Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chapter 9 "Mixed Blood", Jeffrey M.Fished

When Professor Gaunt said that this chapter was without doubt the most amazing from the book, I totally agree with her. From my personal experience I completely felt what the author talked about and what she meant about the American way of classifying people into race.

First of all, when I came here, most of the people asked me where do I come from and which nationality I am. Considering myself as half French and half Italian it was hard to explain that I was an Italian from my dad and French from my mum. Obviously I am a “Mixed Blood” and like to consider myself as being kind of half and half. However, this was not the only fact that surprised me.

Indeed, when it was clear enough that I could be both French and Italian at the same time, countless students or persons that I met were surprised of this “mix” as I “really look like Russian, Swedish or German”! “But you don’t look like a French girl you know?” Wow! I never had so many nationalities at the same time. Blond, tall with almond shaped eyes made them thought that it was not possible that I was French and Italian. I should have been brunette, have a darker skin and a curvy body maybe. And for my French part, I don’t know which physical traits I should have.
Anyway, I was amused by how people can classify me just by looking at my physical traits. Of course I do have some what people call “north east blood”, if I can say so as my grandmother is Polish, but does it make me Polish as well?! Can people know from where I come just by looking at me and taking a guess?

Another experience that I had concerning my “race” was when I had to fill out papers to apply to universities. Am I black? No. White Hispanic? No. Asian? Neither. So what am I? None of the options available could fit or represent what I am. So I asked someone and he told me that I should put others. That is interesting… I am others. But what does it mean to be considered as others? Should I be offended by it? Of course I was not and I am not. It was just that I was not used to it, at least not yet.

Another aspect of “Mixed Blood” concerning the “race” that I would like to link with the chapter on language and communication is names. Indeed, we classify people into races just by studying their physical aspect, but we do the same when looking at their names. For example, my first name is Charlene, which origins from Germany; and my family name is Scavetta, which is Italian (I could also use my mum’s name which is Baranowski). Then, what do my names mean for people? Should I be German? Italian? Wait a minute; she is French and Italian with a German first name and an Italian family name. She definitely falls into the category others.

I think that it is easy to assume and to categorize people into categories that they are not necessarily into just by looking at them or guessing from their names. But do we have to fit into a pattern? French? Asian? Russian? Is there a prototype of what French or Asian girls have to look like? What about if I had dreadlock?

I feel like “Mixed Blood” is the epitomize of what could be a definition of anthropology. Because culture is shared, as well as language through communication, religion and others, “race” just not and can not exist. It will erase the idea of us as being unique and tend to shape us into a pattern that is not real in order to be classified into a specific “race”.


  1. It really is a common pitfall in human history for cultures and individuals to judge others based on purely their phenotype. We don't know nearly enough about genotype to know for sure how who differs, and as it says in the book, there are more genetic differences with a population of the same "race" than necessarily between two individuals across continents of completely different skin color.

    Basically, you and I can be closer genetically than two blond, blue-eyed Swedes.

  2. The concept of race does not do anything in and of itself except that people BELIEVE it means something. Remember in the Language chapter, Kottak notes that symbols are arbitrary. Why is my pet called a "cat" in English and "el gato" in Spanish. Does it mean anything about my cat per se? No. Just a different symbol. Now, if I make it mean that cat is a better term than el gato, then we have a dilemma, falsely created but human beings LOVE to compare but it doesn't necessarily MEAN anything about the thing. Just as racial identities can be embraced even when they are referencing ethnicity like blackness or even whiteness. They get collapsed. It's our job to listen for what's behind the conversation. What is REALLY being said. THat is ethnography.