Negotiating Imagined Genetic Communities: Unity and Diversity in Brazilian Science and Society

Michael Kent, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Peter Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we explore the ways in which genetic research reconfigures historically rooted debates on race and national identity by analyzing the intense debates that have taken place in the past decade in Brazil around the genetic profile of the nation's population. Such debates have not only featured a significant variety of interpretations by different geneticists but also involved the media, policy makers, and social movements. Here we focus in particular on the ways in which genetic knowledge and the arguments it makes possible have reproduced, contested, or transformed pre existing narratives about race and national identity in Brazil. A central underlying tension in these debates is that between unity and diversity—between views that consider the Brazilian population as a single unit that cannot be differentiated except at the individual level and alternative interpretations that emphasize the multiplicity of its populations in terms of race, region, and genetic ancestry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-748
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Imagined communities
  • Identity politics
  • Genetics
  • Brazil


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