Small object of desire #19 – Skin

We’ve all got it. We all need it. We take it for granted. It’s the biggest organ of our bodies. It contains our internal organs, holds us together and keeps the world out. Yet it is one of the vital ways in which we engage with the world. 

I often suffer attacks of eczema. It can flare up when the weather changes from cold to warm and vice versa or when the central heating has to come on when the weather cools down.  But it’s usually at it’s worst when I’m not processing something that causes me mental stress. It’s as if my mind says “so you want to ignore this problem? I’ll show you who’s boss. Here, take this hive of angry, red rashes (and it’s quite so something to see a black person’s skin actually go livid red) and see how you like it.” 

Because of this, it’s safe to say that I have more than a passing interest in skin and it’s functionality. So when I first came across Nina Jablonski’s book in a Guardian newspaper review about 4 years ago, I sat up to attention. I also like to write about the body so this was of special interest to me. I searched high and low in London for it but somehow, it’s distribution in Europe at time, had stopped dead. I finally managed to track it down in a Barnes & Nobel bookshop in Boston and what an interesting read. Then a year ago, Nina Jablonski popped up on my tour of the TED lectures, talking about skin colour and how this is determined and influenced by environment. 

I always thought that the differences between races were a result of evolutionary dictation. There are practical reasons why black people’s noses are flared and broad and why white people are hairier than black people which I’m not going to go into in this post. 

Nina’s lecture only scratches the surface of prejudice but it is indeed an idea worth sharing. 


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