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RACE, ETHNICITY, AND NATION

Perspectives from Kinship and Genetics

Edited by Peter Wade

210 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-355-8 $99.00/£60.00 hb Published (December 2007)

ISBN  978-1-84545-681-8 $27.95/£16.50 Pb Published (September 2009)

eISBN 978-0-85745-560-4 eBook $27.95/£16.50 Published


hb Pb eBook $27.95
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"The highlight of this collection is the depth and consistency of its comparative approach;… A further point of interest in this collection is the significant attention to media sources that the authors give."  ·  American Ethnologist

“This collection fulfils its aim of broadening the terms and contexts of current debate…It is…recommended to scholars interested in human relatedness in its different forms and particularly those working at the intersections between relatedness and development in bioscience.”   ·   Journal of Biosocial Science

“Rich with examples, taken together this volume extends in important ways our understanding of race, ethnicity, and nation through the perspective of kinship, conceived as entailing, as Wade puts it, ‘a constant traffic between natural and cultural idioms’.”   ·  JRAI

Race, ethnicity and nation are all intimately linked to family and kinship, yet these links deserve closer attention than they usually get in social science, above all when family and kinship are changing rapidly in the context of genomic and biotechnological revolutions. Drawing on data from assisted reproduction, transnational adoption, mixed race families, Basque identity politics and post-Soviet nation-building, this volume provides new and challenging ways to understand race, ethnicity and nation.

Peter Wade is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. His publications include Blackness and Race Mixture (1993), Race and Ethnicity in Latin America (1997), Music, Race and Nation: Música Tropical in Colombia (2000), Race, Nature and Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (2002). His current research focuses on issues of racial identity, embodiment and new genetic and information technologies.

Series: Volume 1, Studies of the Biosocial Society


LC: GN269 .R334 2007

BL: YC.2008.a.4479

BISAC: SOC008000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Ethnic Studies/General; MED000000 MEDICAL/General; SOC002000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/General

BIC: PSXM Medical anthropology


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Table of Contents (Free download)

Preface (Free download)

Race, Ethnicity and Nation

Perspectives from Kinship and Genetics

In this chapter, I want to approach the well-known imbrications of concepts of race, ethnicity and the nation from the point of view of what might be seen, in a European (and perhaps more widely 'Western') context, as the key discourse of human relatedness through corporeal substance and nature — that is, kinship. The researchers in this volume focus primarily on kinship as a privileged, but still rather little-explored, way of grasping dimensions of race, ethnicity and nationality and this chapter sets out the broad theoretical context for that focus. The empirical focus of the research in this volume is European and, while I discuss the European material in depth, my perspective is more general and, referring to other contexts, seeks to tease out general intersections between race, ethnicity, nation, kinship and genetics.

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Race, Genetics and Inheritance

Reflections upon the Birth of 'Black' Twins to a 'White' IVF Mother

On 8 July 2002, the Sun newspaper (the most widely read tabloid newspaper in the U.K.) reported their exclusive scoop: 'White couple have black IVF twins'. The paper described how this 'devastating' and 'tragic mix-up' involved a 'black couple who has also been desperately trying for a test-tube baby' (Kay 2002a, 2002b). With the aid of computerized images of the black and white couples, arrows point the reader to the possible combination through which the ova and sperm were 'mixed up'. Either the black couple's fertilized egg was wrongly implanted into the white woman or the black man's sperm was used to fertilize the white woman's egg. The question became 'Who are the real parents of the twins?' (Kay 2002a).1

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Race, Biology and Culture in Contemporary Norway

Identity and Belonging in Adoption, Donor Gametes and Immigration

Drawing on the particular topics of our research — transnational adoption and assisted reproductive technology — we shall explore two pervasive tendencies in Norway that pertain to identity and belonging: those of biological fundamentalism and cultural fundamentalism. We will argue that these two tendencies are mutually implicated in processes that involve inclusion and exclusion, but that, as models for explanation, each becomes operative according to the particularity of the context. However, in Norway both tendencies run counter to an overarching ideology of equality and to a political aversion against producing a 'sorting society' (Solberg 2003), i.e. a society that negatively marks differences from what is perceived as the norm.1 Thus, rather than focusing explicitly on race, our approach will be to examine what constitutes the criteria for producing Norwegians in terms of identity and belonging and to ask how these may be satisfied by those who, initially, do not obviously satisfy them. We shall draw on three sources of empirical material. The first two concern two categories of immigrant populations (innvandrere): namely the steady increase since the early 1970s of immigration from outside Europe and North America, and the adoption of infants from the same geographical regions.2 In terms of phenotype, these newcomers look more similar to each other than they do to socalled ethnic Norwegians. Their incorporation into Norwegian society raises issues of both race and Norwegianness. Our third empirical example, the conception of children through the use of donor gametes, is less relevant for an understanding of questions of race, but it will be used to highlight attitudes to questions of identity and belonging.

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'I want her to learn her language and maintain her culture'

Transnational Adoptive Families' Views of 'Cultural Origins'

The theme of the 'cultural origins' of adopted children is a recurrent one among adoptive families. The adoptive mother of an eleven-month-old baby, who was adopted in China and arrived in Barcelona when she was three months old, emphatically said in a prime-time television show that she did not want her baby to lose her cultural origins: 'I want her to learn her language and maintain her culture' (TV1, 8 October 2003). In this chapter, I explore the many different and ambiguous meanings attached to the notion of 'cultural origins' by adoptive parents and the uncertain boundary between nature and culture that exists in their narratives about the 'cultural origins' of children born in Asia, Africa and Latin America who do not look like them.1 I examine attitudes towards 'difference', using Spanish ethnographic data on how international adoptive families understand 'culture', 'cultural origins' and 'race'. I discuss the role of adoptive parent associations which are formed to share and discuss common experiences of difference; face questions of race and racism; and build 'new ways of imagining race, kinship and culture' (Volkman 2003: 29).

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Racialization, Genes and the Reinventions of Nation in Europe

The general question that I pose of the gamete-matching regulation is, what does it tell us of the way that cultural projects are being realized by clinical means? As a contribution to debates about geneticization of social life, I discuss new reproductive technologies (NRTs) as an explicit configuration of kinship that makes a deliberative assemblage of bodily matter, identity and intent, and compare this to changing conceptions of the nation as a similar kind of assemblage. At one level this consists of asking whether a shared culture of kinship informs assisted reproduction, in which the social objective of having a child is privileged over the genetic provenance of donated gametes (within limits of racialized (in)visibility). At another level, there is a question to ask of the relationship between new ways of reproducing human bodies, and ideas of reproducing national societies by incorporating new kinds of members, who voluntaristically, rather than by ancestral connection, have joined European nations. Are there similar logics operating that make gametes the plastic objects of social projects (enabling infertile partners to have a child), and that match immigrant communities to the goals of reproducing national economies? Contemporary intersections of kinship and ethnicity can then be examined in self-proclaimed, 'multicultural' nations, to ask how different kinds of 'raciological' (Gilroy 2000) underpinnings characterize the ideas and practices that formulate persons as citizens, rather than as members of self-conceived genetic nations.

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Kinship Language and the Dynamics of Race

The Basque Case

It is by virtue of the recurrence of key marriages that racist systems of social classification are able or unable to continue to operate as such. In this sense, the long history of racism in Europe appears inscribed in a kind of constitutive tension that merits further exploration. Mainly because of its reference to a crucial part of our notion of the person that states that we are the product of the mixture of our father and mother, genealogical systems of social classification acquire an immediate legitimacy and operate to potentially condition, through their naturalizing idioms, the actual behaviour of people. At the same time, mainly because of their insertion in a bilateral kinship logic, people's matrimonial acts emerge as potential correctors of ideologies based on the maintaining of discrete blood lines. It has equally been shown how, when marriages redefine the genealogical grid of society referred to in racist classifications, transitions to nonracist positions operate only gradually. Passing from blood to soil as a criterion of national belonging does not therefore imply a radical negation of the importance of blood. Naturalizing idioms based on the language of kinship that tend, in a way that is deeply rooted in Christian tradition,17 to identify soil with blood, allow for a transition that otherwise would not be understandable. The acceptability of jus solis, which seems to be the opposite of jus sanguinis, then appears to be rooted in ideas about the person as this is inscribed in the kinship system.

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The Transmission of Ethnicity

Family and State — A Lithuanian Perspective

In this chapter, I will look at how naturalizing idioms of 'kinship', 'inheritance', 'blood' and, indeed, culture operate in the understanding of ethnicity and nationalism. More specifically, I will address the role of 'biological' and 'cultural' connectedness in defining ethnic and national identities: I examine how ideas about blood, inheritance, biology and culture are deployed in thinking about ethnic and national belonging. The article concentrates on the issue of how people become involved in classificatory thinking, in the context of political change. I focus on a recent period of state building in Lithuania and on the state's project of homogenization (Williams 1989: 429).

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Media Storylines of Culturally Hybrid Persons and Nation

This chapter takes a complementary approach to the discussion, in my other chapter in this book, about regulatory framings for ethnic matching of donated gametes. Here the focus is on how the British media has found genetics newsworthy within stories about changing notions of identity; and how DNA is seen as offering added narrative value in relation to stories of race, ethnicity and nation. Instead of seeing race through public policy and ethical deliberation (which perpetuate raciological categories in avoiding mixture), the spotlight is now turned on accounts of the experiences of people whose situations call attention to the lived tensions and solidarities of being 'mixed race'. This category became included for the first time among options for ethnic self-description in the U.K.'s 2001 census, and 1.31 per cent of the population identified themselves with this label.1 By looking at 'mixed' identities in ancestral tracings, in experiences of marriage and family, and in the eye of public visibility, I consider the ways in which media accounts are made of people relating to and creatively positioning themselves towards issues of mixed identity. The chapter reflects on narrative linkages between genes, persons and nation, in which life-histories are entangled with the attractions or allures of racial categorization. This is meant both in Gilroy's (2000) sense of the ready-made structures race provides for simplistically ordering solidarities, and as a system of difference making that has been perpetuated by particular constructions of mixedrace sexuality, moving from miscegenation to defiant intimacies and tentatively towards normalization.

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Index (Free download)

Glossary (Free download)

Contributors (Free download)