"America, Genealogy, History: ‘New World’ Technologies of Race"


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  • Speaker: Dana Fullwilley, Stanford University
  • Host Department: Anthropology
  • Date: 02/25/2013
  • Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM

  • Location: 411 West Hall

  • Description:

    In the year 2000 two competing scientists shared a stage at the
    Clinton White House to publicly announce the first draft of the Human
    Genome.  As is now familiar to many, these geneticists emphasized that
    humans share 99.9 percent of their DNA.  Yet what is less clear to
    most is what has happened to the surface (or public) consensus within
    biological science fields that “race” as we know it in the
    contemporary United States has no genetic basis.  Since 2003, I have
    been studying key scientists who ultimately feel that an emphasis on
    humans’ shared genetic patrimony is a stance of political correctness.
    Many of those arguing that “real” genetic differences exist between
    popularly understood racial groups have staked that such human
    variance exists on a broader spectrum than that acknowledged by the
    genome drafters.  Moreover, they argue that studying such difference
    is exceedingly important for finding the genetic basis for health
    disparities, and will therefore benefit historically dispossessed
    groups.  This turn of embracing potentially racialized biology to
    help, heal, and liberate historically neglected and generationally
    dispossessed American minorities marks a curious turn in the history
    and culture of racial science.

    In this talk I will explore Michel Foucault’s inclusive concepts of
    “genealogy” and “effective history” to present ethnographic work with
    several American teams who have constructed models of human history
    and population mixing, generally termed “admixture mapping.” Through
    modeling colonial encounters and what those in this field call
    specific “admixture events,” such as “1492,” or, “the trans-Atlantic
    slave trade,” geneticists have found a series of disease risk regions
    in the genome—the majority of which have been discovered in peoples
    labeled African and African-American.  Specifically, I examine the
    social processes that are embedded in building the scaffolding of
    human admixture models, as well as the U.S. health disparities that
    drive scientists' political will to search for ancestral continental
    differences—often thought of as “race”—as “in the genes.”  I also
    trace this research into the field of forensics where the use of
    African-Americans' DNA and facial trait morphology has attracted the
    attention of the National Institutes of Justice.

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