In the advertising discourse of human genetic database projects, of genetic ancestry tracing companies, and in popular books on anthropological genetics, what I refer to as the anthropological gene and genome appear as documents of human history, by far surpassing the written record and oral history in scope and accuracy as archives of our past. How did macromolecules become "documents of human evolutionary history"? Historically, molecular anthropology, a term introduced by Emile Zuckerkandl in 1962 to characterize the study of primate (...) phylogeny and human evolution on the molecular level, asserted its claim to the privilege of interpretation regarding hominoid, hominid, and human phylogeny and evolution vis-à-vis other historical sciences such as evolutionary biology, physical anthropology, and paleoanthropology. This process will be discussed on the basis of three key conferences on primate classification and evolution that brought together exponents of the respective fields and that were held in approximately ten-years intervals between the early 1960s and the 1980s. I show how the anthropological gene and genome gained their status as the most fundamental, clean, and direct records of historical information, and how the prioritizing of these epistemic objects was part of a complex involving the objectivity of numbers, logic, and mathematics, the objectivity of machines and instruments, and the objectivity seen to reside in the epistemic objects themselves. (shrink)
From the 1960s, mathematical and computational tools have been developed to arrive at human population trees from various kinds of serological and molecular data. Focusing on the work of the Italian-born population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, I follow the practices of tree-building and mapping from the early blood-group studies to the current genetic admixture research. I argue that the visual language of the tree is paralleled in the narrative of the human diasporas, and I show how the tree was actually (...) mapped onto the surface of the earth. This visual and textual structure is mirrored in the liberal discourse of unity in diversity that has been criticized as running counter to the socio-political effects of human population genetics. From this perspective, one may ask how far the phylogenetic diagram in its various forms is a manifestation of the physics of power that according to Michel Foucault consists in mechanisms that analyse distributions, movements, series, combinations, and that uses instruments to render visible, to register, to differentiate and to compare. It is one among other disciplinary technologies that ensure the ordering of human diversity. In the case of intra-human phylogenetic trees, population samples and labels are one issue. Another is that the separated branches seem to show groups of people, who have in reality been interacting and converging, as isolated. Often based on so-called isolated peoples, molecular tree diagrams freeze a hierarchical kinship system that is meant to represent a state before the great historical population movements. (shrink)
In this article, I am concerned with the public engagements of Julian Huxley, Lancelot Hogben, and J. B. S. Haldane. I analyze how they used the new insights into the genetics of heredity to argue against any biological foundations for antidemocratic ideologies, be it Nazism, Stalinism, or the British laissez-faire and class system. The most striking fact—considering the abuse of biological knowledge they contested—is that these biologists presented genetics itself as inherently democratic. Arguing from genetics, they developed an understanding of (...) diversity that cuts across divisions of race, class, or gender. Human diversity rightly understood was advantageous for societal progress. Huxley, Hogben, and Haldane did not hold identical political ideals, but they all argued for democratic reforms and increased planning geared toward greater social equality, and they did so under the label of scientific humanism. Huxley took issue with the notion that evolutionary history does not carry any moral lessons for human societies. Rather than being its antithesis, evolution was the basis of human sociality. In fact, the entire future progress of individuals and communities toward a democratic world order needed to be founded on the cosmic principles of evolution—a process that had to be guided by the biological expert with a strong sense of social responsibility. (shrink)
Between the last decades of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, something of paramount importance happened in the history of anthropology. This was the advent of a physical anthropology that was about the classification of ‘human races’ through comparative measurement. A central tool of the new trade was diagrams. Being inherently about relations in and between objects, diagrams became the means of defining human groups and their relations to each other – the last point being disputed (...) between the monogenists and the polygenists. James Cowles Prichard, a proponent of the comparative historical approach, was able to do without images in his pioneering Researches Into the Physical History of Man of 1813, but the third edition, which appeared in five volumes between 1836 and 1847, was richly illustrated with ‘ethnic types’ and skulls, including diagrams. What was happening is a process I engage with in detail for Samuel George Morton, who collected and distributed human skulls as lithographs in Crania americana (1839) and Crania aegyptiaca (1844). Along with the paper skulls travelled detailed instructions of how to look at them through a set of lines and to set their individual parts in relation to each other as well as to those of other types. Drawing on Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and Peter Camper, the Crania thus played a pivotal role in establishing what I call a diagrammatics of race – a diagrammatics that became overtly political with Types of Mankind (1854), which was written in Morton's honour by Josiah Nott and George Gliddon. (shrink)
During the first decades of the 20th century, many anthropologists who had previously adhered to a linear view of human evolution, from an ape via Pithecanthropus erectus and Neanderthal to modern humans, began to change their outlook. A shift towards a branching model of human evolution began to take hold. Among the scientific factors motivating this trend was the insight that mammalian evolution in general was best represented by a branching tree, rather than by a straight line, and that several (...) new fossil hominids were discovered that differed significantly in their morphology but seemed to date from about the same period. The ideological and practical implications of imperialism and WWI have also been identified as formative of the new evolutionary scenarios in which racial conflict played a crucial role. The paper will illustrate this general shift in anthropological theory for one particular scientist, William Sollas. Sollas achieved a synthesis of human morphological and cultural evolution in what I will refer to as an imperialist model. In this theoretical framework, migration, conflict, and replacement became the main mechanisms for progress spurred by 'nature's tyrant,' natural selection. (shrink)
Images are at the heart of strategies of persuasion. They render certain aspects visible and leave others unrepresented; and they may shape processes of scientific reasoning and imagination. By tracing diagrammatic images in the anthropological sciences throughout the 20thcentury, the contributions to this special issue highlight some dominant pictorial traditions for rendering human evolution and diversity visible. This article aims to provide an overview of and an introduction to the special issue ‘Visibility Matters’.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, France was the main site of the controversy around the so-called eoliths, supposedly human-made tools of Tertiary Europe. In contrast to the more common situation where scientists have to make sure that an object stabilized in a laboratory is not an artifact of the lab but a natural object, in the eoliths debates the opposite was the case. The eolith proponents tried to render plausible the object's artificial, that is human, origin. In (...) their case, the objects would only be of scientific interest if they were artifacts not geofacts (naturally flaked stones). The paper ties in with existing literature on the French eoliths movement and investigates the successive eoliths debates in Britain. In Bruno Latour's terms, eoliths as archaeological evidence for Tertiary Man in Europe could gain in reality through a successful enlisting of the collaboration of human and non-human actors such as scientists, theories, publications, taxonomies, technologies, institutions, etc. Indeed, networks were established among scientists, preferably of powerful institutions, the 'tools' were integrated or denied a place in existing taxonomies of prehistoric artifacts, experiments were carried out to demonstrate their chance or designed origin, and their convergence or incompatibility with a certain theoretical framework was discussed. Arguments often revolved around questions of negative evidence, since both proponents and opponents of eoliths as tools were aware of the fact that the eoliths' strongest tie to reality would be evidence of the toolmakers themselves. Several known hominid fossils, among them those of doubtful age, were thus proposed as Tertiary shapers of the 'tools'. These hypothetical 'Englishmen' and their supposed artifacts were enmeshed in particular theories of human evolution, marked as they were by the racism and nationalism widespread at the time. (shrink)
In 1823 the first Reader of Geology at Oxford University, William Buckland , unearthed the human skeleton known as the ‘Red Lady’ in Paviland cave, south Wales. While the Red Lady is valued today as a central testimony of early Upper Palaeolithic humans in Britain, Buckland considered the skeleton as of postdiluvian age, meaning from after the biblical Deluge. Rather than viewing Buckland as either obscurantist or as having worked entirely within ordinary scientific practice, the paper focuses on how he (...) managed to create an institutional and conceptual space for his geology at one of the centres for the education of the Anglican clergy, and on the impact the sometimes paradoxical demands had on his interpretation of prehistoric human relics, the Red Lady in particular. Buckland was famous if not notorious for his peculiar humour, the distracting and cathartic qualities of which, it will be argued, served as strategy in the advancement of unorthodox ideas or for glossing over inconsistencies. (shrink)
Tom Gundling. First in Line: Tracing Our Ape Ancestry. xiii + 204 pp., apps., bibl., index. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005. $25 .; Raymond Corbey. The Metaphysics of Apes: Negotiating the Animal–Human Boundary. x + 227 pp., illus., bibl., index. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. $65 ; $23.99.