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Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color Hardcover – September 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1ST edition (September 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520251539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520251533
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Accessible to general readers. . . . The book fascinates! Highly recommended.”
(D. C. Cook, Indiana University Choice 2013-04-01)

"Clear [and] thorough, but not exhaustive or boring."
(American Journal of Anthropology 2013-06-04)

From the Inside Flap

“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.” –Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse

"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." –Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Race Bomb and The Dominant Animal

“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.” –Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Faces of America and Tradition and the Black Atlantic

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
This excellent book should be widely read and influential.
Deborah Robbns
I thought I knew a good deal about skin color before I read this book; now I know my knowledge was (sorry) only skin-deep.
P. Shipman
It gives good explanations about how it's not only wrong but biologically nonsensical to be racist.
Khazar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Robbns on January 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever tried to puzzle out for yourself how the human species got so focused on skin color and its meaning? More to the point, have you ever tried to discuss this question with friends and found yourself backtracking, disavowing prejudiced views, or just shutting down when nerves were struck and epithets started to fly? How much would you have given for a carefully researched and lucid exposition of how racial stereotypes developed historically over the centuries? Nina Jablonski's excellent new book Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color gives us the tools we need to think clearly about race.

As a scientist (she is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State), Jablonski understands race to be purely a social construct, and she devotes the first half of her book to explaining the biological origins of skin color and the effects on human health of the diaspora from Africa. Much of this information is also ably conveyed in Jablonski's earlier book, Skin: A Natural History.

The second half of Living Color tackles the harder issues of our responses to skin color. Humans are "highly visual" and mostly learn through imitation, Jablonski asserts. "We are hard-wired to be receptive to visual differences and responsive to the reactions of authority figures" and thus easily influenced to adopt the prejudices of our families and larger cultures (94). She incorporates fascinating studies to support her argument, including an experiment conducted by elementary school teacher Jane Elliott in 1968 (p. 95). Having established our tendency to attribute significance to skin color, Jablonski reminds us that we are not "neurologically predestined to be biased . . . .
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By The Book Blogger on October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
With so many different hues of humans abound. We have wondered in the past and now: How can there be so many shades? Where does skin coloring come from? Is it of great importance? Does skin color affect us today?

Nina G. Jablonksi explores this in her new book, "Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color". As a distinguished professor of Anthropology and named one of the first Alphonse Fletcher St.Fellows for her efforts to improve the understanding of color, Jablonski's words and her study on this topic is what drew me first.

First, the book is broken down into two parts: Biology and Society. The biological aspect is explained in laymen can understand and answers the questions of where shades of color come from and where does skin come from specifically. According to Jablonksi, "Although hemoglobin contributes to skin color, the most important substance...is melanin"(Jablonksi, 2012, p. 10: Living Color).

The melanin and eumelanin, found below the skin reacts to exposure in the sun. So those born near the equator will be dark or at least tan and able to tan very well. The author goes very deep into pigmentation, faulty melanin radicals (albinism), and the reason why vitamin D deficiency occurs in those with paler skin- this was due to migration shifts and hunting for game leading humans into Eurasian colonies. In other words, we all began in Africa and then there was a spread of colonies and humans lightened or darkened according to biology and region.

Moving from biology to society, the book gets interesting. In fact, if you are African American, African, or of another race with dark pigmentation, the information that flows can be disheartening and it makes you wonder how could intelligent species even think like that?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Absolutely excellent and flawless. Nina Jablonski's "Living Color" should forever put to rest any arrogance, ignorance or self-serving arguments that breathe air into racism, racists of all colors, or any subtle justifications supporting or tolerating it. This should be a standard text in every college and junior-senior year of high school that wants to genuinely educate and enlighten its students about humanity. Dr. Jablonski has authored an indisputable book on the obvious irrelevance of race and so-called racial differences, with great photos, illustrations and clear details. This book greatly enhances her "Skin Deep" lectures and documentaries on YouTube. Nevertheless, until much of human nature and racially socialized people discards this human weakness, we'll have to occasionally suffer from every knuckle-dragging knucklehead that believes they have an ounce of superiority or entitlement over other humans. Even in this 21st century, we're still on a disastrous race-based journey no matter how we disguise it through rhetoric, politics or politricks.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By aron row on December 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Noted anthropologist Nina Jablonski has taken on the sensitive topic of skin color, the first visual identifying trait gleaned by the beholder of others. With an engaging writing style, the reader is exposed to the biological significance of skin color due to the amount of and kinds of melanin activated by ultraviolet radiation. Thus pigments and color resulted from geographic location and solar exposure. With migration from the African plains, and adaptation to different pressures, mutations enabled the skin color of populations to more fittingly evolve to suit the environment. The second part of the book deals with society’s view of color, with dark being dirty and immoral and light associated with purity and goodness. About the 1500’s, the categorization of color into racial stereotypes commenced with biblical referrals upholding the differences. Esteemed philosophers such as Kant and Voltaire were notable adherents to the ideas of color affecting intellect, morality, and championed the practice of slavery as justifiable. The fascinating topic of how minds were culturally corrupted by racial categorization of skin color over the course of time makes mesmerizing reading. One has to remember that skin pigment is the individual’s armor against ultraviolet radiation, and is our guardian in providing vitamin D for healthy bones. The color of our skin just defines the regions occupied by our ancestors prior to modern travel conveniences.
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