Introduction
Mixture as a Biopo­liti­cal Pro­cess
This book is about mixture as a biopo­liti­cal pro­cess and how it has figured
in science and society in Latin Amer­i­ c a—­ s pecifically, Brazil, Colombia, and
Mexico. The immediate referent is “race mixture” or, in biological science, “ge­
ne­ t ic admixture,” and the key location is Latin Amer­ i ­ c a. In this region, mestizaje
(Spanish) or mestiçagem (Portuguese)—­roughly translatable as mixture—is an
impor­tant concept for thinking about history, politics, nation, identity, and ­
human
biology.1
From colonial times onward, socie­ties ­ there have been con-
ceived as formed from the biological and cultural mixture of Africans, Eu­ r
pe­ans, and native Americans. Especially ­after in­de­pen­dence in the first half of
the nineteenth ­ c entury, 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 pro­cess means that,
despite its focus on life sciences, and specifically ge­ ne ­ tics, this book is not
just about biology and ge­ n t ics, 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 ­ t ics, and the con-
stitution of identity. Although the focus is Latin Amer­ i ­ c a, by looking at mixture
and purity, the book embraces broader themes of equality and hierarchy in lib-
eral po­ li ti­ c al ­ o rders, exploring how ideas about ge­ ne ­ t ic mixture get drawn into
the frictional tension between democracy and in­ eq uality, and what Latin Amer­
c a and its “admixed” populations mean for genomic science in general.
Mixture is attracting attention both as a set of sociocultural pro­ c esses
(­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 ge­ne­ t ic pro­cess (in terms of scientific
interest in mestizo populations). I explore how ge­ne­tic understandings of
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