher, M. D., and Prof. H. S. Patterson.

John Bachman, “Types of Mankind.” Review, Charleston Medical Journal, IX

Samuel F. Haven, Archaeology of the United States; or Sketches, Historical and Bibliographical, of the Progress of Information and Opinion respecting the Vestiges of Antiquity in the United States. Smithsonian Institution.

1856 - 1857
Darwin begins writing up his views for a projected big book called 'Natural Selection'.

Louis Agassiz, Essay on Classification.

Josiah C. Nott, George R. Gliddon, and Louis Ferdinand Alfred Maury, Indigenous races of the earth; or, New chapters of ethnological inquiry; including monographs on special departmentsPhiladelphia, J. B. Lippincott & co.

George Gliddon dies.

Josiah Nott translates and publishes the first English edition of Gobineau’s Essay on the Inequality of the Races.

Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. It will go through six editions in Darwin's lifetime.

Newberry College, a liberal arts college in Newberry, S.C., is founded by Rev. John Bachman

Rev. John Bachman leads the opening prayer at Institute Hall in Charleston as South Carolina votes for secession. Though opposed to secession and a social reformer in terms of slavery, Bachman fiercely defended the South and lambasted profiteering in wartime writings for South and North Carolina newspapers.

Josiah Nott admits that Darwin's theory is correct and that the polygenic theory has been refuted, but says that “at least it [Darwin's theory] is a capital dig at the parsons.”

At his church in Charleston, Bachman baptizes 67 Euro-Americans & 76 African-Americans and confirms 19 Euro- Americans and 40 African-Americans; African-Americans now constitute 35% of the membership of St. John's Lutheran Church.

Attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, begins Civil War.

John Bachman and Josiah Nott would both lose sons fighting in the opposing armies.

Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln.

John Bachman, Characteristics of Genera and Species, as Applicable to the Doctrine of Unity in the Human Race.

Sherman begins his March to the Sea.

Charleston is evacuated and later is destroyed. Bachman attempts to move his collections and his wife's work to Newberry College for safe-keeping. Most are lost in the destruction of Charleston. Bachman is severely beaten when he encounters a detachment of Union soldiers and left partially paralyzed.

The Civil War ends.

John James Audubon and Rev. John Bachman, The Quadrupeds of North America.

Charles Darwin publishes The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.

Louis Agassiz dies.

Josiah Nott dies.

Rev. John Bachman dies, supposedly saying at the end: “Little children... love one another.” He is buried under the alter of St. John's Lutheran Church in Charleston.

Charles Darwin dies at Down House on April 19 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His supposed last words were "I am not in the least afraid to die."