Building the Genomic Nation: Homo Brasilis and the Genoma Mexicano in Comparative Cultural Perspective

Michael Kent, Vivette García Deister, Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Carlos López Beltrán, Peter Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the relationship between genetic research, nationalism and the construction of collective social identities in Latin America. It makes a comparative analysis of two research endeavours that have sought to establish national genetic profiles, the ‘Genoma Mexicano’ and the ‘Homo Brasilis’, as well as their articulation with wider socio-political ideas and processes. The outcomes and social impacts of these endeavours reveal important similarities: they have reproduced and strengthened the idea of the Mexican and Brazilian nation, incorporating biological elements into debates on social identities; they have placed the unifying figure of the mestizo/mestiço at the heart of national identity constructions, displacing alternative identity categories, such as those based on race. However, having developed in different national contexts, these projects have had distinct scientific and social trajectories, mobilizing the genomic mestizo in relation mainly to health in Mexico while in Brazil, race has been an important arena for genetic knowledge. We show the importance of the nation as a frame for mobilizing genetic data in public policy debates and demonstrate how race comes in and out of focus in different Latin American national contexts of genomic research, while never completely disappearing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-861
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2015


  • genetics, nationalism, race, health, biomedicine, Brazil, Mexico, Latin America


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