Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom

Genomics, Multiculturalism, and Race in Latin America

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: May 2017

Author: Peter Wade

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Race mixture, or mestizaje, has played a critical role in the history, culture, and politics of Latin America. In Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom, Peter Wade draws on a multidisciplinary research study in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. He shows how Latin American elites and outside observers have emphasized mixture's democratizing potential, depicting it as a useful resource for addressing problems of racism (claiming that race mixture undoes racial difference and hierarchy), while Latin American scientists participate in this narrative with claims that genetic studies of mestizos can help isolate genetic contributors to diabetes and obesity and improve health for all. Wade argues that, in the process, genomics produces biologized versions of racialized difference within the nation and the region, but a comparative approach nuances the simple idea that highly racialized societies give rise to highly racialized genomics. Wade examines the tensions between mixture and purity, and between equality and hierarchy in liberal political orders, exploring how ideas and scientific data about genetic mixture are produced and circulate through complex networks.


“This book will be of great interest to historians of race in Latin America, as it is one of the first to extend the considerable scholarship on mestizaje and racial democracy (with its attendant debates) into a new era of genetics and genomics.… By opening a host of research paths for other scholars, the monograph proves itself to be ambitious and well executed.”

— Kelly Urban, H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom is an invaluable resource on the topic of race mixture for race scholars and Latin Americanists alike.” — G. Reginald Daniel, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Wade’s research probes the nexus of cutting-edge scientific research, historical memory, and socio-cultural scholarship. Scholars of modern Latin America, race, and the history of science will find much of use in this well written and conceptually ambitious study." — Alex K. Diamond, EIAL

"Overall, Wade creates a remarkably even-handed account, which is neither alarmist nor evangelistic about the potential for genomics to transform or reinforce racial ideologies. . . . the clear and concise descriptions of genetic theory and practices will serve as an excellent introduction to these concepts for uninitiated readers, and the book makes important contributions to existing social science discussions about the anti-racist and democratising potential of mixture and genomics in contemporary societies." — Sarah Abel, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Due to its breath and depth this is an essential book, one that will become a key academic reference about Latin American genomics, politics, and nationhood." — Ernesto Schwartz-Marin, Ethnohistory

"This book provides a significant and unusual contribution to the field of sciences by centering the analysis on Latin American scientists. For scholars of race in Latin America, Wade updates and complicates our understandings of how race has been made, unmade, and remade by scientists and policymakers."  — Nancy P. Appelbaum, Latin American Research Review

"This bold comparative study of the complex intersectionality of mestizo nationalisms offers a persuasive and sophisticated analysis of racialization and de-racialization as forms of identity, power, and aspiration. Meticulously charting the ambivalent meanings of race, Peter Wade also tracks their continuous connection to hierarchies of status and ancestry in a comparative study that opens up important new approaches to genomics as both professional science and everyday life." — Sarah Franklin, author of Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells, and the Future of Kinship

"Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom is an incisive and sophisticated work by an accomplished scholar of race and genetics in the Americas. Peter Wade examines the stakes in construing or imagining mestizaje to be an antidote to racial divisions, while also surveying the ranges of its actual rates of occurrence among the distinct continental populations that were thrown together through European colonization of the Americas. This impressively written book will be well received and well read." — John Hartigan Jr., author of Race in the 21st Century: Ethnographic Approaches


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter Wade is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester and the author and editor of many books, including Mestizo Genomics, also published by Duke University Press, and Race: An Introduction.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction. Mixture as a Biological Process  1
I. Purity and Mixture
1. Purity and Mixture in Human Population Genetics  27
2. From Eugenics to Blood Types  53
II. Genetics and Multiculturalism
3. Changing Practices  85
4. Colombia, Country of Regions  99
5. Brazil, Race, and Affirmative Action  122
6. Mexico, Public Health, and State Genomics  146
7. Genomics & Multiculturalism: Comparisons and Continuities  166
III. Narrating Mixture
8. Gender, Genealogy, and Mestizaje  191
9. The Geneticization of Race and Diversity in Everyday Life 223
Conclusion  258
Notes  267
References  273
Index  315
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6373-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6358-3
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