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 feature influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. Nina Jablonski begins this fascinating and wide-ranging work with an explanation of the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, tracing how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe, exploring the relationship between melanin and sunlight, and examining the consequences of mismatches between our skin color and our environment due to rapid migrations, vacations, and other life-style choices.
Aided by plentiful illustrations, this book also explains why skin color has become a biological trait with great social meaningand#151;a product of evolution perceived differently by different cultures. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, and how prejudices about dark skin developed and have played out through historyand#151;including as justification for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes toward skin color differ in the United States, 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.
“Accessible to general readers. . . . The book fascinates! Highly recommended.” D. C. Cook, Indiana University
"Clear [and] thorough, but not exhaustive or boring." Choice
and#8220;Accessible to general readers. . . . The book fascinates! Highly recommended.and#8221;
"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 nontechnical 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;Rooted 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