Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Forthcoming Media, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-29 21:17Z by Steven

Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

The Americas
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2014
pages 179-181
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2014.0105

Emily Wentzell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Iowa

Montoya, Michael J., Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011)

Michael J. Montoya investigates U.S.-based genetic research and discourse asserting Mexican-American susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, to reveal “the role of genetic research in the persistent use of race to divide populations in society at large” (p. 12). Montoya makes the importance of this project clear, situating it in a sociocultural context where genetics suffuse our understandings of humanness, identity, and sickness, and where folk taxonomies of race—which Montoya understands as embodiments of group-based oppression—are simultaneously contested and enduring. His chapters follow blood samples and their use from donation, though abstraction into datasets and analyses, to market and the popular cultural deployment of the scientific claims they generate. Montoya reveals how each of these moments entails the construction of scientific objects, including the recasting of borderlands residents who cannot afford healthcare as humanist donors, the elision of folk taxonomies of race into bodily attributes on the population level, and the construction of “the Mexican American population” as a homogenously admixed ethno-racial group. These chapters also illustrate the process of what Montoya terms “bioethnic conscription,” in which “ethnicity comes to be construed as meaningful for scientific research,” supporting genetic or clinical claims (p. 26) and obscuring the social origins of human difference and sickness. Overall, this book reveals how broader contexts of oppression lead well-meaning researchers to further the biologization of inequality into ethno-racial categories, which pathologize and homogenize the oppressed while obscuring the material causes of sickness.

This work builds on the best foundations from anthropology and STS, wedding attention to the co-construction of society and science with an anthropological eye to material and social realities. Montoya’s resistance to dualities when investigating science-race relationships is at the same time a resistance to reductionist traditions. Avoiding oppositions between biology and society, he productively frames biology as part of society to understand how embodied inequality can come to look like racial disease susceptibility, and how broader social phenomena, like the existence of racial labels, filter into biological research.

He similarly complicates debates about the use of race in science. Pointing out that scientists are themselves wary of naturalizing race, Montoya sees that simply identifying their failures is a dead end. Instead, he investigates how even those seeking to avoid biologizing folk taxonomies of race participate in broader cultural assemblages that reinforce them. His claims draw authority from his impressive engagement with scientific practice and fluency in the language of genetics, which enable him to avoid critiquing a scientific straw man.

Such analysis draws on remarkable ethnography. Montoya conducted extensive participant observation in multiple sites of an international diabetes research consortium. This research yields data on geneticists’ daily practice in offices in Chicago, DNA sample collection along the U.S.-Mexico border, and diabetes research conferences, as well as the resulting documents such as grant proposals. Linking rich ethnography with equally rich analysis, Montoya shows readers how interactions in these sites illustrate widely varying uses and even critiques of ideas of race which ultimately, because of broader social forces, revivify ideas of human difference that perpetuate inequality. Montoya clearly situates himself in the work, discussing his intellectual and social background and its relationship to the development of his project; graduate students designing their own fieldwork will find this instructive.

This book is a must-read for scholars seeking an ethnographically grounded yet highly theoretical read on science, sickness, race and Mexicanness. It reveals relationships between race, science, and context that should be widely understood, and Montoya expresses hope that a broadly interdisciplinary readership might apply these insights. However, this aim of applicability might be thwarted by the book’s impressive but dizzying linkage of analyses to relevant theories from multiple disciplines, as well as its inclusion (especially in the introduction) of rafts of provocative questions that will not be explicitly answered. Somewhat ironically, given Montoya’s engaging discussion of a geneticist critiquing an ethnography of science’s emphasis on “philosophy shit” (p. 128), this work uses high-level theory in a way that will excite social scientists but overwhelm others. While excerpts (especially the engaging sections analyzing rich ethnography) would be useful for undergraduate classes on medical and cultural anthropology, race…

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Clotel or, The President’s Daughter

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2014-09-29 20:42Z by Steven

Clotel or, The President’s Daughter

Penguin Press
2003-12-30 (First published in December 1853)
320 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780142437728
ePub ISBN: 9781440626616

William Wells Brown (1814–1884)

Introduction by:

M. Giulia Fabi, Associate professor of American literature
University of Ferrara, Italy

First published in December 1853, Clotel was written amid then unconfirmed rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with one of his slaves. The story begins with the auction of his mistress, here called Currer, and their two daughters, Clotel and Althesa. The Virginian who buys Clotel falls in love with her, gets her pregnant, seems to promise marriage—then sells her. Escaping from the slave dealer, Clotel returns to Virginia disguised as a white man in order to rescue her daughter, Mary, a slave in her father’s house. A fast-paced and harrowing tale of slavery and freedom, of the hypocrisies of a nation founded on democratic principles, Clotel is more than a sensationalist novel. It is a founding text of the African American novelistic tradition, a brilliantly composed and richly detailed exploration of human relations in a new world in which race is a cultural construct.

  • First time in Penguin Classics
  • Published in time for African-American History Month
  • Includes appendices that show the different endings Brown created for the various later versions of Clotel, along with the author’s narrative of his “Life and Escape,” Introduction, suggested readings, and comprehensive explanatory notes
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Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-09-29 20:18Z by Steven

Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality

University of California Press
March 2011
282 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520267305
Paperback ISBN: 9780520267312

Michael J. Montoya, Professor of Anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies & Public Health
University of California, Irvine

This innovative ethnographic study animates the racial politics that underlie genomic research into type 2 diabetes, one of the most widespread chronic diseases and one that affects ethnic groups disproportionately. Michael J. Montoya follows blood donations from “Mexican-American” donors to laboratories that are searching out genetic contributions to diabetes. His analysis lays bare the politics and ethics of the research process, addressing the implicit contradiction of undertaking genetic research that reinscribes race’s importance even as it is being demonstrated to have little scientific validity. In placing DNA sampling, processing, data set sharing, and carefully crafted science into a broader social context, Making the Mexican Diabetic underscores the implications of geneticizing disease while illuminating the significance of type 2 diabetes research in American life.

Read chapter 1, “Biological or Social Allelic Variation and the Making of Race in Single Nucleotide Polymorphism– Based Research” here.

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Notaries of Color in Colonial Panama: Limpieza de Sangre, Legislation, and Imperial Practices in the Administration of the Spanish Empire

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive on 2014-09-29 19:57Z by Steven

Notaries of Color in Colonial Panama: Limpieza de Sangre, Legislation, and Imperial Practices in the Administration of the Spanish Empire

The Americas
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2014
pages 37-69
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2014.0082

Silvia Espelt-Bombín
University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

On July 20, 1740, King Philip V of Spain was given paperwork regarding a dispute over the adjudication of a notarial office in Panama City and, as usual, he was expected to make a decision. The king also had in hand recommendations from the Cámara of the Consejo de Indias. The king would have handled the case in a relatively straightforward manner, but for one fact—the two notaries involved in the public bid were of African descent.

The notarial office (escribano público y del número) in question had been auctioned to Francisco Garcia y Robles, a white notary, for 1,525 pesos. A man named Jorge Geronimo Perez had also bid for it but lost, and was appealing the auction results on the grounds that the former owner of the notarial office had handed it over to him when the latter resigned. In addition, Perez argued, his long career in notarial service, including a time as assistant in the office of a notary, demonstrated his suitability for the post. To better assess his claim, the local authorities had required Perez to present documentation of his fiat (title of notary) and the dispensation of his defecto (defect), a document that stated he was of African descent—his grandmother was a mulata. However, Perez did not comply, and the case was forwarded to Spain. There, the Cámara and the king encountered a complication: the notary who had certified the auction was Joseph de Avellaneda, himself of African descent. To resolve the conflict, Philip issued a decree requesting that the two notaries of color present their fiats and dispensas de color o calidad (dispensations of color or calidad), both issued by the king, to the audiencia of Panama. If either refused to obey, he would be prevented from continuing to exercise his occupation. The decree also stated that the audiencia should not allow any mestizo or mulato to use the title of notary unless the king had provided him with an exemption for his defecto.

This case highlights the existence of a seemingly contradictory reality. Although official imperial legislation prohibited notary positions to people of African descent, the monarchs and the Consejo de Indias—and not so infrequently—granted them individual dispensas to work as notaries and to own notarial offices. The case before Philip V did not represent an isolated incident. I have identified 42 individuals of African descent who worked as notaries in Panama between the early seventeenth century and the 1810s, and frequently they owned notarial offices as well. These 42 cases demonstrate the existence of an imperial practice that started with the Habsburg monarchs and developed under the Bourbons. I argue that this practice needs to be understood within Spain’s policy of flexible legislation, which allowed for adaptations to maintain its empire. It evidences an accommodative approach on the part of metropolitan authorities to the changing social reality in the Spanish-American colonies. The practice would ultimately be made official with the late-eighteenth century gracias al sacar decrees.

In undertaking a quantitative and qualitative analysis of notaries of African descent in Panama over two centuries, this article engages with and contributes to four main lines of research in early-modern Latin American history: the role of notaries, the importance of limpieza de sangre and calidad in Spanish America, the workings of the administration of the Spanish territories, and the experience of free people of African descent. In my analysis, I question the predominant historiography that supports the notion that notaries were of Spanish descent, and maintains that African descendants were allowed to become notaries only through a combination of the crown’s economic need and a lack of interest in the occupation on the part of whites or Spaniards. I also question the suggestion that this permission was granted in significant numbers only in moments of crisis, or when there were difficulties in finding suitable candidates to occupy the posts, mostly from the early eighteenth century onward. The research I present here clearly establishes that people of color became notaries from the early seventeenth century. Even though greater public revenue might have been increasingly important in the late early-modern period, it…

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Preview: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni questions race and identity in “One Drop of Love”

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-09-29 19:35Z by Steven

Preview: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni questions race and identity in “One Drop of Love”

ArtsATL: Atlanta’s source for arts news and reviews
2014-09-21

Kelundra Smith


Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni

As an MFA candidate in the Television, Film and Theatre program at California State University, Los Angeles, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni originally set out to make a documentary about identity and race, using her Jamaican and white ancestry as the core of the story, as her thesis project. But since her concentration was on performance, a professor advised her to do a theater piece to showcase her acting chops. So she took her footage and research and transformed the documentary into a multimedia one-woman show called One Drop of Love. She is performing that show in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom tonight at 7 p.m.

The title derives from the U.S. Census “one drop rule,” which states that a person who has at least one parent of African descent is automatically considered black. The daughter of a Jamaican father (Winston Barrington Cox) and white mother (Trudy Cox), DiGiovanni spent her early years in Washington, D.C., until her parents divorced and she moved to Cambridge with her mom and brother Winston. She spent much of her life questioning and aligning herself with a strong black identity, but falling in love with a European man caused her to ponder that choice more intensely.

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired actor, writer and producer married her husband, Diego, in July 2006, and her father did not attend the wedding. His absence from her nuptials caused them not to speak for seven years. But One Drop of Love needed an ending, just as her relationship with her father needed reconciliation. Here DiGiovanni talks about her ethnic identity, the role race has played in her family and a chance encounter with one of the show’s producers, actor Ben Affleck.

ArtsATL: How do you ethnically identify?

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: I am a culturally mixed woman searching for racial answers. That’s the best I can say, and I explore this in the show. I talk about how my ethnic identity has changed over the years, based on geography and relationships with my family. It is constantly changing. However, I got to the point politically where I had to educate myself about the way black people are treated in this country. As someone who may not look black or identify as black, I have a lot of privileges that people who don’t look like me — who aren’t light-skinned or have blue eyes — can’t take advantage of. Sometimes I think that calling myself black and aligning myself with that struggle does a disservice to people who are actively living that struggle, because they don’t have the same privileges…

…ArtsATL: In identifying as black, did that affect your relationship with your white mother?

DiGiovanni: Momma Trudy is a free spirit who loves everybody and cares deeply about justice and equality, and she was all for it. She encouraged my brother and me to attend historically black colleges. She encouraged us to identify as black. She was never hurt by my identity choices. She encouraged us to know her family, but she also shared stories about how her mother disinherited her after she married my father. She did us a great service, because she shared it all with us, including her understanding of justice and equality, especially knowing that my brother was going to move through life as an identifiable black man…

Read the entire interview here.

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Hapa-palooza 2014 celebrates three giants of mixed-heritage

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Media Archive on 2014-09-29 19:28Z by Steven

Hapa-palooza 2014 celebrates three giants of mixed-heritage

Vancouver Observer
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2014-09-28

Jordan Yerman

An artist, a scientist, and a poet: Hapa-palooza honours Kip Fulbeck, Ann Makosinski, and Fred Wah.

What am I? I’m what’s on your spoon when you pull it out of the melting pot!!” So writes a subject in California-based artist Kip Fulbeck’s photo series “part asian, 100% Hapa“.

“The Hapa Project” just opened at the Nikkei National Museum, which also hosted Hapa-palooza’s inaugural Hip Hapa Hooray awards. The evening honoured three key figures in North America’s mixed-heritage community, who come from different generations and exceed in different disciplines.

Hapa-palooza co-founders Zarah Martz, Anna Ling Kaye, and Jeff Chiba Stearns presented awards to Fulbeck, inventor Ann Makosinski and poet Fred Wah

Read the entire article here.

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William Wells Brown: An African American Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-09-29 19:13Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: An African American Life

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
October 2014
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-24090-0

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

A groundbreaking biography of the most pioneering and accomplished African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Born into slavery in Kentucky, raised on the Western frontier on the farm adjacent to Daniel Boone’s, “rented” out in adolescence to a succession of steamboat captains on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the young man known as “Sandy” reinvented himself as “William Wells” Brown after escaping to freedom. He lifted himself out of illiteracy and soon became an innovative, widely admired, and hugely popular speaker on antislavery circuits (both American and British) and went on to write the earliest African American works in a plethora of genres: travelogue, novel (the now canonized Clotel), printed play, and history. He also practiced medicine, ran for office, and campaigned for black uplift, temperance, and civil rights.

Ezra Greenspan’s masterful work, elegantly written and rigorously researched, sets Brown’s life in the richly rendered context of his times, creating a fascinating portrait of an inventive writer who dared to challenge the racial orthodoxies and explore the racial complexities of nineteenth-century America.

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William Wells Brown: A Reader

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2014-09-29 19:04Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: A Reader

University of Georgia Press
2008-12-15
488 pages
6 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8203-3223-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-3224-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-3634-3

William Wells Brown (1814–1884)

Edited by:

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

Born into slavery in Kentucky, William Wells Brown (1814–1884) was kept functionally illiterate until after his escape at the age of nineteen. Remarkably, he became the most widely published and versatile African American writer of the nineteenth century as well as an important leader in the abolitionist and temperance movements.

Brown wrote extensively as a journalist but was also a pioneer in other literary genres. His many groundbreaking works include Clotel, the first African American novel; The Escape: or, A Leap for Freedom, the first published African American play; Three Years in Europe, the first African American European travelogue; and The Negro in the American Rebellion, the first history of African American military service in the Civil War. Brown also wrote one of the most important fugitive slave narratives and a striking array of subsequent self-narratives so inventively shifting in content, form, and textual presentation as to place him second only to Frederick Douglass among nineteenth-century African American autobiographers.

Ezra Greenspan has selected the best of Brown’s work in a range of fields including fiction, drama, history, politics, autobiography, and travel. The volume opens with an introductory essay that places Brown and his work in a cultural and political context. Each chapter begins with a detailed introductory headnote, and the contents are closely annotated; there is also a selected bibliography. This reader offers an introduction to the work of a major African American writer who was engaged in many of the important debates of his time.

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Defining racism in S. Korea

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-09-29 00:49Z by Steven

Defining racism in S. Korea

AsiaOne
2014-09-05

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

“We apologise, but due to Ebola virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment.”

This is what a bar in Itaewon, a popular area for expats and tourists in Seoul, publicly posted in front of its property last month.

The statement triggered thousands of angry comments online, both from expats and locals ― especially after the public learned of reports that the bar admitted a white person from South Africa, while banning almost all dark-skinned individuals, regardless of their nationalities.

The incident is likely to get attention from Mutuma Ruteere, the UN special rapporteur on racism. Ruteere is scheduled to visit Seoul later this month to monitor the situation of racial discrimination and xenophobia in Korea and will file a report to the UN Human Rights Council next year.

The incident is one of the growing number of racism cases in the country ― Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, a key manufacturing powerhouse in the region, as well as the producer of hallyu.

While the nation’s immigrant population continues to rise, Korean racism ― both structural and internalized ― is becoming a growing concern to the international community.

Complex nature of racism in Korea

Korean racism, however, must be understood differently from its Western cousin, experts say.

It is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University…

Korean racism also contains internalized white supremacy, Kim added. “After the Korean War, Korea became a country with US military presence. At the same time, it was exposed to American popular culture, including Hollywood films, and was influenced by their representation of visible minorities,” Kim said.

“We need to note that interracial marriage was legally banned in (parts of) the US until 1967. The very first children who were sent overseas for foreign adoption in 1954 from Korea were mixed-race children born to African-American soldiers and Korean women.”

Internalized white supremacy can be seen even in today’s TV shows in Korea, according to a local NGO Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea.

When a Korean person is married to a (white) citizen of Western country, his or her family is referred as a “global family” with a positive connotation by hosts on TV programs, while families consisting of a Korean man married to a woman from a Southeast Asian country is called a “multicultural family,” a term that is rather stigmatizing and discriminatory among Koreans, the NGO wrote in a report to be submitted to UN Rapporteur Ruteere.

Racially insensitive programming on Korea’s national broadcasting networks have also emerged as a problem. In February, national broadcaster KBS aired three Korean comedians, dressed as “Africans” by wearing a curly wig and painting their faces black, in a segment in its comedy show “Gag Concert.” The programme received a criticism from expats here, saying that it was racist and extremely inappropriate…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Alien Citizen’ delivers a raw, moving sociological odyssey

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-29 00:34Z by Steven

‘Alien Citizen’ delivers a raw, moving sociological odyssey

The Williams Record: The Independent Student Newspaper at WIlliams College since 1887
Williamstown, Massachusetts
2014-09-24

William Walker, Staff Writer

If there’s anything that students at the College love to think about, it’s identity. Indeed, the big questions about who we are, what we want to do and what we can (or in some cases should) become are some of the most fundamental, dynamic issues we grapple with, shaping the ways we think and interact. Which is why, at least for this Williams student, Elizabeth Liang’s one-woman show “Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey,” performed last Thursday at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, strikes such a profound and memorable chord.

After all, the show deals with just that problem. Telling the largely auto-biographical story of Liang, “Alien Citizen” describes a girlhood spent travelling between Central America, North Africa, the Middle East and New England, a journey ever-complicated by Liang’s own biracial status. And, like any journey, there are certainly plenty of obstacles to overcome – obstacles, in this case, which include the threats of racism, classism, sexism and, obviously, alienation. Indeed, perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the journey Liang goes on is its profound sense of loneliness – as a self-described “Third Culture Kid,” Liang feels like a foreigner even in the places where she’s stayed the longest…

Read the entire review here.

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