Let’s Talk About the History of Racism in Science: Darwin’s Hunch and the Search for Human Origins

The Human Evolution Research Institute will present a special seminar entitled, "Let’s Talk About the History of Racism in Science: Darwin’s Hunch and the Search for Human Origins"

Abstract: Scientists and their research are often shaped by the prevailing social and political context. What impact did colonial thinking and the concept of ‘race typology’ have on the views of scientists, including Raymond Dart, in their search for human origins? How did the concept of ‘race typology’ influence Phillip Tobias and his colleagues under apartheid? How have the changing scientific views about race - and racism - shaped efforts to understand human evolution? Kuljian will explore these questions in South Africa with special focus on the fields of palaeoanthropology and genetics over the past century. This talk will present several stories of the colonial practice of collecting human skeletons and cataloguing them into racial types in the hope that they would provide clues to human evolution. It will conclude by reviewing more recent research in human genetics and mitochondrial DNA that confirms that all living humans have common origins in Africa.

Bio: Christa Kuljian is a writer based in Johannesburg, and is the author of two books – Sanctuary (Jacana Media 2013) and Darwin’s Hunch (Jacana Media 2016). She is currently a Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007. She also holds an MA in Public Affairs from Princeton (1989). In 2010, Kuljian gave the Ruth First Lecture about the refugee crisis at Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg, which led to her first book Sanctuary (Jacana 2013). Kuljian studied with palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould for her BA in the History of Science at Harvard (1984), which provided inspiration for her second book, Darwin’s Hunch. Darwin’s Hunch was on the short list for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction in 2017 and on the short list for the Humanities and Social Sciences Non-Fiction Award in 2018.
Please join us for refreshments and an opportunity to meet the author afterwards

Thu, 11 Oct 2018 - 15:00