The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

The Coloniality of Philosophies of Biology


Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

April 21, 2017 4:00, Riverview 1 Add to calendar

Human biology is used as a technical tool to ‘naturalize’ contemporary socio-political orders. What is crucial to blood as well as bone and DNA in modernity is calculability. From Malthus to Darwin to Fisher, the calculability of demography was merged with the calculability of genetics to produce evolutionary theory. In this paper I critically assess (settler) colonial history of philosophies of biology to investigate the role of biology as a key ideological tool of coloniality (Quijano, 2000; Maldonado-Torres 2007). I argue that biology is central to enforcing colonial typologies that establish and justify relations of domination in part through defining and policing the boundaries of human populations. This is maintained through the colonial claim that “I am the species” (Sahlins 2008), which introduces a way in which the evolution of biological organisms then came to be understood as an evolution towards modern Eurowestern society. Demography, genetics, and evolution provide the means of calculation while the colonial claim of “I am the species” defines thespace in which the calculus of life and death are implemented. Using the concepts of the calculus of life and I am the species, I demonstrate the role philosophies of biology play in maintaining relations of domination and with the aim of synthesizing an anti-colonial philosophy of biology. An anti-colonial philosophy of biology sets out to transform the means of calculability to then open the possibility for a radical human biology.