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CELTIC-L  February 2003

CELTIC-L February 2003

Subject:

Re: Ethnicity and Physical Charateristics (was RE: Basques)

From:

Raimund Karl <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Wed, 12 Feb 2003 09:48:09 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (175 lines)

Hi Paulo,

Paulo Rodrigues schrieb:

> OK. You are absolutely right in terms of what happens nowadays. But in 
> former times things were often different...
>

They were, in many regards, but in as many they were not. The question 
is, were they different in the specific matter in question, or were they 
not.

> I'm not saying that languages and ethnical groups are the same thing 
> or that they always spread hand in hand.
>

Yes, but that is exactly the point: if they did not always spread hand 
in hand - and there is quite some evidence that they usually did not - 
the idea of ethnicity and language spreading hand in hand should not be 
applied to Celtic populations as if it were a prooven fact.

> But, for instance, Bantu languages would have never been spoken in 
> Southern Africa if the Bantus had not migrated there.
>

Would it not? That's something we can't be sure about. The expansion of 
languages most often requires some sort of pressure on the population 
dropping its old language for a new one, but this pressure need not be a 
migration, but might as well be economic, political, or even fashion.

> The same could be said about the Indo-Europeans, Mongols, and so on.
>

Well, it may be true in case of the Mongols, but regarding the 
"Indo-Europeans", we have no idea how - precisely - the indoeuropean 
languages spread, except of course for the last 500 or so years of the 
language groups latest massive expansion, where they spread through 
European colonialism. But regarding the early expansion of the IE 
languages, it is totally unclear how they spread. Migration is one of 
several possibilities, and if you are interested in my personal opinion, 
migration will most likely have played at least some role in the spread 
of these languages, but equally likely, there were also a number of 
other factors that led to the distribution we see when those languages 
start to appear in written records.

> I only mentioned the Berber original complexion to show that they are 
> not originally from Northern Africa (I think it was you or Don who 
> said they must have come from the Eurasian steppes or Caucasia and you 
> were right).
>

Well, this assumption that because they have a lighter complexion they 
can't come from Africa of course is based on a very common 
generalisation that "Africa=Black", and that, in general the further 
south you go, the "blacker" people will be. Now, while this is true as a 
good generalisation, it does not mean that this is necessarily so and 
that everyone with a "lighter" complexion than others in his 
surroundings must come from "further north". Rather, as complexion is 
defined by a number of genes, and as it is therefore subject to 
mutation, different complexion patterns can appear and do appear 
everywhere on the world. If a mutation is stable enough and the people 
having that mutation are successful in passing on that mutation, a much 
lighter - or much darker - complexion can be the result in any local 
population.

> So, the fact that there is a genetic link between them and the 
> Basques doesn't allow people to adopt the old point of view that 
> neither the Basques nor the Berbers were from Northern Africa. That 
> was my point.
>

And that point is definitly a good one!

> As for the rest of it, throughout history (especially in former times) 
> language and ethnici ty went often hand in hand. That fact is undeniable
>

Well, no, the fact is absolutely not undeniable. As a matter of fact, 
most anthropologists nowadays would deny that fact and rather point to 
the fact that ethnicity is a very flexible concept that does depend on 
mostly arbitrary markers choosen by different groups of people to 
distinguish themselves from others. Language is one of the things that 
can be used as such a marker, but it is not necessarily such a marker, 
and actually it most often seems not to be the relevant marker. 
Throughout recorded history, it seems as if more often than not most 
languages were spoken at the same time by a considerable number of 
ethnic groups, which often enough were neighbours and often enough 
bitter enemies/rivals. Truly bilingual (and multi-lingual) ethnic groups 
are rather rare appearances, but even they exist in known history. Thus, 
it is not at all a given fact that throughout known history, ethnicity 
and language did usually go hand in hand, even that they did often go 
hand in hand is very disputeable.

> and just because I mention it that doesn't mean that I agree with some 
> silly pro-Aryan theories (I said a few days ago in this list that I 
> don't even like that word because I'm not comfortable with its 
> political connotations). Just because some nazi-inspired historians 
> and anthropologists (in order to advance their political agendas) 
> believe that ethnicity and language always spread as one, that doesn't 
> mean that we should all go around saying that it never went that way.
>

No one said that you do agree with such theories. However, you draw on 
such theories that were developed by such historians and anthropologists 
who also laid the foundation for Nazi ideology. I know that it is hard 
not to do this, as this way of thinking of peoples has been very 
dominant throughout most of the 20th century, and it is especially hard 
to not do so, as there is some evidence that these theories actually are 
sometimes correct. But such cases where they actually are correct seems 
to be rather the exception to the rule, or at best a generalisation that 
usually is not very accurate, and therefor shouldn't be taken as a fact, 
but rather as a simplification that is sometimes helpful, but often not.

> Their purpose is wrong but in some cases they are right (especially 
> when they speak about the distant past),
>

No. As a matter of fact, their theories are of greater applicability in 
Europe in the time between the 18th and 20th century than they were in 
any other time or place in human history, as far as the evidence seems 
to tell us. They are not especially right when they are speaking about 
the distant past, it is especially in the distant past where these 
theories are especially faulty and dangerous, as they tend to create the 
image of early "pure" "cultural atoms" that only later "intermixed" and 
therefore became "diluted", which can be easily misused for building 
political and racial superiority theories, apart from that it doesn't 
seem to describe or explain the evidence about prehistoric and early 
historic societies in any suitable and adequate way.

> but that doesn't prove (unfortunately for them) that there were "white 
> superior" peoples. So I think I'm still allowed to think that people 
> of lighter complexion didn't come from Africa without being accused of 
> defending nazi points of view in this list. Or am I not?
>

You are allowed to think whatever you wish, and what you said doesn't 
mean that you want to defend or are defending nazi points of views, not 
at all. You are, however, drawing - probably without knowing that you do 
- on theories that were also used to develop nazi points of view (which 
is nothing that's bad in itself, as the nazis did draw on several very 
accepted theories that are still very useable today to create their 
superiority ideology, like the theory of evolution, which is not 
discredited by the fact that the nazis used it to justify atrocities), 
of which some since the early 20th century have been shown to be 
inaccurate, especially where they are applied to the distant past.
As I said, they way you apply these theories has been very popular in 
the academic world throughout the last century and still is very popular 
in the public perception of ethnicity, and as such you did nothing other 
than basing your assumptions on something that is very much deemed to be 
common knowledge, but in the academic disciplines that actually do study 
evidence about ethnicity has been abandoned some 25 years ago, as more 
thourough and detailed studies have shown that these "old" theories are 
at least very inaccurate, if not outright false. As such, you are not 
defending nazi points of view, you just base your argumentation on 
theories that - for much of modern academia - are no longer valid as 
explanatory tools.

All the best,

RAY

-- 
________________________________________________________________________

Mag.phil. Raimund KARL 
Österreich: <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Lektor für kulturwissenschaftliche Keltologie
Univ.Wien, Inst.f.Alte Geschichte, A-1010 Wien, Dr. Karl Lueger Ring 1
United Kingdom: 
Lecturer in Heritage and Archaeology
Department of History and Welsh History, University of Wales Bangor
Ogwen Building, Siliwen Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG
ffôn: (+44 781) 6464861
________________________________________________________________________

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