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Becoming YellowA Short History of Racial Thinking$
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Michael Keevak

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691140315

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691140315.001.0001

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Nineteenth-Century Anthropology and the Measurement of “Mongolian” Skin Color

Nineteenth-Century Anthropology and the Measurement of “Mongolian” Skin Color

(p.70) Chapter 3 Nineteenth-Century Anthropology and the Measurement of “Mongolian” Skin Color
Becoming Yellow

Michael Keevak

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how the “yellow race” became an important focus in nineteenth-century anthropology. More specifically, it considers how the whole notion of skin tone had become inextricably linked to scientifically validated prejudices and normative claims about higher and lower forms of human culture. The chapter first discusses why the term “Mongolian” was selected to represent the people of the Far East and compares it to “Tartar” before exploring how the new field of anthropology became preoccupied with the idea of anatomical quantification, and especially the measurement of skin color using an instrument known as the color top. It shows that the desire to find yellowness in East Asians was so ingrained in the Western imagination that some anthropologists tried to prove that their skin really was yellow.

Keywords:   yellow race, anthropology, Mongolian, Far East, Tartar, anatomical quantification, skin color, color top, yellowness, East Asians

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