Race, Science, and Technology in the Global African World Lecture Series

February 21, 2019 - 9:30am to March 22, 2019 - 9:30am

Race, Science, and Technology in the Global African World Lecture Series 


The Department of Africana Studies presents two more lectures in the series: 



Dr. Alondra Nelson

Distinguished Lecture for the 2018-2019 Academic Year

Thursday, February 21, 2019 -- University Club -- Reception: 5-6 p.m.; Lecture: 6-8 p.m.

Dr. Nelson is President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Professor of sociology at Columbia University. A renowned scholar of science, technology, and social inequality, she is the author most recently of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome (Beacon Press, 2016). Her publications also include a special issue of the British Journal of Sociology on genealogy and the "GU 272"; Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2011); Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (Rutgers University Press, 2012); and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life (NYU Press, 2001). In 2002, she edited “Afrofuturism,” an extremely influential special issue of Social Text. Her lecture will also be our major annual departmental lecture for the year.

“Racial Reconciliation, Institutional Morality, and the Social Life of DNA"

Lecture Summary:

In this presentation, Professor Nelson examines the recent use of genetic ancestry testing by the descendants of nearly three hundred enslaved men and women owned by Georgetown University, whom the institution’s Jesuit stewards sold to Southern plantations in 1838 in order to secure its solvency. The case of the GU 272 will be explored as a “reconciliation project”—a social endeavor in which DNA analysis is put to the use of repairing historic injury.


Dr. Harcourt Fuller

Friday, March 22, 2019 -- 4130 Wesley W. Posvar Hall -- Lecture: 2-4 p.m. 

Dr. Fuller is a Fulbright Global Scholar and Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University. He the author of Building the Ghanaian Nation-State: Kwame Nkrumah’s Symbolic Nationalism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), the co-edited book Money in Africa (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 2009), and creator of the Black Money exhibit. His audio-visual publications include the double-CD sound recording, Granny Nanny Come Oh: Jamaican Maroon Kromanti and Kumina Music and Other Oral Traditions (2016), and the award-winning 1-hour documentary, Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess (2015). His current research examines the ethnogeneses, histories, cultures, identities, experiences and present-day realities of Maroon nations in the Americas.

“Maroon Queen, Mother of the Nation, & ‘Science Woman’: Using the Physical, Social and Metaphysical Sciences to Interrogate the History of Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons”

Lecture Summary:

This lecture will explore my use of what I believe to be a truly multidisciplinary approach in researching the history of resistance against slavery in the Caribbean. On the one hand, the paper will discuss my interdisciplinary, collaborative research project, which merges historical, geospatial, museological, and audio-visual analyses with genetic data (mitochondrial, Y chromosome, and autosomal DNA), to investigate the ethnogenesis and lived experiences of the Jamaican Maroons, including that of the 18th century leader, Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons. The second part of my discussion will discuss the Maroon notion of Queen Nanny as “science woman,” “metaphysical scientist,” or “traditional environmental scientist,” as opposed to the negative, and misconstrued stereotypes promulgated by British planter-historians and colonial officials of Nanny as a superstitious “Obeah woman.” As a Maroon leader and “science woman,” Nanny wielded her metaphysical knowledge and mastery of her montane forest laboratory in the Blue & John Crow Mountains (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), harnessing the healing and harmful potency of the herbs therein, relying on traditional pre-Columbian and African technologies, and deploying her powerful African spiritual practices to survive for decades in the forest. Under her leadership and that of other chiefs, the Maroons defeated the armed forces of Great Britain, the most powerful empire of the 18th century Atlantic World. The paper therefore seeks to not only examine how scholars can use scientific methodologies in historical inquiry, but also to reevaluate the questions of what science and technology are, and how they have been used in the context of Maroon nations that survived and lived in their own worlds and on the periphery of European slave societies in the Americas.  


Co-Sponsored Community-Based Workshop

Saturday, April 27, 2019 -- Location: TBD

(With Samuel Black, Director of the African American Program at the Senator John Heinz History Center and Marlene Bransom, President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, AAHGS) The African American Program section of the Heinz History Center and the AAHGS will be sponsoring a community-based workshop on DNA testing and African American genealogy. This workshop will highlight the significance of the global migration of Africans to the Americas, and the possibilities and challenges that DNA testing enables for understanding genealogy. The workshop is scheduled for April 27, 2019.