Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Ethiopian Genetic Diversity—Really—Reveals!


Image Caption: A rendition of an Ethiopian male, featuring what can be considered an average look among the major Cushitic and Semitic speaking populations of Ethiopia. Click on the image to expand!

A recent publication by Pagani & co. (2012), under the heading "Ethiopian Genetic Diversity Reveals Linguistic Stratification and Complex Influences on the Ethiopian Gene Pool", revisits the recurring issue of Ethiopian DNA profiles. In fact, one of the participants of this research, Toomas Kivisild in particular, was one of the authors of one of the last major studies on Ethiopian mtDNA, which was also a subject of blog posting on this site [see: Following Trails of the Cro-Magnon - I and Following Trails of the Cro-Magnon - II, for examples]. Some interesting findings surfaced in that study, as it relates to peculiarities about Ethiopian mtDNA gene pool; these same characteristics reappear in this latest study, as well shall notice in following segments of this entry.

As the authors start of their notes with laying out the goals of their research, they point out the supposed shortcomings of previous publications, particulary as it concerns Ethiopian DNA. In doing so, the authors lament on the supposed infrequency of DNA studies—involving African samples—that focus on Ethiopians in contrast to African samples from central and western Africa. This is right after the authors tell the reader that, because Ethiopia has proven to be relatively rich in human paleontological record, and in their words, "because of Ethiopia’s geographical position between Africa and Eurasia, its capital, Addis Ababa, is often used in genetic studies as a proxy embarkation point for modern human range expansions."

This smacks of double speak, when one considers that the subject of "human range expansions" figures quite a lot in population genetics research undertaken by 'western' research teams, and these seldom avoid including eastern Africa, the African Horn in particular, because its often implied rep of being a "cradle" to modern humanity. On top of this, Ethiopians have often served as "props" by Eurocentric ideologues, both in amateur and academic circles, to effect some ideologically-expedient wedge or another between continental Africans, whereby they feel at liberty to isolate what they either presume to be the source of "their kind" (Europeans) from the "others", who are generally lumped together and dismissed as being "inferior" and/or "undesirable", or use the target group—like Ethiopians—to explain away, and importantly, diminish natural African diversity as that made possible primarily because of foreign contribution.