Don’t hate the player, hate the game

After all the player-hating that happened the “last time”:http://savageminds.org/2006/06/27/cognitive-science-meet-the-angel-of-history/ I focused on popular reporting on anthropology’s adjacent disciplines, I’m hesitant to mention the article that’s been brought up on “Livejournal”:http://community.livejournal.com/anthropologist/949283.html and “antropologi.info”:http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/anthropology.php?p=1971&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1 about “an article on Anglo-Saxon apartheid in early Englands”:http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/media/proceedings_b/papers/RSPB20063627.pdf and the racial genetics that underlie it.

There are things that I find curious about the article — the assumption that ‘marriage’ and ‘reproduction’ are the same thing and that ethnic identity is always corelated with a genetic marker for instance — but there doesn’t seem to be very much to be ‘racial’ to me. The fact that the word doesn’t appear in the article being the main reason. But even if you are suspicious of euphemisms such as ” ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Ethnic Group” there are more sophisticated critiques of this method than ask if it’s racist. The fact that the topic is a large migration of conquerors into a new land helps this article out of a lot of potential problems because it is in fact talking about a situation with a large migration of conquering people and the clear ethnic differences them and the locals on the receiving end. If the paper was about how the biogenetic substance of Anglo-Saxon conquerors somehow helped them in their conquest, or that they remain a separate ‘race’ today (rather than having pretty quickly blended in with everyone else, as the paper argues) then that would be something else again.

If you’re interested in learning more you can check out the webpage of “The Center for Genetic Anthropology”:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tcga/index.html at University College London, which is also “Ruth Mace land”:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/bioanth/staff_member_mace.htm or, if you prefer “Fiona”:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/bioanth/res-students_jordan.htm “Jordan”:http://evolutionaryanthropology.wordpress.com/ land. The center also has some “popular”:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tcga/ScienceSpectra-pages/SciSpect-14-98.html “summaries”:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tcga/ns/nsbg.html of what it is up to, although I have a soft spot in my heart for Seth Sanders’s take on one study on “race and religion in Africa”:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/transition/v010/10.1sanders.html one member of the center co-authored.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

One thought on “Don’t hate the player, hate the game

  1. It’s difficult, when doing population history research, to always remember that the public at large doesn’t think about populations: shifting and changing groups of individuals who sometimes share languages/genes/cultural traits/geographic locations… but sometimes don’t. The concept of a population doesn’t translate so well to the popular press, because it inevitably ends up in the “race” box, with all its essentialist and erroneous misconceptions. Sigh.

    Anyhow, while Dr Thomas is a member of the Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (as Ruth and I are), we’re not in the CfGA. Different populations :)

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