I found this week’s lectures and readings to be incredibly interesting because we’re getting into more of the medical anthropology side of things. My research interests mostly include cultural anthropology and social issues such as human rights and environmental sustainability, so it’s always intriguing to look at different problems plaguing our society through an anthropologist’s lens. The first lecture once again brought us back to the Enlightenment, universalism, and the attempts at justifying racism scientifically during that period of time. While many of those scientists have been largely discredited, Dr. Peterson pointed out that in the twenty first century, we’ve seen a “resurgence” in the belief that science supports the idea of race.
When I began to read Armand Leroi’s 2006 article “A Family Tree in Every Gene,” I was able to pick out a lot of details in his arguments that I disagreed with or felt the need to dispute. For example, I find myself skeptical of his “findings” while he’s attempting to disprove Dr. Lewontin’s idea that, “If one looked at genes rather than faces… the difference between an African and a European would be scarcely greater than the difference between any two Europeans.” He states that Lewontin was looking at single genes, but that if you look at hundreds at once you can start to see races. He backs this statement up by saying that a computer will look at genetic data and group it into five different races. If races were so identifiable by genetic makeup, wouldn’t it be a little more specific than five broad groups? One of the groups is America, which is a vast amount of space including people of European descent, Native Americans, Canadian First Nations people, and countless South American aboriginal groups, to name a few. So then, would an Inuit and a Haitian both be grouped as Americans? Because if we’re talking about race, I would say that most people would identify people from those groups as different. Leroi says that the five continental races are the, “easiest way to divide things up,” but I think that’s largely due to the fact that it’s highly imprecise. After all, it’s much easier to group someone as American rather than the more specific Aymara.