Culture Trumps Scientific Fact

‘Race’ in US American Language

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Texas State University aa21@txstate.edu
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Abstract

Once described as humankind’s most dangerous myth, ‘race’ remains a most contentious concept: it is defined one way but used in another. This article examines the use of the term ‘race’ in the utterances of American opinion leaders (scholars and the judiciary, executive, and media) and employs it to explore the dissonance between substantiated knowledge and cultural impositions and the manner in which customary norms outperform scientific facts in everyday interactions. Arguing that the use of the word ‘race’ by opinion leaders furthers its socio-culturally assumed connotations and excites associated emotions and worldviews, the article asks if the change in behavior expected from learning ever occurs in social matters and what the responsibilities of (American) elites are in providing purposeful leadership toward a just and fair society.

Contributor Notes

Augustine Agwuele is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Texas State University. An interdisciplinary scholar, he integrates conceptual rigors of theoretical linguistics with ethnographically grounded scholarship in socio-cultural analyses to address common and habitual practices, such as the variabilities associated with the production of speech segments and the cultural constancies that evolve different responses to life’s persistent concerns. He is the editor of Development, Modernism and Modernity in Africa (2013) and Body Talk and Cultural Identity in the African World (2015) and co-editor, with Toyin Falola, of Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture (2009).

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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