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Faculty Sponsor

Kristin Latham

Abstract

Forensic anthropology is the application of the history, structure, and development of mankind in a forensic setting and serves as a bridge between societal and anthropological views on race. Forensic anthropology is a relatively new field and yet it, like all sciences, is impacted by the works of those who came before. While forensic anthropology is aided by the classification groups created in the past, it is hindered by the mantel of racism that covers any study into human differences. This study was intended to determine how the general educated public, as portrayed by members of Western Oregon University, viewed forensic anthropological terminology and to establish whether or not this opinion was influenced by age, position at WOU, or ethnicity. Age appeared to be the most significant factor when studying a participant’s reaction to and understanding of the selected forensic anthropological terminology. Although a wide variety of participant definitions was given for each term, relatively few respondents connected the terms with the scientific use: racial classifications based on biological accumulation of traits seen in the skeleton. The wide variety of definitions indicates that the field of forensic anthropology in general, and at Western Oregon University specifically, has not satisfactorily educated the general public as to the use, and reason behind the use, of the terms Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid in their appropriate scientific setting. However, the forensic anthropology program at WOU has begun only recently. As the program expands and more members of the campus community, particularly students, understand the terms Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid in their proper forensic anthropological setting, perhaps we will see a trend towards unity in definitions in the coming years.

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