Professor for the History of Science, Department of History, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
2018 to 2019
The Genetics of the Brazilian Northeastern Population, 1950-1980: Heredity, Race and Culture
The present research deals with the history of population genetics in Brazil by focusing on genetics studies on the population of Brazil's Northeast Region (Região Nordeste do Brasil) carried out by US and Brazilian geneticists from 1960s to 1980s. The genetics of northeastern people was one focus of population genetics studies in Brazil, planned by US geneticists and devoted to the study of “primitive” peoples, that could be tied to broader US Cold War health and scientific programs in Third-World countries. Mapping the culture of surname adoption and its relation to frequency of genes was one of the initiatives developed by geneticists to categorize racial ancestry within the Northeast (especially Bahian) population. This project investigates the scientific agenda and socio-political interests related to the Northeast population, trying to understand why this specific population was adopted as a relevant subject--and epistemic object--for the population genetics studies of this period.