yellow skin, Asian-ness of

A persistent vestige of the age of scientific racism. Yellow skin is a sign of jaundice, a symptom of various diseases, including hepatitis. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), the paleontologist, traced the terminology to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), who coined “Caucasian.” Blumenbach, a German naturalist, derived his terminology from Carl Linnaeus (the 18th-century Swedish botanist who developed such classifications as “homo sapiens”) and the medieval theory of physiology that human temperament arises from the presence of various fluids, or “humors.” (“Sense of humor” comes from this theory.) Linnaeus said the black, or relaxed, humor  dominated in Africa and the white, or muscular, humor in Europe. Linnaeus wrote that the “luridus, melancholicus, rigidus.”


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