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Jada Benn Torres, Vanderbilt University: Genetic perspectives on origins, presence, and ancestry of African-descendant communities across the Caribbean

When: Monday, November 13, 2017
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 1810 Hinman Avenue, 104, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Nancy Hickey   847.467.1507

Group: African American Studies Department

Category: Lectures & Meetings


The perspectives of African descendant peoples are largely excluded in chronicles describing the ramifications of European colonization of the Caribbean. Consequently, within the literature, how marginalized groups affected the cultural and physical landscapes of the region remains under-recognized. In the last twenty years, improvements in genetic technologies have ushered in the possibility of revisiting these issues in innovative manners. In my work, I use both genetic and ethnographic data as tools to illuminate the impacts of post-Columbian colonization among marginalized Caribbean populations.

In my research, I assess the demographic histories of African-descended communities across the Caribbean with a specific focus on Jamaican Maroons, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and several Lesser Antillean communities. As expected, the biogeographic ancestries of these communities share some commonalities, reflecting ancestry from primarily Africa. However, there are also interesting differences between these communities, specifically in the varying levels of ancestry from indigenous America, Europe, and Asia. Nonetheless, the genetic data both reflects the unique histories of these communities and clarifies lesser known historical aspects of these populations. Contextualized with evidence drawn from other arenas including ethnography, history, and archaeology, the genetic data contributes to knowledge about African-descendant experiences within the Caribbean.

Co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

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