Rethinking Race in the Americas

Rationale Statement

Schedule & Abstracts

Speaker Bios

Department Colloquia

Listen to Conference Podcasts

IU Anthropology Department

IU Anthropology 60th Anniversary


Anthropology Department Skomp Endowment

Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs

Ruth N. Halls Lecture Fund

College of Arts and Humanities Institute

International Programs

Office of the Provost

Dean of Faculties

IU School of Law

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)

Center for the Study of Global Change

Horizons of Knowledge

We are thankful for the support of the AAA Race project.

Other Links

- Schedule -

THURSDAY: 5:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.
sponsored by the Ruth N. Halls Lecture Fund

5:00-5:30: Reception
5:30 - 6:00: Welcome and Opening Remarks:
Karen Hanson,
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Eduardo Brondizio,
Chair, Department of Anthropology
Keynote Address
6:00 -6:45: Yolanda Moses, Professor of Anthropology at University of California Riverside.

"Back to Our Future: Re-Linking Race, Culture and Biology"
This presentation argues that only through a reexamination of the relationships between culture, biology and the environment can both cultural and biological anthropologists make the strongest case for the non-existence of race. By linking the study of human variation to an understanding of the mechanisms and systemic nature of the construction and maintenance of racial hierarchies in the United States, anthropologists draw on the power of the integrated nature of knowledge that all sub-disciplines bring to bear on the study of the pervasiveness of the concept.

6:45 - 7:00: Discussion
Keynote Adress
7:00 - 7:45: Jeffrey C. Long, Professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School,member of the Center for Statistical Genetics.
  "Human DNA Sequences: More Variation and Less Race"
Whether or not race is a useful construct in biology, medicine, and society has been debated for more than a century. Despite the attention, several related questions about race have never been satisfactorily resolved. What is a race? How do races evolve? How many human races are there? What determines membership in a race? Is race a useful proxy for genetics, health, etc? Interest in human race has intensified recently with the hope that data arising from advances in genomics will settle these long-standing issues.  Indeed, genomic data have revealed patterns of human genetic diversity in exquisite detail. The purposes of this talk are to present the emerging patterns of genetic variation, the insights they provide into the processes and history of human evolution, and to evaluate the internal consistency and usefulness of concepts about human races for understanding human genetic variability.
7:45-8:00: Discussion
FRIDAY: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Keynote Address
9:00-9:45: Lee Baker, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University.
  "Anthropology and The Racial Politics of Culture"
The anthropological concept of race that was eventually used to address the Negro problem in the early twentieth century emerged from the anthropological concept of culture that was used to understand American Indian languages and customs in the late nineteenth century. I develop this line of enquiry by taking Kamela Visweswaran's contentious account that "race was seen to be what culture was not" as a starting point of Boasian articulations of race sundered from culture.  By exploring how late nineteenth century anthropologists conceptualized concepts of the cultural opposed to the strictly racial, one can argue that Franz Boas erected his powerhouse of anthropology that shaped the study of American race relations on the foundation of Americanist anthropology or the ethnology of American Indian cultures and languages. This can be distinguished from the so-called American School of Anthropology that propped up pro-slavery arguments. In other words, to understand the way people began to interpret African American customs, beliefs, rituals, practices and art as "cultural" in the United States, one must first interrogate the way a diverse array of languages and customs were identified and described as cultures among American Indians. Framing twentieth century formations of race and culture in this way has important implications in terms of identifying the role Native Americans played in the history of ideas and the construction of race.
9:45-10:00: Discussion
10:00-10:45: Laurie Wilkie, Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.
  "Everyone's Trash Looks the Same: An Archaeological Perspective on Race, Racialization and Racism"
In the early 1980s, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the new positivism in archaeology, historical archaeologists decided that they would create methodologies that would allow them to identify race and ethnicity through material remains.  Archaeologists busily tallied and compared different categories of artifacts from known Anglo-American, Chinese-American and African-American sites, looking for quantitative measures that separated the assemblages of the three groups.  Their efforts ultimately ended in frustration: everyone’s trash looked pretty much the same.   

Instead of taking this realization as an important insight unto itself, historical archaeologists abandoned any serious consideration of race for the next 15 years.  Yet, the material remains had spoken an important truth—race, as a social constructed and contested phenomenon—has no material correlate.  Instead, the archaeological record provides insights into those social consequences of race.  Through a consideration of the material world, we can see how racialization—the creation of racial categories— occurs.  We can investigate the impacts of racism on the lived experiences of past families and communities, and we can see how those families and communities responded in their everyday lives to racism.   

In this paper, I will discuss how racialization, racism and ethnogenesis can be (and are) studied through archaeological remains of the recent past, and the broader implications this work has for the study of race in general.

10:45 - 11:00: Discussion
11:00-11:45: Jane Hill, Regents Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona.
  "White Projects of Ethnic Identity: The Ideological Frames of Discourses of White Virtue and "Racial Progress" in the United States"
Much "mainstream", especially right-wing, political discourse in the United States condemns social movements and projects that focus on the well-being of people of color as "divisive" and even "racist". The public schools in my Own city of Tucson were recently attacked by the state Superintendent of Education, Tom Horne, for permitting a "racist" program -- Chicano/a Studies (known locally as "Raza Studies"). Such discourse, of course, has a long history, and is part of a White project, of making people of color and their projects visible at the same time that Whiteness is produced as a normative background. In these recent attacks, the White project that is being developed is a narrative of White virtue, that Whites are no longer racist (so that the only barrier to a color-blind utopia is the "racism" of people of color). This presentation will look at the ideological frames that permit White people to develop this narrative. Of special importance is an ideology of personalism/individualism, that permits White racism to be identified only in the case of vividly obvious malignant intention. Invocations of this ideology permit Whites to find "racists" only at the extreme margins of their social world, among imagined "rednecks" and "Ku Kluxers", and permit them to rescue and rehabilitate Whites who do not fit this stereotype. The paper will summarize two case studies that show how this White ethnic project works.
11:45-12:00: Discussion
12:00-1:30: LUNCH
1:30-2:15: Ricardo Ventura Santos, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Professor of Anthropology and Public Health at the National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Brazil.
  "Race, Genomics, Identity and Politics in Contemporary Brazil"
In the contemporary world, “race” narratives are so multifaceted that at times different views of the concept appear mutually incompatible. In recent decades biologists, especially geneticists, have repeatedly stated that the notion of “race” does not apply to the human species. On the other hand social scientists claim that the “race” concept is highly significant in cultural, historical, and socio-economic terms because it is a modeler of everyday social relations, and because it is a powerful motivator for social and political movements based on “racial” differences. At present we are experiencing in Brazil an intense debate about race, science, and society. Since the 1990s, intensified discussion about the role of color and race in generating and maintaining social inequalities led to the formulation of a series of public policies designed to address these questions, especially in the areas of education and health. At the same time the results of genomic studies that emphasize the considerable extent of biological admixture in the Brazilian population have been widely reported. These findings have been conflicting with the agenda of social movements, that attempt to generate a sense of bi-polar racial identity (“Black” and “non-Black” or “White” and “non-White”) at the collective level in a country in which color/ racial lines have been traditionally blurred. This paper analyzes this ongoing debate about genomic ancestry and national identity in Brazil considering a number of studies aimed to shed light on the “genetic origins of Brazilians” based on the sequencing of mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome and nuclear DNA. In these debates genomic information appears as a key player in the dispute between modalities for interpreting and transforming social and political realities related to race and racism.
2:15-2:30: Discussion
2:30-3:15: Deborah Poole, Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University.
  "Eventual Archives and Singular Types: Rethinking Race in the Anthropological Archive"
Our histories of anthropology often frame “race” as a descriptive or conceptual technology for fixing boundaries around distinctive human groups or “types.”  In this picture of anthropology, race is imagined as part of a broader empiricist trend in the discipline in that the fluidity of everyday life and “real” identities, are sacrificed to the idea of race as a material reality that can be classified and contained.    Through an exploration of the photographic archive and writings of a controversial late nineteenth century anthropologist, Frederick Starr, this paper revisits early anthropological debates about race, racial types, and variation to ask not how anthropology succeeded in defining enduring racial types, but rather why it failed to do so.  Starr, who was infamous in the US for his interest in sideshows and “freaks,” led several important expeditions to photograph indigenous racial types in southern Mexico.  In this paper I explore how his concern with discovering singular types (or freaks) shaped his broader project to visually document statistical or “racial” types.  I suggest that the singular failure of Starr’s archive to capture the racial “essence” of its elusive Mexican subjects opens new questions concerning the skeptical underpinnings of anthropology’s racial and visual project.
3:15-3:30: Discussion
3:30-3:45 BREAK
3:45-4:30: Charles Briggs, Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.
  "Denying Medical Care, Withholding Neoliberal Subjectivity: Racializing Knowledge in Health News"
The withdrawal of the state from the actual provision of health care has heightened the role of the diseased body as a key site for embodying racism and social inequality. One of the principal ways that states continue to project their traditional function of maintaining the health of the body politic is to provide health-related “information,” primarily through the news media. Does news coverage of health issues ameliorate or exacerbate racial health “disparities”? Research on print and television media suggests that the production of citizenship through health coverage is racialized, not simply in terms of the proliferation of disparaging images of diseased African American and Latino/a bodies but also as projecting racialized subjects as incapable of fulfilling their governmental role as good consumers of health information.
4:30 -4:45: Discussion
4:45-5:45: Dialogue with the Speakers: Perspectives on "Race"
Discussion Leader: Eduardo Brondizio, Chair, Department of Anthropology
6:00-9:00 Reception: Georgian Room, Indiana Memorial Union


IU Home | IU Bloomington | College of Arts and Sciences | Anthropology Department |Comments
Copyright , The Trustees of Indiana University | Copyright Complaints