Chapter 6: Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Names White People “Caucasian”

by Prof. Felicia Steele # Link in context

Editor’s note: Prof. Felicia Steele revives the Beyond Black and White Discussion group discussion of Dr. Nell Painter’s History of White People with this helpful introduction to this pivotal chapter which not only explains the origin of the term Caucasian as a synonym for European ancestry. Here is our overview of the Beyond Black and White Discussion Group Book Club.  # Link in context

Chapter 6 marks a turning point in Nell Painter’s narrative, because she emphasizes the personal responsibility of individual scholars and their social networks in the development of racial ideologies. Since many of us have likely never heard of Blumenbach, it may be difficult to process how this chapter helps us to understand the history of constructions of race. # Link in context

As I read the chapter, I was reminded of a couple of things: the Matter Museum in Philadelphia and discourses around beauty that talk about physiognomy and skeletal structure, even in situations as mundane as orthodontia. How does this chapter help us to understand the development of physical beauty ideals and how they relate to racial identity? # Link in context

  # Link in context

CC BY-ND 4.0 Chapter 6: Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Names White People “Caucasian” by Kim Pearson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Posted in BBW Book Club and tagged , , .


My professional background is in public information, magazine journalism, blogging and journalism education. My current research is founded on the premise that democracy requires the broad participation of a computationally fluent citizenry. Civic media industries must reflect the communities they serve at the level of ownership, research and development, news gathering, presentation and community engagement. This adds greater urgency to the already critical need to broaden participation in computing. To that end, I have collaborated on curricular models for infusing computing into journalism education at both the scholastic and collegiate levels, and for promoting civic engagement in computer science education. My current interest is in exploring the potential of stochastic networks and as enhancement to social computing tools for broadening civic participation.
While most of this blog is devoted to my research in computational journalism and trends in journalism education, I occasionally do some storytelling of my own. This blog picks up where my other blogs, Professor Kim’s News Notes ( and The Nancybelle Project ( left off.

Leave a Reply