Change of description of class

32 B was changed by replacing human races by ethnic groups, resulting in peoples, ethnic groups, nationalities. Hve you consired also to adapt class 32 C scientific classifications of human races?
For instance, by scientific classification of peoples, etnic groups.


Quite frankly, I did not consider changing or expanding 32C. I am not quite sure what was originally meant by its definition "scientific classification of human races ". The original Iconclass Bibliography, which often provides warranty for the inclusion of concepts, does not cite a single source here.
Furthermore, I found only one example of the use of the notation 32C in existing databases. The catalogue of the Fondo Pietro Marengo did assign it, albeit as a variant 32C(+0), to this drawing from Le Rire (1895, vol. 51, p. 12)

Le_Rire_ _journal_humoristique__bpt6k11729588

The (translated) description included in Arkyves explains the picture thus: In the image are depicted some characters, as representatives of different races, each identified by a color. The white race consists of a bride, a clown, a cook and a mason; the yellow race from a sick man holding his hands on his liver, a professor with a toga and a cuckold; the red race from a cardinal and two drunks, one of which rich and well-dressed, the other of a less elevated social class, holding a sign with the inscription “Ethnographie fantaisiste”. Finally the black race consists of a priest, a chimney sweep, a man with a huge sack on his shoulders and a man dressed in an elegant way, with a top hat on his head and with the initials “P.F.” on the jacket.

Although this “Ethnographie fantaisiste” is a clearly satirical take on a “scientific” classification, it is a reaction to the classification of people by race. I can very well imagine that there are many more (illustrated) examples of this type of classification, both sadly racist and sharply satirical.
It would be very helpful if we could collect more examples. Actually, this should not be a problem, given the recent flood of publications on the subject of ethnicity and race in visual culture.
Cases like this also can be used to support the idea that we should collectively revive the Iconclass Bibliography, resulting in a pool of information such as this:

As to the schedule itself, it would perhaps be sufficient to simply change the definition to a neutral “classification of races and ethnic groups”.

After all we do also have the concept 49F3 physical anthropology which we could easily expand to cover modern DNA research.



Your comment rightly pointed out that the removal of discriminatory language should not be limited to section 32B, but that wording that is no longer wanted should be replaced consistently throughout the system.

So I checked across the github txt files of the Iconclass explanations for German outdated and discriminatory terms like Rasse, Stamm, Indianer, Eingeborener, Barbar, etc., most of which were eliminated from 32B, but might still occur in other places. I extracted a list of 115 notations still holding problematic expressions in their explanations, for which I propose a change at least of the German phrasing. Find the list and my revision suggestions here: Iconclass-improvements-discriminatory-language-german.xlsx - Google Tabellen
The list might not be complete, and comments are very welcome!


Angela and Hans,
Thank you for your replies to my question regarding 32C. Hans, I would remove race from 32C (similar to 32B) and prefer the suggestion of Angela’s that could be translated as scientific classification of human ethnicities or of human ethnicity. Angela, thank you for your very useful list. I agree with you that it would be good to check all the classes whether a specific changed term is still used elsewhere and in that case change it for the new one. I do realize that this is a lot work considering the work you both put in correcting 32B. Hans, there are indeed many studies that could be helpful in reformulating discriminatory terms. I came to this question because, I wanted to compare the terms in Iconclass that could be useful to describe the painting of Kerry James Marshall, “Beauty Examined” of a black woman with the skin of her forearm is flayed, similar and in reference to Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulip. I found three potential classes 32B and C and 49G61212 “anatomy lesson”, if I remember it correctly. Beeldleer provides between 25 and 30 relevant classes of which none refer to race and some to “etnic differences”. That is useful, but at the same time I hasten to say that also Beeldleer needs a critical examination of terms that are discriminatory or just not up-to-date anymore. I believe that a translation of Angela’s table into English could be most useful for both classification systems. Thanks again

Angela and Charles

Angela, thank you for your detailed analysis. I have updated the German version accordingly, and will use the notations you have identified as problematic in German to check the other languages as well.
Time-consuming is the intellectual effort of identifying problematic terminology and coming up with acceptable corrections (your contribution); Actually updating the Iconclass raw data file can be done on a Sunday evening :wink:
We also have to be careful when assessing potentially insulting or discriminatory words, because removing them could hamper the findability of concepts that are relevant in historical research. We still want researchers to find pictures of Roma even when they use “gypsies” as a search term. Cf. for example Nikolaus Wachsmann, KL. A history of the Nazi concentration camps, who uses “gypsies” as main entry in his Index, but includes a cross reference from “Roma”. Irrespective of our own preference, we need to continue to offer both.


The definition of 32C is now changed to:

32C classification of ethnic groups (and its translations)

Thank you Hans. I will change it in my text accordingly. Best wishes Charles