Paloma Rodrigo Gonzales

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center, City University of New York

2018 to 2019
Research Fellow

Elusive Evidence, Enduring Fluidity: Historical Trajectories of the “Mongolian Spot”as a Marker of Race

I trace the historical trajectories of a congenital birthmark known in the former Spanish colonies as the “Mongolian spot.” A dark bluish blotch that appears on newborn's sacrum and disappears gradually during childhood, the mark is listed in dermatological textbooks as a condition of the skin. In the Andean world however, the spot is to this day interpreted as a marker of indigenous origins: A visible sign connoting invisible, shared and inherited non-white “substances”(blood, genes or “nature”) that become configured as race. Focusing on Peru, my research is at base about how a bodily trait becomes, through medical epistemologies, historically tied to racial meanings. My work grounds feminist science and kinship studies and the anthropological study of race, in the history of medicine, aiming to account for epistemologies and semiotics of race in practice and history to better identify, challenge and dismantle subtle yet pervasive forms or racial essentialism.