This plenary will facilitate an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars whose work has advanced the study of ideas of race, genealogy and heredity.
Since the mapping of the human genome in 2001, there has been an explosion in scholarship within the social sciences and humanities concerned with understanding the historical context, social and ethical implications of the revolutions and innovations in genomic and biotechnologies. Crucial to this work has been an examination of the ways in which genomic science enters the realms of race, ethnicity, identity and national belonging. In this regard, the genomic revolution has opened-up a space for scholars to revisit old questions and pose new ones concerned with the historical and everyday manifestations of race, genealogy and heredity. This plenary will consist of an interdisciplinary discussion between scholars whose work and thought has advanced this field of inquiry. The aim is to examine and explore the diverse ways in which their research illuminates how articulations of kinship, national belonging, citizenship, diaspora, nature, biology, genetics, culture, ancestry, genealogy and heredity mediate ideas about race. The participants in this discussion are: Staffan Müller-Wille is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Exeter. His research examines how knowledge is attained and how it changes over time through drawing upon detailed historical case studies covering the history of the life sciences since the early modern period. Dr Müller-Wille’s recent work includes an interdisciplinary project on the cultural practices in which knowledge of ‘heredity’ was produced. He has also studied the history of ideas of race and kinship within anthropology. Catherine Nash is a Professor of Human Geography at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research interests are in geographies of belonging and relatedness, and her recent work has focussed on these themes within the science and cultures of genealogy and human population genetics. This includes exploring the making of ideas of sexual as well as ethnic and racial difference. Peter Wade is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. His current research is a comparative analysis of how ideas of race and ethnicity interact with genomic research in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, where geneticists are mapping local population genomes, with the objective of combating diseases, and tracing “racial” ancestries.