• Social Anthropology, Arthur Lewis Building, University of Manchester

    M13 9PL Manchester

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Biography

  • PhD in Social Anthropology (Cambridge University, 1981-1985), exploring ethnic relations and ideas about race in Colombia.
  • Research Fellowship (Queens' College, Cambridge, 1985- 1988), focusing on black migrants from the Pacific coastal region of Colombia to the city of Medellín, Colombia.
  • Lecturer in the University of Liverpool, jointly in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Latin American Studies, 1988-1995.
  • Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, 1995-2002.
  • Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, 2002-.

At Manchester, I am also linked to the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

For more details about my work, see:

 

Research interests

 

Current and Recent Research Projects

Most recently, I am COI on an AHRC-funded project, "Comics and Race in Latin America" (PI is James Scorer), which explores how racial diversity has been historically, and is today, represented in comics in Argentina, Colombia and Peru, and how comics can channel antiracist ideas and sentiments.

The comics project builds on another, running from January 2020 to May 2023, called "Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America", for which I am PI. Funded by the AHRC, it involves fieldwork in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. For details, click here.

Both projects have a common interest in antiracism, which I and a colleague, Monica Moreno Figueroa (University of Cambridge) also explored with an ESRC grant (£830K) for a project titled "Latin American Antiracism in a ‘Post-Racial’ Age" (for details, click here). This project ran from January 2017 to November 2019 and involved research in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. A book from the project is published by Pittsburgh University Press (March 2022). 

In the past, I have been involved in several other projects. In January 2010, I started directing an ESRC-funded project on "Race, genomics and mestizaje (mixture) in Latin America: a comparative approach", which examined the way concepts of race, ethnicity and nation enter into recent genomic research about the ancestry of Latin American populations and how findings from such research are received and interpreted in the public domain. In August 2011, this project was extended by a grant from the LeverhulmeTrust to focus in more depth on public engagement with scientific information about genomics, health, "race" and ancestry.  A book Mestizo Genomics: Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America (eds. Peter Wade, Carlos López Beltrán, Eduardo Restrepo, Ricardo Ventura Santos) was published by Duke University Press in April 2014. A special issue of the journal Social Studies of Science was published in December 2015 under the title "Genomic Research, Publics and Experts in Latin America: Nation, Race and Body".

From September 2013, I took up a three-year British Academy Wolfson Research Professorship for a project titled "Race, nation and genomics: biology and society" in order to write up the many results of these two projects. In 2017, Duke University Press published a book called Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom: Genomics, Multiculturalism, and Race in Latin America.

I was also the co-applicant for a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship for a project on "Genomics and child obesity in Mexico: the resignification of race, class, nation and gender", for which the principal applicant and researcher was Dr Abril Saldaña Tejeda of the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. The project started in March 2015 and ran for two years. It has resulted in a number of journal publications.

 

Research theme 1: race and racism in Colombia and Latin America

My interests centre on race and ethnicity in Latin America, with particular reference to black populations. I have done several spells of fieldwork in Colombia, looking at racial discrimination, black identities and the cultural politics of identity in Colombia and Latin America.

Selected relevant publications:

  • Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).
  • Gente negra, nación mestiza: las dinámicas de las identidades raciales en Colombia, trans. Ana Cristina Mejía, with revisions and a new preface. (Bogota, Ediciones Uniandes, Ediciones de la Universidad de Antioquia, Siglo del Hombre Editores, Instituto Colombiano de Antropología, 1997.)
  • Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. (London: Pluto Press, 1997; 2nd updated edition, 2010). (Translated by María Teresa Jiménez as Raza y Etnicidad en América Latina, Quito, Editorial Abya Yala, 2000.)
  • Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by Peter Wade, James Scorer, and Ignacio Aguiló. (University of London Press, 2019).
  • Moreno Figueroa, Mónica G., and Peter Wade, eds. 2022. Against racism: organizing for social change in Latin America. Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press.
  • Wade, Peter, and Mónica Moreno Figueroa. 2021. Alternative grammars of anti-racism in Latin America / Gramáticas aternativas del atirracismo en América Latina. Interface: a Journal For and About Social Movements 13(2):20-50.

  

Research theme 2: black social movements in Colombia

My research has included work on current processes of politicisation of the black population in Colombia in the context of the new Constitution of 1991. This raises issues of how states and minorities compete with representations of the nation's past, present and future, and how essentialisms (strategic or otherwise) and notions of hybridity are deployed by different voices.

Selected relevant publications:

  • 'El movimiento negro en Colombia'. América Negra 5: 173-191. 1993.
  • 'The Cultural Politics of Blackness in Colombia'. American Ethnologist 22(2): 342-358. 1995.
  • 'La population noire en Amérique latine: multiculturalisme, législation et situation territoriale.' Problèmes d'Amérique Latine 32: 3-16. 1999.
  • 'The Colombian Pacific in Perspective,' in special issue on ' Black identity and social movements in Latin America: The Colombian Pacific region', guest edited by Peter Wade. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 7(2): 2-33. 2002.
  • 'Afro-Colombian Social Movements'. In Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America, edited by Kwame Dixon and John Burdick (Gainesville: University Press of Florida): 135-155.  2012.

 

Research theme 3: popular music in Colombia

In 1994-5, I undertook a research project on popular music in Colombia in the twentieth century (funded by the Leverhulme Trust). I explored how and why music from the Caribbean coastal area of the country - identified as relatively "black" and tropical in Colombian terms - came to represent the nation and displace bambuco, a genre associated with the highland interior of the country. In effect, Colombia became musically "tropicalised" and even symbolically "blackened" to some degree. The musical genres I focused on were cumbia, porro and, to a lesser extent, vallenato.

Later, I also worked on the intersection of music and the black social movement, focusing on rap groups and other dance/music groups in the city of Cali (project funded by the Nuffield Foundation).

Selected relevant publications:

  • Music, Race and Nation: Música Tropical in Colombia. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). 2000. (Translated by Adolfo González as Música, raza y nación: música tropical en Colombia, Bogotá, Vicepresidencia de la República, Departmento Nacional de Planeación, 2002.)
  • 'African Diaspora and Colombian Popular Music in the Twentieth Century'. Black Music Research Journal 28(2): 41-56. 2008.
  • 'Understanding "Africa" and "Blackness" in Colombia: Music and the Politics of Culture'. In Afro-Atlantic Dialogues: Anthropology in the Diaspora. Edited by Kevin Yelvington. (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press): 251-378. 2006.
  • 'Construcciones de lo negro y del África en Colombia: política y cultura en la música costeña y el rap'. In Afrodescendientes en las Américas. Trayectorias sociales e identitarias. 150 años de la abolición de la esclavitud en Colombia. Edited by Claudia Mosquera, Mauricio Pardo and Odile Hoffmann. (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia): 245-278. 2002.
  • 'Trabajando con la cultura: grupos de rap e identidad negra en Cali'. In De montes, ríos y ciudades: territorios e identidades de la gente negra en Colombia. Edited by Juana Camacho and Eduardo Restrepo (Bogotá: Fundación Natura, Ecofondo, Instituto Colombiano de Antropología): 263-286. 1999.
  • 'Working Culture: Making Cultural Identities in Cali, Colombia'. Current Anthropology 40(4): 449-471. 1999.

 

Research theme 4: race and sexuality in Latin America

This theme surfaced at various points in much of my previous research and later became a focus. I and a colleague, Fernando Urrea from the Universidad del Valle in Colombia, were awarded a British Academy grant to hold two seminars with scholars from the UK, Colombia and Brazil. This led to several publications.

Selected relevant publications:

  • Raza, etnicidad y sexualidades: ciudadanía y multiculturalismo en América Latina, edited by Fernando Urrea, Mara Viveros and Peter Wade. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia. 2008.
  • Race and Sex in Latin America. (London: Pluto Press). 2009.
  • 'Articulations of Eroticism and Race: Domestic Service in Latin America'. Feminist Theory 14(2): 187-202. 2013.

 

Research theme 5: race, nature and culture

Since the controversial scientific race theories of the early twentieth century, anthropologists have generally avoided directly addressing the issue of race, viewing it as a social construct. I have been interested in challenging anthropology's traditional avoidance of the subject, proposing that anthropologists can in fact play an important role in the study of race.

I argue for a new direction, one which anthropology is well placed to explore. Race is often defined by its reference to biology, 'blood,' genes, nature or essence. Yet these concepts are often left unexamined. Integrating material from the history of science, science studies, and studies of kinship and new reproductive technologies, as well as from studies of race, I explore the meaning of such terms and interrogate the relationship between nature and culture in ideas about race. I argue that shifts from 'biological' to 'cultural racism' can be seen anew in this light and that new insights can be gained into the insidious and mercurial operations of racist discourse.

As part of this work, I was involved in a large-scale project on the Public Understanding of Genetics (PUG), funded by the EU and involving seven research teams in different European countries. Part of this project looked at how recent advances in genetic and other biotechnologies and people's ideas about these technologies influence ideas about race, ethnicity and nationality.

Selected relevant publications:

  • Race, ethnicity and nation: perspectives from kinship and genetics, edited by Peter Wade. (Oxford: Berghahn Books). 2007.
  • Race, Nature and Culture: An Anthropological Approach. (London: Pluto Press). 2002.
  • 'Race and Human Nature'. Anthropological Theory 4(2): 157-172. 2004.

 

 

Opportunities

 Postgraduate supervision opportunities

I am interested in supervising students in areas relating to: 
  • blackness and racial identity in Latin America (and the Caribbean);
  • constructs of nature, biology and culture in racial identity;
  • constructs of nature, biology and culture in racial identity;
  • race, sex gender and nation;
  • popular music and identity (in Latin America or the Latino diaspora);
  • genomics/genetics, race, ethnicity and nation

Recent and current students include: 

  • Doreen Gordon, 2004-2009, Blackness and social mobility in Bahia, Brazil
  • Joceny Pinheiro, 2004-2009, Authors of authenticity: indigenous leadership and the politics of identity in the Brazilian Northeast.
  • Andre Cicalo, 2005-2010, Urban encounters: racial university quotas, racial inequality and black identity in Brazil.
  • Pablo Jaramillo, 2006-2010, Subjects of Reparation: victimhood, gender and indigenous identifications in La Guajira, Colombia.
  • Miguel del Pozo, 2006-2011, Who owns the fish? Participatory approaches in Puerto Rico’s fisheries.
  • Tamara Hale, 2008-2014 (LSE), Mixing and its challenges: an ethnography of race, kinship and history in a village of Afro-indigenous descent in coastal Peru.
  • Luciana Lang, 2010-2015,  Once there were fishermen: Social natures, environmental ethics and an urban mangrove. 
  • Alejandra Isaza Velásquez, 2010-2014, The Musical Construction of a Nation. Music, Politics and State in Colombia, 1848 - 1910. (Co-supervised with Patience Schell.)
  • Sofia González, 2011-2016, Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero communities at the National Museum of Colombia: a reflexive ethnography of (in)visibility, documentation and participatory collaboration. (Co-supervised with Rupert Cox.)
  • María  Lourdes Salazar, 2011 (in progress), Working in tobacco: migrant labourers in neoliberal regimes in Mexico and the USA. 
  • Chantelle Murtagh, 2011-2016, Producing leaders: An ethnography of an indigenous organisation in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Jeremy Gunson, 2013 (in progress), Between neoliberal multiculturalism and autonomy: The case of Totonacapan. 
  • Gudrun Klein, 2014-2019, Multicultural education in Brazil: the implementation of Law 11.645/08 in public schools in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Skyler Hawkins, 2014 (in progress), Traversing the personal and the political: an ethnographic study of progressive women in North Carolina politics
  • Natalia Valdivieso, 2018 (in progress), Between religion and extractivism: indigenous agencies in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon. 
  • Mattia Donno, 2018 (in progress), Counterpunch: Cuban identities, agency and narratives through the boxing body. 

Teaching

For PhD supervision, see under "Opportunities".

Courses I have recently taught at undergraduate and Masters level include: 

  • Cultural Diversity in Global Perspective
  • Advanced Anthropology
  • Black Cultures and Identities in Latin America
  • Issues in Latin American Cultural Studies
  • Race and Anthropology
  • The Ethnographer's Craft
  • Culture and Society
  • Urbanisation in Latin America

Activities and esteem

 

Journal Editorships

  • 2004- : Co-editor of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 

  • 1997-2000: Senior Editor of Bulletin of Latin American Research
  • 1993-1997: Co-editor of Bulletin of Latin American Research

Editorial board membership

  • 2015-: editorial board, Ethnic and Racial Studies.
  • 2015-: scientific committee member, Sociedad y Economía (Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Universidad del Valle, Colombia)
  • 2015-: corresponding member of editorial board, Journal de la Société des Américanistes
  • 2014- : member of advisory board, Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares
  • 2013-18: editorial board of Latin American Research Review
  • 2013-: editorial board of Journal of Latin American Studies
  • 2013-: editorial board of Antípoda: Revista de Antropología y Arqueología (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)
  • 2013-: founding editorial board member of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
  • 2012-: editorial review board of Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies
  • 2011-: International Editorial Council of Vibrant - Virtual Brazilian Anthropology (electronic journal of the Brazilian Anthropological Association)
  • 2007-: editorial board of Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
  • 2006-: editorial board of Critical World, a virtual research laboratory that explores the relationship between globalization and music (http://www.criticalworld.net/)
  • 2006-: editorial board of Avá Revista de Antropología (journal of Postgraduate Programme in Social Anthropology, Universidad Nacional de Misiones, Argentina)
  • 2003-: editorial board of Tabula Rasa (journal of Universidad Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca, Bogotá)
  • 2000-: editorial board of ‘New World Diasporas’ book series, University Press of Florida
  • 1999-: editorial board of Revista Colombiana de Antropología 
  • 1998-: editorial board of Estudos Afro-Asiáticos

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester

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