Our colloquia are sponsored by the Robert A. 1925 and Catherine L. McKennan Fund in Anthropology. March 17, 2014, 41 Haldeman, 4:00 PM: Genetic Ancestry, Race, and National Belonging in Argentina, Graciela Cabana, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Winter Term Colloquia
Genetic Ancestry, Race, and National Belonging in Argentina
Graciela Cabana, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
March 17, 2014
4:00 - 5:30 PM
History teaches us that race concepts can be especially harmful when essentialized as “natural” biological or genetic concepts. For this reason, social science scholars have expressed concern over how recent genetic research, particularly studies of genetic ancestry, may be encouraging a new form of essentialism of race and ethnicity. Current work in this area has revealed considerable complexities in the ways in which genetics and race are co-configured, depending on individuals’ motivation and social context. To better understand this dynamic, scholars are calling for further empirical research in varied social-cultural settings, as well as extending analyses into related notions of ethnicity and national belonging.
In this talk I discuss an ongoing intradisciplinary project between a biological and cultural anthropologist that responds to this call. We investigate how information about human genetic variation affects notions of race, ethnicity, and national belonging in Argentina. In Argentina, the notion of whiteness has been central to its nation building – so much so, that Argentina’s citizenry does not relate to ideas of race, as much as it does to cultural or ethnic differences, within the larger category of “European.” However, this situation has been changing as Argentina has slowly responded to more than two decades of global and regional multicultural forces that encourage nations to unite under the banner of diversity rather than homogeneity. At the same time, a spate of recent human genetic studies focused on genetic ancestry has begun to contradict long-held popular perceptions of Argentina’s “Europeanness.”
We have developed an innovative research design in which Argentines are exposed to information on their personal genetic ancestry, as well as to the ancestries of their fellow citizens. This is combined with a longitudinal ethnographic study in which we are evaluating the ways in which these identities may become socially meaningful over the longer term. We have conducted a pilot project to evaluate the utility of a mixed-method approach as well as the research potential of a longitudinal project, and present the results here, as well as our goals for the expanded research project beginning September, 2014.
Also sponsored by the Ethics Institute, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies Program
Spring Term Colloquia
Tracking ancient human migrations in the High Himalayas
Mark Aldenderfer, Professor and Dean
School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts
University of California, Merced
March 31, 2014
4:00 - 5:30 PM
Today, Upper Mustang, located in a high elevation valley in northern Nepal, seems remote and isolated. Closed to the world until the 1990s, Mustang is now home to a small but thriving Tibetan Buddhist community that was once part of a much larger world with connections westward into Central Asia and to the east into China and beyond via the famous Silk Road. Yet the origins of this community are very much unknown. The earliest inhabitants are variously described as Aryans, Mongolians, Tibetans, and others. Our research project, composed of a team of archaeologists, historians, bioarchaeologists, archaeological scientists, including specialists in the analysis of ancient DNA, along with a crack team of Alpinists and climbers, is recovering important new data that speak to the origins of the people of Upper Mustang and the ways in which the polity grew and changed over the past 3000 years.