Janus-faced race: is race biological, social, or mythical?

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3 Citations (Scopus)


As belief in the reality of race as a biological category among U.S. anthropologists has fallen, belief in the reality of race as a social category has risen in its place. The view that race simply does not exist—that it is a myth—is treated with suspicion. While racial classification is linked to many of the worst evils of recent history, it is now widely believed to be necessary to fight back against racism. In this article, I argue that race is indeed a biological fiction, but I critique the claim that race is socially real. I defend a form of anti-realist reconstructionism about race, which says that there are no races, only racialized groups—groups mistakenly believed to be races. I argue that this is the most attractive position about race from a metaphysical perspective, and that it is also the position most conductive to public understanding and social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-464
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • race
  • racialization
  • racialized groups
  • racism
  • social constructionism


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