Color of Skin

bpj at bpj at
Tue May 13 21:59:22 UTC 1997

At 22:14 13.5.1997 +0100, GANESANS at wrote:
>                COLOR OF SKIN
>               **************
>Prof. P. Claus wrote:
>+varna is related to an abstract color scheme, with white
>+associated with Brahman, red with Ksatriya, or yellow with
>+Vaishya, black with Sudra; and various steriotypical behaviours
>+correlated with this.
>Can anybody please give some references? I want to know how black color
>of skin is associated with things mean from Indian writings.
>Interestingly, I heard from a student at Columbia university that
>why Blacks detested the word, "Nigger"? Nigger, it seems in Latin
> not only means black, but "evil".

There is "dies ater" 'a dark day', though I can't remember any idiom where
"niger" is 'evil', except "nigromantia" 'black magic', which is a
misrendering of Greek "nekromanteia" 'magic performed on a funeral site,
raising the dead (as a means of getting an oracle)'. Interestingly Latin
has two words corresponding to 'black': "niger" glossed (by Cassell's) as
'shining black' and "ater" glossed as 'dull black'. I read somewhere the
remark that the skin color of an "Aethiops" should be called "Niger", while
the color of a hanged (presumably white-skinned in life!) person was
"ater". I don't know if there is ancient authority for the latter. "Niger"
was also used for black hair, and is hence found as the cognomen of at
least one Roman family. It is an interesting fact that color words were not
used as racial tags in Classical Latin. The word for 'black' person is
invariably the Greek loan-word "Aethiops", or "Numidius". The word "Afer"
"Africa" and "Africanus" referred to people and things pertaining to the
Semitic Carthaginians -- and presumably was originally a self-description.
There is no term for 'white person' -- probably because Greeks and romans
didn't come into anything like regular contact with non-whites until
comparatively late.

>He informed me: the humanistic philosopher
>Nietzsche discusses this in his famous book, "Beyond Good
>and Evil". Any relevent passage from Nietzsche's writings will be appreciated.
>Any parallel thoughts from Sanskrit works? Manu? smricandrika?
>chaturvargachintAmaNi? Any subaltern research papers on how Shudras
>were denigrated in Indian elite writings?

How appropriate a word in the context: "denigrated"!

B. Philip Jonsson

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