New Books in the Arts & Sciences:
Celebrating Recent Work by Nara B. Milanich
Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the Father
By: Nara B. Milanich
“In this rigorous and beautifully researched volume, Milanich considers the tension between social and biological definitions of fatherhood, and shows how much we still have to learn about what constitutes a father.”
—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
For most of human history, the notion that paternity was uncertain appeared to be an immutable law of nature. The unknown father provided entertaining plotlines from Shakespeare to the Victorian novelists and lay at the heart of inheritance and child support disputes. But in the 1920s new scientific advances promised to solve the mystery of paternity once and for all. The stakes were high: fatherhood has always been a public relationship as well as a private one. It confers not only patrimony and legitimacy but also a name, nationality, and identity.
The new science of paternity, with methods such as blood typing, fingerprinting, and facial analysis, would bring clarity to the conundrum of fatherhood—or so it appeared. Suddenly, it would be possible to establish family relationships, expose adulterous affairs, locate errant fathers, unravel baby mix-ups, and discover one’s true race and ethnicity. Tracing the scientific quest for the father up to the present, with the advent of seemingly foolproof DNA analysis, Nara Milanich shows that the effort to establish biological truth has not ended the quest for the father. Rather, scientific certainty has revealed the fundamentally social, cultural, and political nature of paternity. As Paternity shows, in the age of modern genetics the answer to the question “Who’s your father?” remains as complicated as ever.
About the Author:
Nara B. Milanich, Professor of History, joined the faculty of Barnard in 2004. Her scholarly interests include modern Latin America, Chile, and the comparative histories of family, gender, childhood, reproduction, law, and social inequality. Professor Milanich teaches courses ranging from the Modern Latin American History survey to a comparative seminar on the Global Politics of Reproduction. She works closely with PhD students in Latin American History at Columbia. Professor Milanich has also taught in and directed the Masters in Latin American Studies (MARSLAC) based in the Institute for Latin American Studies. Her research and scholarship have been supported by the Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange, the Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Unesco, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Professor Milanich writes and publishes in both Spanish and English.
About the Speakers:
Dorothy Y. Ko, professor of history, joined the faculty of Barnard in 2001. In addition to her teaching duties for the department of history, she is affiliated with the Barnard Women's. Gender and Sexuality Studies department. Prior to coming to Barnard, she taught at the University of California at San Diego and at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Her teaching at Barnard includes such courses as "Gender and Power in China," "Body Histories: The Case of Footbinding," "Chinese Cultural History," "Fashion,"and "Feminisms in China." Professor Ko is a cultural historian who specializes in gender and body in early modern China. Her current research focuses on women's artistry and skills in textiles, which constitute an alternative knowledge system to male-centered textual scholarship. Her teaching interests also include the history of women and gender in East Asia; feminist theories; and visual and material cultures. Professor Ko's research and scholarship have been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the American Council for Learned Socieities. Her book Cinderella's Sisters was awarded the 2006 Joan Kelly Memorial Prize of the American Historical Association for the best work in women's history and/or feminist theory.
Maya Jasanoff’s teaching and research extend from the history of the British Empire to global history. She is the author of three prize-winning books. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (Penguin Press, 2017) examines the dynamics of modern globalization through the life and times of the novelist Joseph Conrad. A New York Times best book of 2017, The Dawn Watch won the Cundill Prize in History, and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize in Biography. Her previous book, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011), presents the first global history of the loyalists who fled the United States after the American Revolution and resettled elsewhere in the British Empire. Liberty's Exiles received numerous distinctions including the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction and the George Washington Book Prize; it was also shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. Her first book, the Duff Cooper Prize-winning Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850 (Knopf, 2005), explores British expansion in India and Egypt through the lives of art collectors, and was a book of the year selection in publications including The Economist, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times.
Emmanuelle Saada’s main field of research and teaching is the history of the French empire in the 19th and 20th century, with a specific interest in law. Her first book, Les enfants de la colonie: les métis de l'Empire français entre sujétion et citoyenneté, was published in France in 2007 and translated in 2012 under the title Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation and Citizenship in the French Colonies (University of Chicago Press). Emmanuelle Saada is currently writing a historiographical book reflecting on French and European colonization as a history of the present. She is also working on a project on law and violence in Algeria and France in the 19th century. She has published several articles on colonial law, culture and politics as well as reflections on recent French debates in the social sciences.