#anthropology, american studies, history, history of nature and science, history of race, history of the united states, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ann Fabian, The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead (University of Chicago Press, 2011), Pp. 270.

skull book.jpg

Much can be said about conceptions and manifestations of racism in America. But where did these legacies and violent realities originate from? In an informative and well documented monograph by Ann Fabia entitled, The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead, readers are provided with origins of racism and how science is linked to these roots. Looking specifically at groups of naturalist, craniologist, anthropologists, brain mappers and ethnographers; Fabia is able to document the work of eighteenth century ideological discourse, work, and legacy on tropes on race. This essay will discuss Fabia’s book in length and discuss the kind of work Fabia is doing in this book. I will also discuss the productive nature of this book and any shortcoming of this book as well.

This book invites historians to expand on this book. The strengths of this book are not only in the recovery of history but in the history of skulls and the link to scientific racism. Fabia also demonstrates the ways in which taking one key actor in the field can open up a lens for a solid narrative on the history and legacy of big ideas. The way in which Fabia backs up this narrative with strong examples of how skulls were linked to race and then ultimately to racism boasts her final conclusion about the legacy of skull collecting to scientific racism. The shortcomings in this book are few, but it should be noted that it may have made Fabia’s argument stronger to constitute and define what scientific racism is early on in the reading. Unfortunately, Fabia uses this term and uses a few footnotes to really unpack the definition of scientific racism. This was a major shortcoming in terms of driving home one of her main claims. Overall, Fabia provides an interesting and important narrative on the constructs of race, body, and later what would be identified as racism/scientific racism. I would recommend this book to historians, women and gender studies, ethnic studies, scientists, and anyone who wants or needs to understand the legacy of institutions and their hand in categorical construction.

10/10

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