Dear Members and Aspiring Members,
This statement comes in response to the BLM protests in the Netherlands in the summer of 2020, as well as the widespread attention to the links between racism, colonialism, and physical anthropology that have also been acknowledged and recently reiterated by other professional associations such as AAPA and BABAO.
The NVFA opposes any form of discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age, and agrees with the Black Lives Matter opinion that no human individual or group should be subjected to prejudice, marginalization or discrimination based on their physical characteristics.
We acknowledge the role our discipline has played in supporting and perpetuating racism, and the links between physical anthropology and colonialism.
Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism
Race is not a biological reality, but rather is a social construct based upon people’s perceived phenotypical characteristics. Racism is a system of discrimination against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) founded on a history of colonialism and slavery. It exists at all levels of society, and we are all a part of it because it has a profound subconscious impact upon the way we think. Anti-racism is the active effort to eliminate racism wherever it is found.
We encourage all of our Members to read widely on this topic, and we are posting regularly on social media to provide relevant resources. Two relevant books specific to the Netherlands are: ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ by Anousha Nzume and ‘Witte Onschuld’ by Gloria Wekker. If you have any other suggestions, we would love to hear from you!
A symposium entitled ‘On Race and Racism: The Past and Future of Physical Anthropology’ will take place online on Saturday 28th November 2020 (PROGRAM). During this event we will discuss the history of our discipline (including its misuse by white supremacists and colonial powers) and how we can combat racism in the discipline in the future.
This is a concept closely related to the issues of race and racism because racist practices are used to uphold colonial hierarchies. In the past, physical anthropology has often been used in this way. Decolonisation includes:
- Acknowledging and interrogating the links between physical anthropology and colonialism
- Encouraging diversity in our professional community, as well as in our reading lists and curricula
- Following ethical research and curation practices that foreground the wishes and needs of living stakeholders
The Autumn symposium will include a presentation on the topic of decolonisation, explaining in more detail what it entails. At our next General Meeting in January or February 2021 there will be an opportunity to reflect on the concept and its implications for our discipline.
The NVFA wants to foster a scientific community of people who will continue to refute the existence of any scientific basis for race and racism in their places of work and education. We look forward to seeing you at our next event.
Kerri Lee Colman, Norbert Eeltink, Felicia Fricke, Hayley Mickleburgh, Roelof-Jan Oostra and Esther Plomp
The Board of the NVFA
Posted June 2020
Updated October 2020