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Science in the ArchivesPasts, Presents, Futures$
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Lorraine Daston

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226432229

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226432533.001.0001

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Evolutionary Genetics and the Politics of the Human Archive

Evolutionary Genetics and the Politics of the Human Archive

(p.203) Eight Evolutionary Genetics and the Politics of the Human Archive
Science in the Archives

Cathy Gere

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the politics and ethics of the archiving of human genetic material for the purpose of evolutionary analysis. The science of human evolution has its roots in nineteenth-century taxonomies of race. The chapter investigates how the legacy of racial science was subverted, challenged, replicated, and transformed in human genetic archiving practices since WWII. In the immediate postwar period the investigation of human evolution was led by a network of geneticists who believed that good science was the best antidote to racism. At the same time as they repudiated crude definitions of race, they were collecting and storing the blood of indigenous people whom they defined as racially and genetically pure and therefore useful for reconstructing the story of the human journey out of Africa. Starting in the 1970s, the assumption that good science was all that was needed to combat racial prejudice came under increasing pressure. By the first decades of the twenty-first century a number of legal and political victories against the collection and analysis of indigenous genomes had forced the scientists to rethink the way that they collected, stored and used genetic material in the human archive.

Keywords:   human evolution, genetic archive, scientific ethics, biocolonialism, indigenous genetics

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