Mestizo Genomics

Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America

Mestizo Genomics

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 4 photos, 2 tables, 6 figures Published: April 2014

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Science and Technology Studies

In genetics laboratories in Latin America, scientists have been mapping the genomes of local populations, seeking to locate the genetic basis of complex diseases and to trace population histories. As part of their work, geneticists often calculate the European, African, and Amerindian genetic ancestry of populations. Some researchers explicitly connect their findings to questions of national identity and racial and ethnic difference, bringing their research to bear on issues of politics and identity.

Drawing on ethnographic research in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, the contributors to Mestizo Genomics explore how the concepts of race, ethnicity, nation, and gender enter into and are affected by genomic research. In Latin America, national identities are often based on ideas about mestizaje (race mixture), rather than racial division. Since mestizaje is said to involve relations between European men and indigenous or African women, gender is a key factor in Latin American genomics and in the analyses in this book. Also important are links between contemporary genomics and recent moves toward official multiculturalism in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. One of the first studies of its kind, Mestizo Genomics sheds new light on the interrelations between "race," identity, and genomics in Latin America.

Contributors. Adriana Díaz del Castillo H., Roosbelinda Cárdenas, Vivette García Deister, Verlan Valle Gaspar Neto, Michael Kent, Carlos López Beltrán, María Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Eduardo Restrepo, Mariana Rios Sandoval, Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Peter Wade


"Mestizo Genomics makes an important contribution to the study of biology and the human sciences in Latin America.... This book will be useful to any scholar interested in science, race, and nation in Latin America as well as those considering how to formulate large-scale interdisciplinary projects." — Sarah Walsh, The Latin Americanist

"The strength of this volume lies in highlighting the multiple indeterminacies at play when bioscience is a privileged means for grounding national identity and development." — Udo Krautwurst, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"...this collection is vibrant and exciting, throwing up (without closing down) a finessed repertoire of compelling debates that tantalize with irresistible conceptual nuggets primed for future inquiry.... This kind of heuristic analysis looks set to enhance and extend discussions of mestizaje in the twenty-first century, in the academy and beyond." — Victoria Carroll, History

"While the authors explicitly orient their findings toward the field of science and technology studies (STS), this work has broad relevance to the history of science as well as to ethnic and racial studies in Latin America." — Santiago J. Molina, Ethnohistory

"All in all, the clarity of the project, the skill of the researchers, and the fine editing of the book as a whole allow for a study of great breadth and significance.... Mestizo Genomics will be of great interest to science studies scholars interested in racial science, biology, and genomics. Latin Americanists will find a compelling description of the historic and recent developments in scientific theories of diversity, unity, and homogenous identity in the area, and Latin America’s variety and specific taxonomies should be instructive to scholars of U.S. and European genomics." — Julia Rodriguez, ISIS

"This book... clearly contributes to current international debates on race, genomics and biomedicine. This work is not only of interest to biological anthropologists and historians of science, but also to a wider audience that should include evolutionary biologists and social scientists.” — Ana Barahona, Metascience

"Mestizo Genomics is an exciting collection, one that will complicate critical race studies and the ethnography and history of race in Latin America. Focusing on Latin American geneticists against the backdrop of racial discourse in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, the contributors—the majority of whom are based in the three countries—provide a historically grounded, textured ethnography of the multiple and contradictory directions in which notions of race are moving in Latin America. I would definitely use this book in my teaching. It is fresh, it is probing, and it provides considerable room for debate." — Joanne Rappaport, author of The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

"In this compelling volume, the authors illuminate the complex functions of race in contemporary science, exploring how concepts like biogeographical ancestry resonate with history, and how the notion of the mestizo matters to both national identities and genomic science. Peter Wade's thoughtful concluding analysis brilliantly places these remarkable case studies in conversation with relevant literatures in science studies and the history of science. All in all, a fresh and critical perspective on contemporary genomics research." — M. Susan Lindee, author of Moments of Truth in Genetic Medicine


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter Wade is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester.

Carlos López Beltrán is a historian of science and senior researcher in the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Eduardo Restrepo is a social anthropologist working in the Department of Cultural Studies at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá.

Ricardo Ventura Santos is an anthropologist and senior researcher at the National School of Public Health of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro and Associate Professor of Anthropology with the National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Introduction: Genomics, Race Mixture, and Nation in Latin America / Peter Wade, Carlos López Beltrán, Eduardo Restrepo, and Ricardo Ventura Santos

Part I. History and Context

1. From Degeneration to Meeting Point: Historical Views on Race, Mixture, and the Biological Diversity of the Brazilian Population / Ricardo Ventura Santos, Michael Kent, and Verlan Valle Gaspar Neto

2. Nation and Difference in the Genetic Imagination of Colombia / Eduardo Restrepo, Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, and Roosbelinda Cádenas

3. Negotiating the Mexican Mestizo: On the Possibility of a National Genomics / Carlos López Beltrán, Vivette García Deister, and Mariana Rios Sandoval

Part II. Laboratory Case Studies

4. "The Charrua Are Alive": The Genetic Resurrection of an Extinct Indigenous Population in Southern Brazil / Michael Kent and Ricardo Ventura Santos

5. The Travels of Humans, Categories, and Other Genetic Products: A Case Study of the Practice of Population Genetics in Colombia / María Fernanda Olarte Sierra and Adriana Díaz del Castillo H.

6. Laboratory Life of the Mexican Mestizo / Vivette García Deister

7. Social Categories and Laboratory Practices in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico: A Comparative Overview / Peter Wade, Vivette García Deister, Michael Kent, and María Fernanda Olarte Sierra

Conclusion: Race, Multiculturalism, and Genomics in Latin America / Peter Wade

Appendix; Methods and Contexts



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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5659-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5648-6
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