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racism  

H. Augstein

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term describes ‘the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race’. The word itself is rather recent, probably going back only to the 1930s. There are two attitudes towards the concept of racism: one says that ‘racism’ is usefully applied only where it is derived from a perception of race and the ensuing fixation on ‘typical’ racial traits. In this sense ‘racism’ describes the racialist attitudes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, deriving from the merger of physical anthropology und ethnography on the background of the idea of evolution. Another school has argued that racism consists in intentional practices and unintended processes or consequences of attitudes towards the ethnic ‘other’. According to this line of thought, it is not necessary to possess a concept of ‘race’ to entertain prejudices towards other peoples.

As the term was coined in reaction ...