Cultures and Knowledge Workshop Reading List: "Of Types and Trees: Evolutionary Thought, Ancient DNA and Research on the Human Past"

October 29th, 2021

On November 1st, the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge will present "Of Types and Trees: Evolutionary Thought, Ancient DNA and Research on the Human Past" for the inaugural event of this year's Cultures & Knowledge Workshop Series. This workshop will be presented by Hannah Moots.


About the presenter: Hannah Moots is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the project “Genomes, Migrations, and Culture in the Early Civilizations of the Middle East.” She studies people and pathogens in the past using ancient DNA. Her research explores connections between environmental change and human health. Currently, she is investigating the relationship between multifactorial diseases, such a celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions, and major shifts in human history, such as the Neolithic transition. By drawing on bioarchaeological, paleoenvironmental and genomic lines of evidence, she examines the recursive relationships between the biological and cultural changes occurring with and after the domestication of plants and animals - such as pathogen burden, mobility patterns, and dietary shifts.

Below is a list of further reading on the topic of the workshop, compiled by Dr. Moots:

Data Feminism
Catherine D'Ignazio

Today, data science is a form of power. It has been used to expose injustice, improve health outcomes, and topple governments. But it has also been used to discriminate, police, and surveil. This potential for good, on the one hand, and harm, on the other, makes it essential to ask: Data science by whom? Data science for whom? Data science with whose interests in mind? The narratives around big data and data science are overwhelmingly white, male, and techno-heroic. In Data Feminism, Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren Klein present a new way of thinking about data science and data ethics--one that is informed by intersectional feminist thought. Illustrating data feminism in action, D'Ignazio and Klein show how challenges to the male/female binary can help challenge other hierarchical (and empirically wrong) classification systems. They explain how, for example, an understanding of emotion can expand our ideas about effective data visualization, and how the concept of invisible labor can expose the significant human efforts required by our automated systems. And they show why the data never, ever "speak for themselves." Data Feminism offers strategies for data scientists seeking to learn how feminism can help them work toward justice, and for feminists who want to focus their efforts on the growing field of data science. But Data Feminism is about much more than gender. It is about power, about who has it and who doesn't, and about how those differentials of power can be challenged and changed.

Where Are We Heading?
Ian Hodder

In this engaging exploration, archaeologist Ian Hodder departs from the two prevailing modes of thought about human evolution: the older idea of constant advancement toward a civilized ideal and the newer one of a directionless process of natural selection. Instead, he proposes a theory of human evolution and history based on "entanglement," the ever-increasing mutual dependency between humans and things. Not only do humans become dependent on things, Hodder asserts, but things become dependent on humans, requiring an endless succession of new innovations. It is this mutual dependency that creates the dominant trend in both cultural and genetic evolution. He selects a small number of cases, ranging in significance from the invention of the wheel down to Christmas tree lights, to show how entanglement has created webs of human-thing dependency that encircle the world and limit our responses to global crises.

Superior: The Return of Race Science
Angela Saini

Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science. After the horrors of the Nazi regime in World War II, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of intellectual racists and segregationists quietly founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's 1994 title The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races. If the vast majority of scientists and scholars disavowed these ideas and considered race a social construct, it was an idea that still managed to somehow survive in the way scientists thought about human variation and genetics. Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Angela Saini shows us how, again and again, even mainstream scientists cling to the idea that race is biologically real. As our understanding of complex traits like intelligence, and the effects of environmental and cultural influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between "races"--to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores, or to justify cultural assumptions--stubbornly persists. At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a rigorous, much-needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science--and a powerful reminder that, biologically, we are all far more alike than different.

Native American DNA:Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science
Kim TallBear

Who is a Native American? And who gets to decide? From genealogists searching online for their ancestors to fortune hunters hoping for a slice of casino profits from wealthy tribes, the answers to these seemingly straightforward questions have profound ramifications. The rise of DNA testing has further complicated the issues and raised the stakes. In Native American DNA, Kim TallBear shows how DNA testing is a powerful--and problematic--scientific process that is useful in determining close biological relatives. But tribal membership is a legal category that has developed in dependence on certain social understandings and historical contexts, a set of concepts that entangles genetic information in a web of family relations, reservation histories, tribal rules, and government regulations. At a larger level, TallBear asserts, the "markers" that are identified and applied to specific groups such as Native American tribes bear the imprints of the cultural, racial, ethnic, national, and even tribal misinterpretations of the humans who study them. TallBear notes that ideas about racial science, which informed white definitions of tribes in the nineteenth century, are unfortunately being revived in twenty-first-century laboratories. Because today's science seems so compelling, increasing numbers of Native Americans have begun to believe their own metaphors: "in our blood" is giving way to "in our DNA." This rhetorical drift, she argues, has significant consequences, and ultimately she shows how Native American claims to land, resources, and sovereignty that have taken generations to ratify may be seriously--and permanently--undermined.

Against the Grain
James C. Scott

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family--all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction. Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the "barbarians" who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.

The Making of the Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean from the Beginning to the Emergence of the Classical World
Cyprian Broodbank

The Mediterranean has been for millennia one of the global cockpits of human endeavor. World-class interpretations exist of its Classical and subsequent history, but there has been remarkably little holistic exploration of how its societies, culture and economies first came into being, despite the fact that almost all the fundamental developments originated well before 500 BC. This book is the first full, interpretive synthesis for a generation on the rise of the Mediterranean world from its beginning, before the emergence of our own species, up to the threshold of Classical times, by which time the "Middle Sea" was already in effect made. Thanks to unrivalled depth and breadth of exploration, Mediterranean archaeology is one of the world's richest sources for the reconstruction of ancient societies. This book is the first to draw in equal measure on ideas and information from the European, western Asian and African flanks, as well as the islands at the Mediterranean's heart, to achieve a truly innovative focus on the varied trajectories and interactions that created this maritime world. The Mediterranean combines unusual conditions in a strictly unique fashion that goes a long way towards explaining its precocious development: it is the world's largest inland sea, easily the largest of the five challenging, opportunity-rich "mediterraneoid" environments on the planet, and adjacent to the riverine cores of two of the earliest civilizations, in Mesopotamia and Egypt. No wonder its societies proved exceptional. Extensively illustrated and ranging across disciplines, subject matter and chronology from early humans and the origins of farming and metallurgy to the rise of civilizations--Egyptian, Levantine, Hispanic, Minoan, Mycenaean, Phoenician, Etruscan, early Greek--the book is a masterpiece of archaeological and historical writing.

Roman Seas: A Maritime Archaeology of Eastern Mediterranean Economies
Justin Leidwanger

That seafaring was fundamental to Roman prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean is beyond doubt, but a tendency by scholars to focus on the grandest long-distance movements between major cities has obscured the finer and varied contours of maritime interaction. This book offers a nuanced archaeological analysis of maritime economy and connectivity in the Roman east. Drawing together maritime landscape studies and network analysis, Roman Seas takes a bottom-up view of the diverse socioeconomic conditions and seafaring logistics that generated multiple structures and scales of interaction. The material record of shipwrecks and ports along a vital corridor from the southeast Aegean across the northeast Mediterranean provides a case study of regional exchange and communication based on routine sails between simple coastal harbors. Rather than a single well-integrated and
persistent Mediterranean network, multiple discrete and evolving regional and interregional systems emerge. This analysis sheds light on the cadence of economic life along the coast, the development of market institutions, and the regional continuities that underpinned integration-despite imperial fragmentation-between the second century BCE and the seventh century CE. Roman Seas advances a new approach to the synthesis of shipwreck and other maritime archaeological and historical economic data, as well as a path through the stark dichotomies-either big commercial voyages or small-scale cabotage-that inform most paradigms of Roman connectivity and trade. The result is a unique perspective on ancient Mediterranean trade, seafaring, cultural interaction, and coastal life.

The Tangled Tree
David Quammen

In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field--the study of life's diversity and relatedness at the molecular level--is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important; we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived sideways by viral infection--a type of HGT. In The Tangled Tree, "the grandest tale in biology....David Quammen presents the science--and the scientists involved--with patience, candor, and flair" (Nature). We learn about the major players, such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about "mosaic" creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.

Entangled Life: Organism and Environment in the Biological and Social Sciences
Trevor Pearce

This volume explores the interactions between organisms and their environments and how this "entanglement" is a fundamental aspect of all life. It brings together the work and ideas of historians, philosophers, biologists, and social scientists, uniting a range of new perspectives, methods, and frameworks for examining and understanding the ways that organisms and environments interact. The volume is organized into three main sections: historical perspectives, contested models, and emerging frameworks. The first section explores the origins of the modern idea of organism-environment interaction in the mid-nineteenth century and its development by later psychologists and anthropologists. In the second section, a variety of controversial models--from mathematical representations of evolution to model organisms in medical research--are discussed and reframed in light of recent questions about the interplay between organisms and environment. The third section investigates several new ideas that have the potential to reshape key aspects of the biological and social sciences. Populations of organisms evolve in response to changing environments; bodies and minds depend on a wide array of circumstances for their development; cultures create complex relationships with the natural world even as they alter it irrevocably. The chapters in this volume share a commitment to unraveling the mysteries of this entangled life.

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