Synopses & Reviews
is the first book to investigate the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our bodyand#8217;s most visible trait influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. In a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, Nina G. Jablonski begins with the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, explaining how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe. She explores the relationship between melanin pigment and sunlight, and examines the consequences of rapid migrations, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that can create mismatches between our skin color and our environment.
Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaningand#151; 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 historyand#151;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.
"'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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#8220;Accessible to general readers. . . . The book fascinates! Highly recommended.and#8221;
“Accessible to general readers. . . . The book fascinates! Highly recommended.” D. C. Cook, Indiana University
"Clear [and] thorough, but not exhaustive or boring." Choice
"Clear [and] thorough, but not exhaustive orand#160;boring."
and#147;Among traits that differ between human populations, skin color is the most noticeable, the subject of the most comments, and the hardest to understand. In this fascinating book, Nina Jablonski negotiates this mine field and comes up with many surprises.and#8221; and#150;Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
"Nina Jablonski is a world-renowned expert on human pigmentation, and one of the leaders in the science of anthropology. In Living Color she has done a brilliant job of explaining the biological and cultural significance of our skin tones in non-technical terms. Living Color should be required reading for every high school and college student." and#150;Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Race Bomb and The Dominant Animal
and#147;Grounded firmly in the science of human history, this groundbreaking book brings the biological and social meanings of skin color into dialogue with one another, creating an open, rich, and essential conversation about this fact of life that differentiates us from one another but that ultimately, and profoundly, unites us.and#8221; and#150;Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Faces of America and Tradition and the Black Atlantic
About the Author
Nina G. Jablonski is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Skin: A Natural History, (UC Press), and was named one of the first Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellows for her efforts to improve the public understanding of skin color.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
Part One. Biology
1. Skinand#8217;s Natural Palette
2. Original Skin
3. Out of the Tropics
4. Skin Color in the Modern World
5. Shades of Sex
6. Skin Color and Health
Part Two. Society
7. The Discriminating Primate
8. Encounters with Difference
9. Skin Color in the Age of Exploration
10. Skin Color and the Establishment of Races
11. Institutional Slavery and the Politics of Pigmentation
12. Skin Colors and Their Variable Meanings
13. Aspiring to Lightness
14. Desiring Darkness
15. Living in Color