Accidents of Geography: Historicizing Genetic Cartographies of the Middle East

Elise Burton

Columbia University

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 6:00 pm EST

Online Event

This talk investigates the visual culture of genetic tree diagrams and gene migration maps, which have dramatically influenced scientific and popular ideas about where modern humans first evolved and how they spread across the globe. Focusing on the use of genetic maps by Turkish and Iranian scientists (often working in collaboration with European and American geneticists), Burton examines how the imagery of genetic geography conceptualizes the Middle East’s physical territory both as a historical “crossroads” of human migration and as the birthplace of distinct civilizations and gene sequences. Turkish and Iranian genetic migration maps foreground the modern political borders of their respective states and emphasize migration pathways to, not merely through, their territories. These features reflect local nationalist traditions of cartography drawing from early 20th-century racial maps, as well as more recent geopolitical anxieties, alternately blurring and sharpening the boundaries between Europe and Asia.
 
This event is free and open to the public, RSVP to receive Zoom link. Please contact scienceandsociety@columbia.edu with any questions. 
 
This event is part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.
 
Sponsoring Organizations:
 

  • The University Seminars at Columbia University
  • Columbia University in the City of New York
  • NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • The New York Academy of Medicine
  • The New York Academy of Sciences