Resources

The latest issue of Current Anthropology features a suggestive article by Jenny Reardon and Kim TallBear that calls for a change in scientific education in order to enable different interactions between indigenous people and scientists. Abstract: During the nineteenth century, the American School of Anthropology enfolded Native peoples into their histories, claiming knowledge about and artifacts of these cultures as their rightful inheritance and property. Drawing both on the Genographic Project and the recent struggles between Arizona State University and the Havasupai Tribe over the use of Havasupai DNA, in this essay we describe how similar enfoldments continue today—despite most contemporary human scientists’ explicit rejection of hierarchical ideas of race. We seek to bring greater clarity and visibility to these constitutive links between whiteness, property, and the human sciences in order that the fields of biological anthropology and population genetics might work to move toward their stated commitments to antiracism (a goal, we argue, that the fields’ antiracialism impedes). Specifically, we reflect on how these links can inform extralegal strategies to address tensions between U.S. and other indigenous peoples and genome scientists and their facilitators (ethicists, lawyers, and policy makers). We conclude by suggesting changes to scientific education and professional standards that might improve relations between indigenous peoples and those who study them, and we introduce mechanisms for networking between indigenous peoples, scholars, and policy makers concerned with expanding indigenous governance of science and technology.

Download below to read the full article:

REARDON, Jenny and Kim TALLBEAR
(2012). “ ‘Your DNA is our history’ Genomics, Anthropology, and the Construction of Whiteness as Property”. Current Anthropology 53(Supplement 5): S233-S245.

Palgrave-MacMillan just released a new edited volume that reflects on the intersections of cultural and biological identity, health, and research agendas in South America, particularly focusing on Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. The book, edited by Sahra Gibbon, Ricardo Ventura Santos and Mónica Sans, offers cross-cultural readings of the conceptual problems of population making in the areas of genetic ancestry and biomedicine, the political economy of health, the practice of bioethics, and the emergence of contested biological and cultural identities. The contributors in the volume represent different academic perspectives such as sociocultural and biological anthropology, science and technology studies, biology and human geneticists.

“This is an exceedingly original, interesting, and very important work for anthropology. Its major strength is its conceptual sophistication and the potential to make a substantial, groundbreaking contribution in anthropology, science studies, and global health. This is bio-cultural anthropology at its best.” Jonathan Marks, Department of Anthropology, UNC-Charlotte

Duke University Press just published Sandra Harding’s new edited volume “The Postcolonial Science and Technology Studies Reader”. The selection of authors and topics makes possible a dialogue between feminist theory, postcolonial studies, and science and technology studies. From DUP website: “The contributors reevaluate conventional accounts of the West’s scientific and technological projects in the past and present, rethink the strengths and limitations of non-Western societies’ knowledge traditions, and assess the legacies of colonialism and imperialism. The collection concludes with forward-looking essays, which explore strategies for cultivating new visions of a multicultural, democratic world of sciences and for turning those visions into realities. Feminist science and technology concerns run throughout the reader and are the focus of several essays. Harding provides helpful background for each essay in her introductions to the reader’s four sections.”

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The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics features Kim TallBear’s piece on contemporary techno-scientific narratives of race and indigeneity. The author affirms that “In its quest to sample 100,000 “indigenous and traditional peoples,” the Genographic Project deploys five problematic narratives: (1) that “we are all African”; (2) that “genetic science can end racism”; (3) that “indigenous peoples are vanishing”; (4) that “we are all related”; and (5) that Genographic “collaborates” with indigenous peoples. In so doing, Genographic perpetuates much critiqued, yet longstanding notions of race and colonial scientific practice.”

Download below to read the full article:
TALLBEAR, Kim
(2007). “Narratives of race and indigeneity in the Genographic Project”. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 35(3): 412-424.

New Scientist (Issue 2817) features Linda Geddes’ article “Tribal wars: DNA testing divides American Indians”. Geddes reports on the membership disputes among the Chukchansi Tribe in Central California, USA. The Tribe Council will vote this month if new applicants must undergo a DNA test to prove they “really” are related to a member of the community. From the point of view of the tribal council this is an effort to block access to the benefits coming with the membership (e.g. the right to a share of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino’s profits) and grant access only to those qualified (“blood quantum”). Tribe members, would-be members, and external observers fear this consumption of genetic information may open the door for false disputes around ancestry; contribute to delegitimizing other cultural criteria for establishing membership; and possibly, to undermine tribal sovereignty.

Reference:

GEDDES, Linda
(2009). “Tribal wars. Genetic testing divides Native Americans”. New Scientist 210(2817): 8-10.The article can be accessed through the New Scientist webpage (through a subscription).

WICAZO SA REVIEW Vol 18 No 1 features Kim TallBear’s piece on Native American DNA and cultural identity. “I saw American broadcaster Larry King interview African-American comedian Chris Rock in February 2001 on CNN International. King asked Rock how he felt about recent developments related to mapping the human genome. When Chris Rock appeared puzzled and respond- ed more or less that he didn’t feel qualified to address the topic, King elaborated that such scientific inquiry might be used to make black people white and didn’t Mr. Rock have an opinion about this? Recog- nizing King’s unfamiliarity with the psychology of race, Chris Rock seemed to see that this was one battle in which he didn’t want to en- gage on international television. He responded graciously and with a smile, ‘It isn’t like that.’[...]”

Download below to read the full article:
TALLBEAR, Kim
(2003). “DNA blood & racializing the tribe”. Wicazo Sá Review 18(1): 81-107.

These Guidelines have been prepared by the Ethics Office of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in conjunction with its Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, to assist researchers and institutions in carrying out ethical and culturally competent research involving Aboriginal people. The intent is to promote health through research that is in keeping with Aboriginal values and traditions. The Guidelines will assist in developing research partnerships that will facilitate and encourage mutually beneficial and culturally competent research. The Guidelines will also promote ethics review that enables and facilitates rather than suppresses or obstructs research. These Guidelines are applicable to researchers carrying out research to which CIHR has made a financial contribution. The reader should note that these Guidelines are not regulations nor are they meant to be of general application. Rather, they are guidelines that should be followed by anyone who carries out research involving Aboriginal people in Canada if the research is funded by CIHR. The obligation on the researcher to abide by the Guidelines is contractual, i.e. it is voluntarily assumed by the researcher in return for the funding provided by CIHR. As these guidelines primarily address the special considerations that arise when carrying out research involving Aboriginal people, researchers must also refer to, and comply with, other Tri-Council andCIHR policies, as well as any applicable legislation and, for those to whom it applies, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Other agencies of government may impose additional regulatory or other requirements.

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On March 11 The American Journal of Human Genetics published Roderick R. McInnes’s 2010 Presidential Address  at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics: “Culture: the silent language geneticists must learn—genetic research with Indigenous populations”.  McInnes presented a thoughtful piece highlighting the concerns of indigenous people around the world regarding genetic research (illustrated by positive and negative research experiences) and the urgency of doing culturally competent research “[...] research that respects the indigenous community’s beliefs, their desire for self-determination, their desire to benefit from the research, and their wish to retain intellectual property rights and ownership of samples of DNA, tissues, and body fluids. [...]”

Reference:
McINNES, Roderick R.
(2011). “Culture: the silent language geneticists must learn—genetic research with indigenous populations”. American Journal of Human Genetics 88(3): 254-261. The article can be accessed through the AJHG webpage (through a subscription).

“Genetic ancestry testing is being applied in areas as diverse as forensics, genealogical research, immigration control, and biomedical research (1–3). Use of ancestry as a potential risk factor for disease is entrenched in clinical decision-making (4), so it is not surprising that techniques to determine genetic ancestry are increasingly deployed to identify genetic variants associated with disease and drug response (5). Recently, direct-to-consumer (DTC) personal genomics companies have used ancestry information to calculate individual risk profiles for a range of diseases and traits. [...]”

Download below to read the full article:
LEE, Sandra Soo-Jin; Deborah A. BOLNICK, Troy DUSTER, Pilar OSSORIO and Kim TALLBEAR
(2009). “The illusive gold standard in genetic ancestry testing”. Science 325(5936): 38-39.

 

 

At least two dozen companies now market “genetic ancestry tests” to help consumers reconstruct their family histories and determine the geographic origins of their ancestors. More than 460,000 people have purchased these tests over the past 6 years (1), still skyrocketing (1–4). Some scientists support this enterprise because it makes genetics accessible and relevant; otHers view it with indifference, seeing the tests as merely “recreational.” However, both scientists and consumers should approach genetic ancestry testing with caution because (i) the tests can have a profound impact on individuals and communities, (ii) the assumptions and limitations of these tests make them less informative than many realize, and (iii) commercialization has led to misleading practices that reinforce misconceptions.

Download below to read the full article:
BOLNICK, Deborah A.; Duana FULLWILEY, Troy DUSTER, Richard S. COOPER, Joan H. FUJIMURA, Jonathan KAHN, Jay S. KAUFMAN, Jonathan MARKS, Ann MORNING, Alondra NELSON, Pilar OSSORIO, Jenny REARDON, Susan M. REVERBY and Kimberly TALLBEAR
(2007). “The science and business of genetic ancestry testing”. Science 318 (5849): 399-400.

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