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51u-xXl9qUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Atlantic has a long piece up which basically consists of a list of the usual objections to DNA testing from some Native American groups and individuals (which can be generalized to any indigenous group), Genetic Testing and Tribal Identity: Why many Native Americans have concerns about DNA kits like 23andme. There’s the standard stuff about how Native Americans believe archaeological remains are sacred, etc., and how that conflicts with scientific enterprises. The necessary mention of NAGPRA and such. But this quote was rather “interesting”:

“We know who we are as a people, as an indigenous people, why would we be so interested in where scientists think our genetic ancestors came from?” asks Kim Tallbear, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science, and a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe.

Tallbear says that from her perspective, researchers offering to tell tribes where they’re from doesn’t look any different than the Christians who came in to tell them what their religion should be. “Those look like very similarly invasive projects to us,” she said. Tribes haven’t forgotten the history of scientists who gathered native skulls to prove that native people were less intelligent, and thus less entitled to the land they lived on than the white settlers. To them, these genetic questions of origin look pretty similar.

Tallbear explains that to be able to do ethical genetic research on native people in the United States, you need to understand their history. “You have to know something about the history, and about 20th century Native American policy, and how the U.S. as a colonial power dispersed native people from their historic homelands into urban areas and into reservations, how different groups have put tribes together on reservations who never lived together before. You have to know about about relocation and post-World War II politics. If you don’t understand that you can’t begin to ask informed questions about the genetics of Native Americans.”

Kim Tallbear has an academic page. Here’s a sample:

Indigenous, feminist, and queer theory approaches to critical “animal studies” and new materialisms

I have also recently begun to theorize in the area of indigenous, feminist, and queer theory approaches to animal studies and new materialisms. Last year, I co-organized with the Science, Technology, and Society Center at UC Berkeley a symposium on indigenous and other new approaches to animal studies. I was also part of another UC Berkeley symposium last year on New Materialisms where I did a talk on the role of indigenous thought. Both symposia helped mark a space for the role of indigenous thought in these related and burgeoning areas of contemporary social theory and new ethnographic practices.The recent move to “multi-species ethnography” applies anthropological approaches to studying humans and their relations with nonhumans–beings such as dogs, bears, cattle, monkeys, bees, mushrooms, and microorganisms. Such work is both methodologically and ethically innovative in that it highlights how organisms’ livelihoods are co-constituted with cultural, political, and economic forces.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, Native Americans and the government and culture of the United States have a fraught relationship. That is true. But today genetics has pretty much zero relevance to the various political debates and arguments. Issues like tribal membership are determined by the cut & thrust of politics, not genomics. Frankly, these issues are too important to leave to genetics. The possible consequences of genetics are always vague future possibilities. For people who don’t care about abstract genetic questions though even a vanishingly small probability that genetics might impact their concerns is too much of a risk, so naturally they wish to squelch it. And contrary to the implication that Tallbear makes, most scientists who work on Native American genomics don’t do so because of a deep interest in overturning the religious traditions of Native Americans, but because they are interested in the human story, of which Native Americans are an essential part. Rather than ethnic particularism the motives of scientists on the whole are those of universalist humanism.

So one can understand why political activists might balk at the inquiries of geneticists, as universalist humanism often causes problems for those engaged in the great game of ethnic particularism. But what about the academics who lend their voice in support of the latter? As far as Kim Tallbear’s “scholarship” (I hope I’m using quotations appropriately here) it resembles what I saw in Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History. Basically an exercise in lexical obfuscation in the service of nebulous political aims, but clearly with direct consequences for the careers of a small set of academics who operate in an area where politics and activism blend seamlessly into their professional lives and their reputation among their peer groups.

Many of the assertions that Tallbear and company make about science are not totally unreasonable on the face of it. Science is a human enterprise, and scientists bring their own biases, ideologies, and interests into the execution of their endeavours. To some extent science is subjective, insofar as humans are making the judgements. But when you see where these practitioners of science studies take their project, you understand that they’re basically crazy. That is why people like Steve Fuller end up making apologia for Intelligent Design. And that is why Kim Tallbear can boldly analogize scientists to Christian missionaries. There’s simply no acknowledgement of something I like to call objective reality, so they go straight for the most provocative rhetorical tacks to hammer home their polemic.

Higher_SuperstitionHere is an indisputable fact: science is not religion, and the two are very different enterprises. If you don’t accede to this distinction, you have just lost all touch with the empirical world. It is no surprise that Phillip E. Johnson, the doyen of the Intelligent Design movement, has acknowledged a debt to critical theory. The flight from empiricism is exactly what has occurred to many scholars within science studies, probably because that’s where the career incentives are. Instead of actually pursuing a sociology of science*, they just slot science into the theoretical framework of critical theory, postcolonial studies, Marxist analysis, etc. etc., and generate out their truths deduced from a priori in a stream of prolix papers and prose whose primary purpose is to be read by a few other fellow travellers.

Kim Tallbear is really no different form Steve Fuller insofar as she’s acting as an apologist for Creationism, though a different sort from the Christian one. If Christians made the same arguments as Native American spokespersons in relation to these topics there’s no doubt that scientists would react caustically. But Native Americans are a disadvantaged group, and so the skeptical acid which scientists normally reserve for pre-scientific beliefs is withheld in this case (among social justic types this would be “punching down,” though in this case I think some punching is justified). That’s an empirical sociological fact. But, that doesn’t negate the reality that the scientists are right, and indigenous religious traditions which contradict the idea of migration via Beringia are wrong (as are some of the naive ideas about Native Americans being of the lost tribes of Israel, which was a common belief in 19th century America, and has come down in an evolved form within the Mormon religion). And I don’t mean “right” and “wrong.” I mean right and wrong. Like 0 and 1. Black and white. That’s because positivist science illustrates that social and linguistic ideological construction of the world around us runs up against the boundaries of the fact that the world has patterned and structured order which runs in contravention of human intuitions and biases. Most academics who are skeptical of the “objective” “truth” “claims” of “science” also agree with this fact when they have to put their choices where they mouth is. If they’re diagnosed with “cancer” they won’t put chemotherapy in quotations or demand the services of a tribal shaman. It’s going to be the best science for them and their family. That’s not just a theory, that’s a fact.

* Some scholars do do this, but it’s hard.

Addendum: An interesting sidenote is that the solicitation of many American scientists toward indigenous people in North America is itself an ideological orientation. As an example, many Asian Indians are not very happy with the latest results coming out of human genetics because it conflicts with their religious-social beliefs, but generally this is not much on the radar of researchers who are opining about the genetic history of these billion or so people.

 
• Category: Ideology, Science • Tags: DNA, Genomics, Native Americans 
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  1. Here is an indisputable fact: science is not religion, and the two are very different enterprises. If you don’t accede to this distinction, you have just lost all touch with the empirical world.

    Hear, hear!

  2. “New materialisms”. Wow, I need a shower after reading that. Especially in relation to “queer theory” approaches to whatever “critical” studies she is supposedly participating in. Apparently nowadays studies means parroting some opinion in esoteric fashion and hoping that the language is so obscure to the reader that stupid people will fail to question it for fear of appearing to be wrong.

  3. ”That’s an empirical sociological fact”

    Precisely because it is not a real fact, specially when despise sociology of other societies as well future sociologies. Objective reality is a neutral judgment, when you is a vehicle to find the truth and not the truth yourself. People, all the time, include me, using personal premisses to support supposed neutral perspectives. Neutral perspectives is a sum of all perspectives, the abstract reality of abstract things, i.e, demographic complexities as populations, more than one single individual. Sum AND maintenance of division of ”pieces” or perspectives.

    Religion, purely speaking, is a belief, like science, a belief that science can find the ultimate truth. But science is the smartest belief of human beings, that works in real world, but in a nano scale. We are little Harry Potters, but not Gods.

    You can convince northern amerindians that you are not a evil geneticist without try to separate two irrelevant abstract concepts. If science is used as politics, then science is like religion, because both, manipulate whole literal reality to selfish and megalomaniac goals, potentially destructive to ordinary people like us.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    #3, your comment is hard to understand. please be more clear in the future and or i can't post your comments. (i still have no real idea what the hell you are trying to say)
  4. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/10/13/bitter-fight-determine-who-american-indian-turns-dna-testing-57165
    i immediately thought of this situation re: tribes and DNA testing. they used it to try to kick out some “members.” probably many remember it.
    (though the writer uses the 10-20% cuckoldry bs as an example so…)

  5. Science & religion are, indeed, very different, in all sorts of interesting ways.

  6. Yeah, PC types tend to allow Amerinds levels of nonsense that they simply would not tolerate from, say, Christian fundamentalists.Heck, while I was wending my way through graduate school, I took a class from a sweet lady who had a soft spot for American Indian Lit.Hence, she had us read the “works” of Vine Deloria jr:

    On the Earth as a Youthful Planet
    Deloria doubts that the earth is billions of years old; indeed, he writes, “Most American Indians, I believe, were here ‘at the beginning’ and have preserved the memory of traumatic continental and planetary catastrophes” (p 251). The geologists are simply wrong in their reading of the geological record. For example, “vulcanism was a onetime event” (p 235).

    Dinosaurs and Human Beings
    Indians tell stories about a time when there were monsters on the earth. Some of these monsters Deloria recognizes as dinosaurs: “That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries” (p 241). Deloria is inclined to credit one western tribe’s belief that they have in their possession “an unfossilized dinosaur bone” (p 241). And as we have seen, he believes that the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands a hundred years ago.

    http://ncse.com/rncse/18/6/vine-deloria-jr-creationism-ethnic-pseudoscience

    Needless to say, I had a tough time keeping my mouth shut in class

  7. Yes, PC types tend to allow Amerinds levels of nonsense that they simply would not tolerate from, say, Christian fundamentalists.Heck, while I was wending my way through graduate school, I took a class from a sweet lady who had a soft spot for American Indian Lit.Hence, she had us read the “works” of Vine Deloria jr:

    On the Earth as a Youthful Planet
    Deloria doubts that the earth is billions of years old; indeed, he writes, “Most American Indians, I believe, were here ‘at the beginning’ and have preserved the memory of traumatic continental and planetary catastrophes” (p 251). The geologists are simply wrong in their reading of the geological record. For example, “vulcanism was a onetime event” (p 235).

    Dinosaurs and Human Beings
    Indians tell stories about a time when there were monsters on the earth. Some of these monsters Deloria recognizes as dinosaurs: “That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries” (p 241). Deloria is inclined to credit one western tribe’s belief that they have in their possession “an unfossilized dinosaur bone” (p 241). And as we have seen, he believes that the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands a hundred years ago.

    http://ncse.com/rncse/18/6/vine-deloria-jr-creationism-ethnic-pseudoscience

    Needless to say, I had a tough time keeping my mouth shut in class

  8. As a Native Hawaiian, I roll my eyes at these people, since we have many analogues amongst ours. Given the general impoverishment, poor health and dysfunction of most of the native population, that these twits spend their time more focused on the defending the dead and the mythological than bettering the prospects of the ones still living leads me to believe that they’re more embarrassed by their people than proud of them, to the point that they prefer to create false narratives in places free of their brethren rather than live amongst them.

  9. I don’t see that big a gap between what Razib’s saying about the research and what this Kim Tallbear was saying. Regarding the two quotes from the article he boldfaced, the first – the “doesn’t look any different from” one – was a paraphrase of Tallbear, not a quote. What she said in the following quote was that the two projects looked “very similarly invasive,” which is reasonable.

    The second boldfaced sentence, also a paraphrase, seems pretty reasonable too. Razib says that genetic researchers don’t intend to upset the applecart, but their intentions aren’t all that relevant. And maybe Tallbear’s words remind Razib of other scholars who are “basically crazy,” but that’s not a reflection on her scholarship. And, yes, the use of scare quotes around “scholarship” is inappropriate unless you’ve got a pretty full understanding of it, presumably by reading her most representative scholarly works.

    If you look at Razib’s and Tallbear’s actual words on the ethics of genetic research itself, I don’t think you’ll find a huge difference. Tallbear’s quotes seem to be used more as a launchpad for an attack on others.

  10. I heard Kim Tallbear on the New Books in Native American Studies podcast about a year ago:

    http://newbooksinnativeamericanstudies.com/2013/11/23/kim-tallbear-native-american-dna-tribal-belonging-and-the-false-promise-of-genetic-science-university-of-minnesota-press-2013/

    I knew it would be bad beforehand, but I was not emotionally prepared for just how bad it was, the incredibly insufferable leftwing cant of it. At one point she said that her goal was to get her audience to react to claims about Indian DNA with derisive laughter. Something very much like that. I had whole list of objections after listening to her for an hour that seemed readily apparent to me, not knowing very much about genetics or about Indians, either, really, and yet they somehow evaded the interviewer, whose questions seemed more like rephrasings of “right on, right on”. I wanted to go out and tell everybody this very nadir of academic interviews, only to realise with a sinking sensation that almost nobody had ever paid any attention to Kim Tallbear, so nobody would know what I was talking about! And so I am so, so glad to discover that GNXP has become hip, as I am, to the Kim Tallbear experience.

  11. Christians who came in to tell them what their religion should be.

    She prefers progressives tell her what her religion should be.

    Indigenous, feminist, and queer theory approaches to critical “animal studies” and new materialisms

  12. And, yes, the use of scare quotes around “scholarship” is inappropriate unless you’ve got a pretty full understanding of it, presumably by reading her most representative scholarly works.

    this sounds reasonable, but this is a bullshit position. you know exactly what i infer her scholarship to be. i could be wrong, but if my inference is right, then the quotes are justified. i read a lot of academic literature, but i don’t have the time/energy/expertise to bone up on every single domain. so you make judgments. i’m not going to say i can’t call every two-bit bullshit artist a bullshit artist unless i’ve read all their bullshit (this is certainly the case with all the crank theorists i get linked to). by analogy, i don’t have to read a creationist’s literature to know they’re a fraud if they are a creationist, since that’s the key, not the quality of their creationism.

    i have a hard time parsing the rest of your exegesis, and at least according to standardized tests i’m pretty good reading comprehension. so why don’t you bring it down a notch? 🙂

  13. As a Native Hawaiian, I roll my eyes at these people, since we have many analogues amongst ours. Given the general impoverishment, poor health and dysfunction of most of the native population, that these twits spend their time more focused on the defending the dead and the mythological than bettering the prospects of the ones still living leads me to believe that they’re more embarrassed by their people than proud of them, to the point that they prefer to create false narratives in places free of their brethren rather than live amongst them.

    they’re usually making a decent livelihood for themselves. i think that’s an important point. sad, but true.

  14. @Santoculto
    ''That’s an empirical sociological fact''

    Precisely because it is not a real fact, specially when despise sociology of other societies as well future sociologies. Objective reality is a neutral judgment, when you is a vehicle to find the truth and not the truth yourself. People, all the time, include me, using personal premisses to support supposed neutral perspectives. Neutral perspectives is a sum of all perspectives, the abstract reality of abstract things, i.e, demographic complexities as populations, more than one single individual. Sum AND maintenance of division of ''pieces'' or perspectives.

    Religion, purely speaking, is a belief, like science, a belief that science can find the ultimate truth. But science is the smartest belief of human beings, that works in real world, but in a nano scale. We are little Harry Potters, but not Gods.

    You can convince northern amerindians that you are not a evil geneticist without try to separate two irrelevant abstract concepts. If science is used as politics, then science is like religion, because both, manipulate whole literal reality to selfish and megalomaniac goals, potentially destructive to ordinary people like us.

    #3, your comment is hard to understand. please be more clear in the future and or i can’t post your comments. (i still have no real idea what the hell you are trying to say)

  15. Where does Tallbear deny the Beringia hypothesis? I think her point is that genetics isn’t necessarily important or useful in defining modern indigenous American identity to actual modern indigenous American, not necessarily a denial that genetics is real. Same with her point in There is no DNA test to prove you’re Native American – not that there’s no distinctive Native American DNA, but that being “Native American” in the modern social sense is not necessarily or primarily based on your genes – your culture, social position, self-identity etc. are just as, or more, important factors.

    Consider that in Australia, having Aboriginal ancestry is *not* a requirement for being considered legally Aboriginal. From the point of view of a highly fractured and oppressed minority who are still in the process of claiming (and even defining) their collective identity, what’s the point of using genetics to say who was x% of what thousands of years ago? I think that’s what she’s trying to say (at least in this article and the ones I read from her bio you posted).

    • Replies: @Greg Pandatshang
    Where does Tallbear deny the Beringia hypothesis?

    Tallbear's attitude is obfuscatory rather than explanatory. In the interview that I linked to above, her method is to attempt to call ideas into question. She rarely describes what she thinks is the case. About Beringia, just after the 20 minute mark, she makes this point: because of "a largely unexamined assumption" that there it's possible to find a pure indigenous genetic signature, she says, "There's this need to pinpoint our origins as native peoples in the Americas in Siberia or Asia, which I find really interesting. Why there?" So she does not say in so many words what she thinks about Beringia.

    This, by the way, is a rhetorical tactic that comes up again and again in that interview: Tallbear finds things "interesting", but the questions that she asks about it are rhetorical questions. They are not treated like real questions that might have actual answers that she or we could learn about.
  16. A lot of people who do not even self identify as Native American have more Amerindian ancestry than many people who do self identify as Native American.

    Eva Longoria for example is 27 percent Amerindian, yet she does not self identify herself as Native American. I am willing to bet fake Indians like Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren have nowhere near as much Amerindian admixture as Eva Longoria.

    Liberals like to say that race is a social construct, at least in the case of “Native Americans” it certainly is a social construct and less about genetics.

  17. I’ve never really read a sociology of science that wasn’t highly biased with a leftist cant. The last of such literature I read was a history and sociology of behavioral genetics, and it was terrible in all the vital areas. Such as claiming that the field furthers eugenics and the “harmful social construct” of race and so on, even going on to deride the great minds of the field, like Plomin, Visscher, Deary et al. And needless to say, for all the facts it provided, it took liberties and ignored facts when it came to the matter of pushing leftist agendas.

  18. “As an example, many Asian Indians are not very happy with the latest results coming out of human genetics because it conflicts with their religious-social beliefs”

    I am curious about this. Are you talking about magical origins (something like creationism) or a reasonable hypothesis that happens to be false (something like the solutrean hypothesis)?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the 'out of india' theory for indo-europeans.
  19. I think her point is that genetics isn’t necessarily important or useful in defining modern indigenous American identity to actual modern indigenous American, not necessarily a denial that genetics is real.

    why do you think these people are reasonable? do you read their books? i have actually, and they’re totally full of shit (see berengia). your point can literally be made in a few sentences. so you think that’s what her books is about? you read can the beginning on amazon fwiw.

  20. @T
    "As an example, many Asian Indians are not very happy with the latest results coming out of human genetics because it conflicts with their religious-social beliefs"

    I am curious about this. Are you talking about magical origins (something like creationism) or a reasonable hypothesis that happens to be false (something like the solutrean hypothesis)?

    the ‘out of india’ theory for indo-europeans.

    • Replies: @Numinous
    the ‘out of india’ theory for indo-europeans.

    The situation is really bad on this issue. If Internet comment sections are representative of the views of educated Indians, virtually everyone (not just Hindutva types) believes that the "Aryan Invasion theory" has been conclusively debunked. I have attempted to disillusion people and enlighten them about the current state of research in linguistics, archeology, and genetics, and am immediately shouted down or branded a traitor and a sellout to Western interests.

    One way in which I will differ from your analysis is that I don't think this willful disregard of the facts is because of religious-social beliefs, but has more to do with post-colonial grievance and victimhood. Back during the British Raj, the Aryan Invasion theory did indeed seem to have been used by the British to justify white rule of India as natural and just. So to conspiracy-minded people, this theory seems to be a way to perpetuate Western domination of India by undermining Indians' self-confidence. Or something like that; the feeling is not really rational, but it exists.

    South Indian too, especially Brahmins, seem to have a vested interest in declaring the Aryan Invasion theory (or any variation of it) debunked, as this theory was responsible for spawning a historically unprecedented Dravidian separatist movement, even though there was no historical memory or attestation of Aryan-Dravidian conflict. In recent years, the identification of the Dasas with Central Asian Iranians instead of the Dravidians has muddied the waters, but when I was a child, the Aryan invasion theory was taught in our history books, with the defeated and despised Dasas explicitly identified with Dravidians. (As a Tamil "immigrant" in the north, it was not fun when those chapters were read out in class.)
  21. “Instead of actually pursuing a sociology of science*, they just slot science into the theoretical framework of critical theory, postcolonial studies, Marxist analysis, etc. etc., and generate out their truths deduced from a priori in a stream of prolix papers and prose whose primary purpose is to be read by a few other fellow travellers.”

    This sentence is gorgeous.

  22. @Razib Khan
    the 'out of india' theory for indo-europeans.

    the ‘out of india’ theory for indo-europeans.

    The situation is really bad on this issue. If Internet comment sections are representative of the views of educated Indians, virtually everyone (not just Hindutva types) believes that the “Aryan Invasion theory” has been conclusively debunked. I have attempted to disillusion people and enlighten them about the current state of research in linguistics, archeology, and genetics, and am immediately shouted down or branded a traitor and a sellout to Western interests.

    One way in which I will differ from your analysis is that I don’t think this willful disregard of the facts is because of religious-social beliefs, but has more to do with post-colonial grievance and victimhood. Back during the British Raj, the Aryan Invasion theory did indeed seem to have been used by the British to justify white rule of India as natural and just. So to conspiracy-minded people, this theory seems to be a way to perpetuate Western domination of India by undermining Indians’ self-confidence. Or something like that; the feeling is not really rational, but it exists.

    South Indian too, especially Brahmins, seem to have a vested interest in declaring the Aryan Invasion theory (or any variation of it) debunked, as this theory was responsible for spawning a historically unprecedented Dravidian separatist movement, even though there was no historical memory or attestation of Aryan-Dravidian conflict. In recent years, the identification of the Dasas with Central Asian Iranians instead of the Dravidians has muddied the waters, but when I was a child, the Aryan invasion theory was taught in our history books, with the defeated and despised Dasas explicitly identified with Dravidians. (As a Tamil “immigrant” in the north, it was not fun when those chapters were read out in class.)

    • Replies: @jtgw
    Very interesting. I'm a little confused by the last paragraph, however, since it suggests that, when you were a child, northern Indo-Aryan speakers were promoting "Aryan Invasion" in order to justify their superiority over southern Dravidian speakers like yourself. When did these northerners begin to reject Aryan Invasion, which they appear to do now according to your first paragraph?

    Also, regarding these south Indians who reject Aryan Invasion, are you saying that they are doing so because it caused Dravidian separatism and they do not approve of Dravidian separatism? Or do they reject Aryan Invasion precisely because they have become Dravidian separatists?

    As for British support of Aryan Invasion, I'd be interested to know how that could support imperialism. I'm assuming they believed the Aryans were a superior race, like themselves, but if the Aryans had already invaded in antiquity and now constituted the local leadership in India, wouldn't the British thereby feel compelled to give the locals more autonomy?
  23. @Numinous
    the ‘out of india’ theory for indo-europeans.

    The situation is really bad on this issue. If Internet comment sections are representative of the views of educated Indians, virtually everyone (not just Hindutva types) believes that the "Aryan Invasion theory" has been conclusively debunked. I have attempted to disillusion people and enlighten them about the current state of research in linguistics, archeology, and genetics, and am immediately shouted down or branded a traitor and a sellout to Western interests.

    One way in which I will differ from your analysis is that I don't think this willful disregard of the facts is because of religious-social beliefs, but has more to do with post-colonial grievance and victimhood. Back during the British Raj, the Aryan Invasion theory did indeed seem to have been used by the British to justify white rule of India as natural and just. So to conspiracy-minded people, this theory seems to be a way to perpetuate Western domination of India by undermining Indians' self-confidence. Or something like that; the feeling is not really rational, but it exists.

    South Indian too, especially Brahmins, seem to have a vested interest in declaring the Aryan Invasion theory (or any variation of it) debunked, as this theory was responsible for spawning a historically unprecedented Dravidian separatist movement, even though there was no historical memory or attestation of Aryan-Dravidian conflict. In recent years, the identification of the Dasas with Central Asian Iranians instead of the Dravidians has muddied the waters, but when I was a child, the Aryan invasion theory was taught in our history books, with the defeated and despised Dasas explicitly identified with Dravidians. (As a Tamil "immigrant" in the north, it was not fun when those chapters were read out in class.)

    Very interesting. I’m a little confused by the last paragraph, however, since it suggests that, when you were a child, northern Indo-Aryan speakers were promoting “Aryan Invasion” in order to justify their superiority over southern Dravidian speakers like yourself. When did these northerners begin to reject Aryan Invasion, which they appear to do now according to your first paragraph?

    Also, regarding these south Indians who reject Aryan Invasion, are you saying that they are doing so because it caused Dravidian separatism and they do not approve of Dravidian separatism? Or do they reject Aryan Invasion precisely because they have become Dravidian separatists?

    As for British support of Aryan Invasion, I’d be interested to know how that could support imperialism. I’m assuming they believed the Aryans were a superior race, like themselves, but if the Aryans had already invaded in antiquity and now constituted the local leadership in India, wouldn’t the British thereby feel compelled to give the locals more autonomy?

    • Replies: @Vijay
    The rejection of Aryan Invasion theory across the board among soft-Hindutva Indians (that is, a lot of Brahmins and FCs) is correlated with their belief that everything Indian originated in India several thousand years ago. Like Islamists use of Koran to prove the book, the softcore (and the hard -core Hindutvaites) use some bizarre references in Vedas and Puranas to prove:
    1. There was no invasion of Aryans or others into India; all Indians have been present in India since several thousand years ago.
    2. There was no Aryans supplanting or slaving the prevous dwellers of the south.

    Before we go too deep into the "why"s, one should realize that the scientific knowledge and temper in India is very weak. Very few Indians can identify the multiple sequences of people who populated India from those populating the IVC, the ash mound people of the south, and the multiple arrivals (invasions) from the west spread well over 2000 years from 1800 PC to as late as 400 AD.

    The lack of mesh between knowledge and practice or beliefs can be seen everywhere in India; almost everyone knows about the hindu prayers before satellite launches and blessings of Purohits. In general, technology is accepted but viewed as a black box that can be tunes; with the help of gods, it can be conquered even without fundamental understanding. The Reich Group and the Estonians can put out a 100 papers, pinpointing the arrival of Indo Aryans from Steppes to the actual location in India where they arrived first and overruled Indians, but the Parasars of the world will still argue that 10,000 years ago there were Indians who spread all over the world.

    The Dravidan movement is entirely decoupled from this, although, in a sense it is the Yang of the Aryan invasion. The impact of the Indo-Aryan invasion on south India was considerably weaker, as it left a very thin substrate of Brahmins atop a very large OBC segmebnt, with little or no intermediaries like Vaisyas or Kshatriyas. The dravidan movement does not reject the Aryan Invasion theory, but wants to revers the effects of aryan Invasion! However, all OBC castes have a small Indo-Aryasn componet, and hence, this practically means an Anti-Brahmin movement. However, the OBC groups are as ruthless or more towards the Untouchables, using exactly the same argument , that is, they are the rightful rulers of the place they occupy now based on some imagined history (with figments of truth).

    To summarize, Pox upon all their houses for making up history and rejecting any form of scientific thought.
    , @Numinous
    I re-read the last paragraph in my earlier comment, and it does seem detached from the rest, as you rightly point out. What I should have added is that the Dravidian separatists (who accept the AIT) see Southern Brahmins as remnants of Aryan overlords, whereas north Indians see all southerners (Brahmins included) as Dravidians. And whether or not a northerner knows about, or believes in, the AIT, he/she considers himself as the inheritor of a Sanskrit-derived culture, and thereby inherently superior to Dravidians. So Southern Brahmins are caught between these two, not belonging to either north or south unless they can somehow bridge the divide. The way some have chosen to do it is by denying the AIT entirely.

    How and why most of these Indians deny the AIT is explained far more comprehensively by Vijay above. Do read his comment. I'll add just one thing to what he said. The current state of archaelogical research in India/Pakistan/Afghanistan provides no support to the story of an Aryan migration from Central Asia into India. (It doesn't disprove it either.) B. B. Lal, one of the most distinguished Indian archaeologists (he excavated Painted Grey Ware), who once considered the AIT as gospel, has recently come out as a skeptic. Now, his view is purely that of an archaeologist, so a neutral person should take linguistics and genetics (not to mention Occam's Razor) into account as well when deciding what theory to accept. Another point is that the legendary Saraswati river, so praised by the "Aryans" in the early Vedas, is conventionally identified with a site in Rajasthan, and geological research suggests that it dried up around 1900 BC. So the Aryans must have been in the Indian subcontinent well before 1900 BC, which would mess up the entire PIE dispersal timeline. Now none of this is conclusive, but it does give ballast to the AIT-debunkers.

    When did the northerners stop believing in the AIT? I'm not sure it is entirely rejected, but any such rejection can possibly be traced to the rise of the Hindutva movement and the BJP (late 80s/early 90s). Much as northerners like to consider themselves superior to Dravidians, they like the idea of them being a mixed-breed population resulting from a long-ago invasion even less. So the "indigenous-Aryan" theory has gained ground.

    As for the British using the AIT as a tool for imperialism, it should be noted that they didn't consider the Indians (even the upper class) as pure Aryans. As Razib has mentioned so often, all Indians have mixed genetic histories, and that was apparent even to the British (even though Indians come in various shades of skin color.) So to the British, the Aryans' qualities were diluted by mixing with the natives, whereas the British themselves were descendants of "pure" Aryans, and hence had a moral right to rule over Indians. This is rather simplistic logic, but it eventually gained currency with the Nazis too.

  24. @Tobus
    Where does Tallbear deny the Beringia hypothesis? I think her point is that genetics isn't necessarily important or useful in defining modern indigenous American identity to actual modern indigenous American, not necessarily a denial that genetics is real. Same with her point in There is no DNA test to prove you're Native American - not that there's no distinctive Native American DNA, but that being "Native American" in the modern social sense is not necessarily or primarily based on your genes - your culture, social position, self-identity etc. are just as, or more, important factors.

    Consider that in Australia, having Aboriginal ancestry is *not* a requirement for being considered legally Aboriginal. From the point of view of a highly fractured and oppressed minority who are still in the process of claiming (and even defining) their collective identity, what's the point of using genetics to say who was x% of what thousands of years ago? I think that's what she's trying to say (at least in this article and the ones I read from her bio you posted).

    Where does Tallbear deny the Beringia hypothesis?

    Tallbear’s attitude is obfuscatory rather than explanatory. In the interview that I linked to above, her method is to attempt to call ideas into question. She rarely describes what she thinks is the case. About Beringia, just after the 20 minute mark, she makes this point: because of “a largely unexamined assumption” that there it’s possible to find a pure indigenous genetic signature, she says, “There’s this need to pinpoint our origins as native peoples in the Americas in Siberia or Asia, which I find really interesting. Why there?” So she does not say in so many words what she thinks about Beringia.

    This, by the way, is a rhetorical tactic that comes up again and again in that interview: Tallbear finds things “interesting”, but the questions that she asks about it are rhetorical questions. They are not treated like real questions that might have actual answers that she or we could learn about.

    • Replies: @Anthony
    I've lost my ability to spout pomo cant at will, but couldn't someone ask Tallbear something about why she's so intent on denying the universal African origin of humanity, in a way that makes her sound really (anti-black) racist?
  25. @razib:why do you think these people are reasonable? do you read their books? i have actually, and they’re totally full of shit

    I have read a number of books on Native American identity but it was a while back, well before DNA was a public commodity. I have just read the beginning of “Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science” on Amazon and I can see where you are coming from – her summation of genetics is, as you so eloquently put it, “totally full of shit”. She seems to be trying to support the (reasonable) idea that modern Native Amerindian identity isn’t best defined by genetics/blood quanta by implying that the (very real) clustering of populations by DNA is arbitrary… something that I agree is factually incorrect. So to answer your question I think “these people” are reasonable when they say that DNA is a poor way of defining belonging to a marginalised indigenous group (and hence for those groups ancient DNA is largely an irrelevancy to their daily lives).

    @razib: (see berengia).
    : So she does not say in so many words what she thinks about Beringia.

    I know there are some people who do question the Beringia theory, but I don’t see Tallbear saying or even implying it anywhere – it seems to be more a question of definitions. When she questions Siberia (“why there?”) I take it as saying “why draw the line at that particular point” – ie why not put their “origin” earlier (Eurasia) or even better, later (America)? There’s a section in that Amazon preview that I think sums it up:

    “Thus ‘Native American’ becomes a moniker used to represent a clearly traceable biological link to the ‘Old World’ that lies back beyond the Bering Strait, rather than a label indicating long-standing and intimate relationships between humans and non-humans on this side of the Bering sea”.

    It seems she accepts the Beringia migration but is focussing on the day-to-day reality of modern Native Americans and whether an “origin” in Siberia is a fair and/or useful way of presenting their history. She questions (from a social aspect) why we define the population’s origin in Siberia as opposed to America – considering how much longer Native Americans have been in America compared to say, “Europeans” in Europe, would it really be wrong to say that modern “Native Americans” originated in America? Perhaps she would be happy with a very clear distinction between “paleo-Indian” and “Native American”.

  26. @Greg Pandatshang
    Where does Tallbear deny the Beringia hypothesis?

    Tallbear's attitude is obfuscatory rather than explanatory. In the interview that I linked to above, her method is to attempt to call ideas into question. She rarely describes what she thinks is the case. About Beringia, just after the 20 minute mark, she makes this point: because of "a largely unexamined assumption" that there it's possible to find a pure indigenous genetic signature, she says, "There's this need to pinpoint our origins as native peoples in the Americas in Siberia or Asia, which I find really interesting. Why there?" So she does not say in so many words what she thinks about Beringia.

    This, by the way, is a rhetorical tactic that comes up again and again in that interview: Tallbear finds things "interesting", but the questions that she asks about it are rhetorical questions. They are not treated like real questions that might have actual answers that she or we could learn about.

    I’ve lost my ability to spout pomo cant at will, but couldn’t someone ask Tallbear something about why she’s so intent on denying the universal African origin of humanity, in a way that makes her sound really (anti-black) racist?

  27. nice ‘flip the script’ idea 😉

  28. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Razib:

    If they’re diagnosed with “cancer” they won’t put chemotherapy in quotations or demand the services of a tribal shaman.

    Funny you mention that. In Canada, if you and your child refuse medical treatment for your child, the government can intervene and force your child to undergo treatment for life threatening conditions, including things like blood transfusions and chemotherapy.

    In October, and exception was made to that by a lower court, where an 11 year old girl named Malaya refused chemotherapy that had a 90-95% survival rate for her form of leukemia, and allowed her to undertake “traditional treatment.”

    Last week she died from her cancer.

    To be fair, tradition treatment apparently involved a raw food died, Vitamin C injections and something called “cold laser therapy” from an unlicensed clinic in Florida, so I can’t really blame a tribal shaman for this, but I do blame this sort of moral relativism that you describe for her death.

    So I think you’re underestimating the depth of this.

    I’d note by the way that the parents in the case are fundamentalist Christians, so this nexus of opposition to science you highlight between left and right was all to present.

    I’d go on but frankly I’m too livid to write further. An 11 year old girl is dead because of superstition, charlatans, and guilt.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/health-care-must-do-better-at-respecting-aboriginal-patients-journal-urges/article22517597/

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/first-nations-children-not-well-served-by-chemotherapy-ruling-arthur-schafer-1.2836141

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/makayla-sault-s-death-shifts-the-spotlight-to-j-j-s-plight-1.2926885

  29. I find Native America creation myths – like those of other cultures generally interesting.

    But Tallbear sails pretty close to the wind of pomo brain rot…I mean, ‘new materialisms’? WTH does that mean?

    ‘Animal studies’ ? Does she mean anthropomorphism? If so, why not say so? And how does queer theory advance serious scholarship of race histories and mythologies? That’s politics, not investigation.

    At this point, I wondered if this was an Alan Sokal hoax (who could forget that marvellous ‘liberatory mathematics’..:O)

    RK: Tamil Nadu was where I ate the best mangoes in my life. Every mango since has tasted like soap..:-(

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    From the article:
    “Last year, I co-organized with the Science, Technology, and Society Center at UC Berkeley a symposium on indigenous and other new approaches to animal studies.”
    Were there scientists at this symposium? Or were the use of the terms “science” and “technology” simply to lend an un-earned gravitas to the pow-wow?

  31. This White Brazilian man named Dr. Robert Ray seemed disappointed to find out he is genetically 100 percent European according to 23AndMe.

    I thought he would be very happy with the results because Brazilian society is all about Whiter/lighter is better. So his negative reaction surprised me.

    But maybe he has lived in America for so long that it changed his racial view and he now has adopted the Latino is a race mentality.

  32. There’s another obvious motivation for Kim Tallbear’s hostility towards genetic testing: it’s obvious, from a cursory googling of her image, that she has a fairly large degree of white admixture.

    Having to acknowledge this would mess with the narrative. Not least the internal narrative.

  33. @jtgw
    Very interesting. I'm a little confused by the last paragraph, however, since it suggests that, when you were a child, northern Indo-Aryan speakers were promoting "Aryan Invasion" in order to justify their superiority over southern Dravidian speakers like yourself. When did these northerners begin to reject Aryan Invasion, which they appear to do now according to your first paragraph?

    Also, regarding these south Indians who reject Aryan Invasion, are you saying that they are doing so because it caused Dravidian separatism and they do not approve of Dravidian separatism? Or do they reject Aryan Invasion precisely because they have become Dravidian separatists?

    As for British support of Aryan Invasion, I'd be interested to know how that could support imperialism. I'm assuming they believed the Aryans were a superior race, like themselves, but if the Aryans had already invaded in antiquity and now constituted the local leadership in India, wouldn't the British thereby feel compelled to give the locals more autonomy?

    The rejection of Aryan Invasion theory across the board among soft-Hindutva Indians (that is, a lot of Brahmins and FCs) is correlated with their belief that everything Indian originated in India several thousand years ago. Like Islamists use of Koran to prove the book, the softcore (and the hard -core Hindutvaites) use some bizarre references in Vedas and Puranas to prove:
    1. There was no invasion of Aryans or others into India; all Indians have been present in India since several thousand years ago.
    2. There was no Aryans supplanting or slaving the prevous dwellers of the south.

    Before we go too deep into the “why”s, one should realize that the scientific knowledge and temper in India is very weak. Very few Indians can identify the multiple sequences of people who populated India from those populating the IVC, the ash mound people of the south, and the multiple arrivals (invasions) from the west spread well over 2000 years from 1800 PC to as late as 400 AD.

    The lack of mesh between knowledge and practice or beliefs can be seen everywhere in India; almost everyone knows about the hindu prayers before satellite launches and blessings of Purohits. In general, technology is accepted but viewed as a black box that can be tunes; with the help of gods, it can be conquered even without fundamental understanding. The Reich Group and the Estonians can put out a 100 papers, pinpointing the arrival of Indo Aryans from Steppes to the actual location in India where they arrived first and overruled Indians, but the Parasars of the world will still argue that 10,000 years ago there were Indians who spread all over the world.

    The Dravidan movement is entirely decoupled from this, although, in a sense it is the Yang of the Aryan invasion. The impact of the Indo-Aryan invasion on south India was considerably weaker, as it left a very thin substrate of Brahmins atop a very large OBC segmebnt, with little or no intermediaries like Vaisyas or Kshatriyas. The dravidan movement does not reject the Aryan Invasion theory, but wants to revers the effects of aryan Invasion! However, all OBC castes have a small Indo-Aryasn componet, and hence, this practically means an Anti-Brahmin movement. However, the OBC groups are as ruthless or more towards the Untouchables, using exactly the same argument , that is, they are the rightful rulers of the place they occupy now based on some imagined history (with figments of truth).

    To summarize, Pox upon all their houses for making up history and rejecting any form of scientific thought.

  34. @jtgw
    Very interesting. I'm a little confused by the last paragraph, however, since it suggests that, when you were a child, northern Indo-Aryan speakers were promoting "Aryan Invasion" in order to justify their superiority over southern Dravidian speakers like yourself. When did these northerners begin to reject Aryan Invasion, which they appear to do now according to your first paragraph?

    Also, regarding these south Indians who reject Aryan Invasion, are you saying that they are doing so because it caused Dravidian separatism and they do not approve of Dravidian separatism? Or do they reject Aryan Invasion precisely because they have become Dravidian separatists?

    As for British support of Aryan Invasion, I'd be interested to know how that could support imperialism. I'm assuming they believed the Aryans were a superior race, like themselves, but if the Aryans had already invaded in antiquity and now constituted the local leadership in India, wouldn't the British thereby feel compelled to give the locals more autonomy?

    I re-read the last paragraph in my earlier comment, and it does seem detached from the rest, as you rightly point out. What I should have added is that the Dravidian separatists (who accept the AIT) see Southern Brahmins as remnants of Aryan overlords, whereas north Indians see all southerners (Brahmins included) as Dravidians. And whether or not a northerner knows about, or believes in, the AIT, he/she considers himself as the inheritor of a Sanskrit-derived culture, and thereby inherently superior to Dravidians. So Southern Brahmins are caught between these two, not belonging to either north or south unless they can somehow bridge the divide. The way some have chosen to do it is by denying the AIT entirely.

    How and why most of these Indians deny the AIT is explained far more comprehensively by Vijay above. Do read his comment. I’ll add just one thing to what he said. The current state of archaelogical research in India/Pakistan/Afghanistan provides no support to the story of an Aryan migration from Central Asia into India. (It doesn’t disprove it either.) B. B. Lal, one of the most distinguished Indian archaeologists (he excavated Painted Grey Ware), who once considered the AIT as gospel, has recently come out as a skeptic. Now, his view is purely that of an archaeologist, so a neutral person should take linguistics and genetics (not to mention Occam’s Razor) into account as well when deciding what theory to accept. Another point is that the legendary Saraswati river, so praised by the “Aryans” in the early Vedas, is conventionally identified with a site in Rajasthan, and geological research suggests that it dried up around 1900 BC. So the Aryans must have been in the Indian subcontinent well before 1900 BC, which would mess up the entire PIE dispersal timeline. Now none of this is conclusive, but it does give ballast to the AIT-debunkers.

    When did the northerners stop believing in the AIT? I’m not sure it is entirely rejected, but any such rejection can possibly be traced to the rise of the Hindutva movement and the BJP (late 80s/early 90s). Much as northerners like to consider themselves superior to Dravidians, they like the idea of them being a mixed-breed population resulting from a long-ago invasion even less. So the “indigenous-Aryan” theory has gained ground.

    As for the British using the AIT as a tool for imperialism, it should be noted that they didn’t consider the Indians (even the upper class) as pure Aryans. As Razib has mentioned so often, all Indians have mixed genetic histories, and that was apparent even to the British (even though Indians come in various shades of skin color.) So to the British, the Aryans’ qualities were diluted by mixing with the natives, whereas the British themselves were descendants of “pure” Aryans, and hence had a moral right to rule over Indians. This is rather simplistic logic, but it eventually gained currency with the Nazis too.

  35. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    today genetics has pretty much zero relevance to the various political debates and arguments.

    A lot of the interaction with tribes is based on treaties and old court cases with quasi-legal deference for their (basically religious) claims as “first-peoples”. Land disputes still happen. The author didn’t mention this, but the tribes are afraid that genetic findings that dispute their origins or specifics about their migrations could hurt them in future court cases. There was a legal dispute over a skull found on tribal land that appeared to be older than the tribe’s existence in that region, and their argument was that the government was obligated to consider them the original inhabitants and therefore the skull was of their tribe and was to be returned. It’s clear that they were very scared that analysis of that skull that factually undermined their status as original inhabitants would have legal implications for them.

  36. It is no surprise that Phillip E. Johnson, the doyen of the Intelligent Design movement, has acknowledged a debt to critical theory.

    Could you point me to where he acknowledges this?

  37. Apologies for being a little late to the comment party here. Totally anecdotal here, but my husband who identifies as Eastern Cherokee still refuses to participate in the census. The story here (and I don’t have any primary sources for this besides him and his family), is that before the Trail of Tears, there was a census conducted. The Cherokee who participated and didn’t lie were the ones that got sent off on the death march; their identity was documented so when it came time to round them up the government had records. Some either dodged the census entirely or lied. My husband’s family, the ones who ended up on record, claimed white names, white religion, and white ancestry. They didn’t get sent to Oklahoma.

    Interestingly enough, while he will not do the census, he did do the 23andme thing, and plugged his results into Ancestry.com. And while he looks extremely native, down to the shape of the eyes, the shape of his teeth, his nose, etc., his family line in terms of legal records has him as Mennonite. Looks like his ancestors went full scale on the identity theft, picking the whitest group they knew of when they appropriated names. I’ve even seen old photographs of his great grandparents, who don’t look like they have a drop of white blood in them, whose names and ‘birth records’ perfectly match some nice Swiss folks over in Pennsylvania.

    In the case of my husband’s family, the primary concern with having real information about them out there wasn’t missionaries; it was exile and death. Apparently this instinct dies hard. I can certainly see any member of an ethnic minority being skittish about revealing things about themselves that can lead to genocide, even if it’s been generations since that was a real threat.

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