Mixture as a Biopo litical Pro cess
This book is about mixture as a biopo litical pro cess and how it has figured
in science and society in Latin Amer i ca—specifically, Brazil, Colombia, and
Mexico. The immediate referent is “race mixture” or, in biological science, “ge-
ne tic admixture,” and the key location is Latin Amer i ca. In this region, mestizaje
(Spanish) or mestiçagem (Portuguese)— roughly translatable as mixture—is an
impor tant concept for thinking about history, politics, nation, identity, and
From colonial times onward, socie ties there have been con-
ceived as formed from the biological and cultural mixture of Africans, Eu ro-
pe ans, and native Americans. Especially after in de pen dence in the first half of
the nineteenth century, mixture has been seen in most of the region as consti-
tuting the essence of the nation.
Taking race mixture or mestizaje to be a biocultural pro cess means that,
despite its focus on life sciences, and specifically ge ne tics, this book is not
just about biology and ge netics, but rather about a complex assemblage of
ideas and practices enacting mixture (and its relational counterpart, purity) in
interconnected domains of social action, such as politics, ge ne tics, and the con-
stitution of identity. Although the focus is Latin Amer i ca, by looking at mixture
and purity, the book embraces broader themes of equality and hierarchy in lib-
eral po litical orders, exploring how ideas about ge ne tic mixture get drawn into
the frictional tension between democracy and in equality, and what Latin Amer-
i ca and its “admixed” populations mean for genomic science in general.
Mixture is attracting attention both as a set of sociocultural pro cesses
( whether phrased in terms of “interracial” or “interethnic” unions, or gener-
ally in terms of cosmopolitanism and the increased movement and exchange
of people, ideas, and things) and as a ge ne tic pro cess (in terms of scientific
interest in mestizo populations). I explore how ge ne tic understandings of
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