Acknowledgement of Inspiration

Blogs are funny things. They inspire writing, but they don't always encourage the acknowledgement of other inspiration. Unlike academic writing, they are easy to dash off, seductive almost, not always conducive to the recognition of sources. Oh, they allow us to link to other blogs and websites. That's easy. But if a source is that outmoded invention, a book -- well.I've been writing and posting a series of essays on race and racism and our crippledness about it today, and calling that series of essays "On Images of Savages". I got the title from a book by the psychologist Gustav Jahoda. For anybody who wants to know more about this subject, I suggest you go look up the book, and buy it.You can preview it here, (for a limited time) and buy it from an online bookstore. Check it out. Buy it, even. You won't be sorry for the investment.


By Gustav Jahoda
Published 1999Routledge
272 pages
ISBN 0415188555

In Images of Savages, the distinguished psychologist Gustav Jahoda advances the provocative thesis that racism and the perpetual alienation of a racialized "other" are a central legacy of the Western tradition. Finding the roots of these demonizations deep in the myth and traditions of classical antiquity, he examines how the monstrous humanoid creatures of ancient myth and the fabulous "wild men" of the medieval European woods shaped early modern explorers' interpretations of the New World they encountered. Drawing on a global scale the schematic of the Western imagination of its "others", Jahoda locates the persistent identification of the racialized other with cannibalism, sexual abandon and animal drives. Turning to Europe's scientific tradition, Jahoda traces this imagery through the work of 18th century scientists on the relationship between humans and apes, the new racist biology of the 19th century studies of "savagery" as an arrested evolutionary state, and the assignment, especially of blacks, to a status intermediate between humans and animals, or that of children in need of paternal protection by Western masters. Finding in these traditional tropes a central influence upon current psychological theory, Jahoda presents a startling historical continuity of racial figuration that persists right up to the present day.Far from suggesting a program for the eradication of racial stereotypes, this remarkable effort nevertheless isolates the most significant barriers to equality buried deep within the Western tradition, and proposes a potentially redemptive self-awareness that will contribute to the gradual dismantling of racial injustice and alienation.