Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: Superior

I have no idea why it took me so long to pick up and read this book, given that I generally enjoy anything Angela Saini writes. But here we are.

Superior is an examination of scientific racism, talking to scientists, anthropologists, historians and a whole host of other people. It also talks to some obvious racists, which is kind of fascinating in itself. Though it is disturbing to see so much of the fringe of racial science rearing its head today.

Superior is so thoroughly readable, just like Saini’s related book Inferior (which does the same thing but looking at gender). She has a real talent of being able to convey some complex and harrowing subject matter with great ease for the reader. To say it’s enjoyable would be kind of weird, given the subject, but it’s absolutely fascinating (when it isn’t conveying some super grim stuff.)

There are lots of great things about the book, but one the most interesting and weird was about the Pioneer Fund. This fund has basically funded loads of people to basically do racist science but for decades. I mean, they could have just had a string of bad luck but it doesn’t seem that way. It’s definitely made me put The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund on my reading list.

One of the other interesting yet harrowing sections of the book was the investigation of the Max Planck institute into its own history and past collaboration with the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. You can read about it on their website.

Anyway, it’s a great read, and one that I’d recommend to everyone. Being a biased historian, I enjoyed the thread of history throughout the whole book. It’s a great reminder of why you can’t just do the science without consideration of wider society, culture and history.

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