Mutant genes and myths of miscegenation: Mapping the sickle gene onto tribe and caste in India Sangeeta Chattoo, Department of Sociology
York Sociology Seminar
Much of the social science and humanities literature focuses on the symbolic/ discursive functions of blood rather than its materiality, though parsing the two seems difficult (Strathern, Wailoo, Tapper, Carsten, White, Copeman). In this talk, Sangeeta looks at how technologies of blood, both in their material (biochemical) and therapeutic forms, have been central to framings of race, genetic inheritance, ethnic difference and national identity.
Following on from Landsteiner’s discovery of blood types in 1900, cryopreservation revolutionised modern medicine and diagnostics in the post-World War II period. Blood became an invisible, biochemical marker and a measure of biological/human difference and pathology, whilst blood groups emerged as a tool for conceptualising race in terms of genetic inheritance. Between the two Wars, Anthropometry was gradually replaced by sero-ethnology as a field where geneticists, haematologists and anthropologists started mapping genes onto assumed racial/ethnic/national groupings. The talk takes the case of sickle cell anaemia, an iconic-racialised, inherited ‘Black disease’, and the historical underpinnings of its unstable framing as a ‘tribal disease’ across India, since its first journal citation in 1951. It aims to analyse the complex intersections of race, tribe and caste within the context of health inequities, policy interventions and emerging forms of health activism in India today. (The talk draws on historical and ethnographic data from a recent ESRC funded study on the governance of inherited blood disorders across India ES/N015665/1).
Snacks and drink will be provided based on Bring Your Own Cup policy.