Monday, June 25, 2012

Agustín Fuentes's "Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You"

Agustín Fuentes is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Evolution of Human Behavior, Biological Anthropology: Concepts and Connections and Core Concepts in Biological Anthropology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature, and reported the following:
Opening my book, Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You to page 99 was a bit of a shock. The entre page is a cluster of statistics demonstrating how tangible and powerful the effects of racism are in the USA. The most glaring bit of data reads:

“The 2008 infant mortality rate per 1,000 births is 5.7 for whites, 13.6 for blacks, and 5.6 for Hispanics, and 6.9 for the United States as a whole.”

It is not a fact of biological race that causes this pattern of infant mortality; it is the complex realities of racism.

In this book I bust three major myths about who we are as humans and why we do what we do. The myth that humans are divided into biological races—that black, white, Asian, etc. are natural categories—is false. It helps generate and maintain intolerance and inequality, and leads to difficulties in creating and sustaining communities in our increasingly diverse society. The myth that removing the constraints of culture and civilization reveals the innate, violent beast within us (especially in men) is also false. It restricts how we can relate to one another, encourages fear, and enables an acceptance of certain kinds of abuse and violence as natural or inevitable. The myth that men and women are dramatically different in behavior, desires, and perspectives due to natural differences in “internal wiring” is also overly simplistic and facilitates poor intersexual relations, creates and maintains sexual inequality, and causes a range of problems for individual men and women laboring under a preconception about who and how they are supposed to be.

My book tackles these major myths using information from anthropology, biology, psychology and history. I show that busting myths about human nature means breaking the stranglehold of simplicity in our view of biology and culture and forces us to realize that being human is very complicated. I challenge common assumptions and delve into the gritty details of what we know about what humans are made of and what they actually do. Hopefully, once you’ve read the book it will be abundantly clear that the basic myths about race, aggression, and sex are neither correct nor a core part of human nature. Being human is much more complex and much more interesting. I hope you enjoy all the pages.
Learn more about Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue