October 26, 2011

The Taíno are extinct

Nature corrects itself for stating that the Taíno, pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean were extinct:
This article originally stated that the Taíno were extinct, which is incorrect. Nature apologizes for the offence caused, and has corrected the text to better explain the research project described.
This is, of course, nonsense. How timorous has the modern scientific culture become, that it is willing to acquiesce so easily, lest one be perceived as not having sufficient "sensitivity" in matters ethnic?

When we say that the Taíno are extinct, we are, in fact claiming that a population group is extinct. We do not say that pieces of DNA are extinct, or that words in a language are extinct. There are pieces of Taíno DNA in modern Puerto Ricans, and there are Taíno words in the Spanish spoken there. But the Taíno group is extinct.

For example, you will not found any aurochsen (Bos primigenius) in Europe today, even though they did pass on some of their genes to modern European cattle. The aurochsen are extinct, even though some of their genes persist. You can say that modern European cattle are just Bos taurus influenced by Bos primigenius in Europe, but you can't say that B. primigenius is in existence today.

Similarly, there are Etruscan words and genes floating around in Europe today, but there are no longer any Etruscans. The Etruscans are extinct. There were, there are not => they are extinct.

A group is defined by a set of common genetic (and, in some animals, cultural) features. The survival of a few of these features is not the same as the survival of the group. The fact that some modern humans have preserved bits of Neandertal immunogenetics does not reverse the fact of Neandertal extinction, because Neandertals were not reducible to bits of their immune systems.

It is well-known that Egyptian pyramids have been used for building materials since the demise of ancient Egyptian civilization. If the building blocks of the pyramids had all found themselves in Cairo buildings, we would be justified in saying that "the pyramids are gone", because the arrangement of parts called "pyramids" was no longer in existence, even though their parts remain.

It is somewhat ironic that the same crowd of "ethnically sensitive" people can simultaneously propose that differences between races and ethnic groups have no biological basis, and, at the same time, affirm the non-extinction of an ethnic group precisely on account of its having preserved a few bits of distinctive DNA.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that five hundred years into the future, there is a United Europe, with English as its common language. Further suppose, that in a province of that United Europe, say Finland, the population's gene pool is composed of 10% current Finnish DNA and 90% other European/non-European DNA. Would we be justified in saying that the Finns were extinct?

Bits of our DNA have reached us from the remotest depths of time, joined, more recently, by bits of our culture. They aggregate, for a time, into distinctive biocultural packages, such as the Taíno, they are transformed, and then they are dissolved: some dying out, some latching onto new units. The Taíno are extinct, but parts of them remain.

104 comments:

eurologist said...

I agree with what you are saying as long as it has the "substantive bits" qualifier attached to it. For some, that is trivial and meaningless - for others, it is trivial yet one of the most meaningful details imaginable.

Onur said...

The modern "Taino" identity is nothing but a completely modern and artificial fashion and fiction that is the result of the birth of a third world style nationalism among some lower to middle class people from the Caribbean islands during the last few decades and thus has no connection to the actual Taino identity, which became extinct soon after the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean islands and the ensuing racial mixing (including African slaves) and the total replacement of the original Taino religion and language by Christianity and the Spanish language respectively. I deplore Mr. Bustamante and Nature for bowing to the pressure of the lies of a small but well-organized bunch of "Taino identity activists", who spread a lot of disinformation about the Taino identity, language and religion, and thus for laying down their scientific integrity.

BTW, I demanded from Nature to withdraw its "correction" with an explanation of why they withdraw. Also I added: "Nature and Mr. Bustamante should not allow "Taino identity activists" to fool them more."

Charles Nydorf said...

In the comments, Mr. Bustamente stated that he regards the Taino as alive.

Brandon Li said...

You seem to be missing the point. You nor Mr. Bustamante clearly define "population group;" a term so broad is meaningless.

Groups are not just defined by "common genetic...features" as you claim. To be Taino or a member of Taino "population group" was not just about being biologically Taino or just about sharing linguistic traditions. For instance, to be American is not about the biological similarity to your next door neighbor or even to speak the same language as them. To be American is to share (roughly) political, economic,and general cultural lifeways.

There are communities that still have cultural claims to the Taino. Whether this is biologically evidenced does not negate the fact that Taino continues to exist for these communities. As for "Onur," you seem to be making a normative argument about the authenticity of these cultural claims. What is "true" Taino identity for you does not have to be the same "true" Taino identity that Taino communities claim.

Dienekes said...

For instance, to be American is not about the biological similarity to your next door neighbor or even to speak the same language as them. To be American is to share (roughly) political, economic,and general cultural lifeways.

This was not the definition accepted by the founders of the American nation.

And, while one can propose that the definition of "American" has been transformed over the last 2+ centuries to mean something different than it once did, no such argument can be made in the case of the Taino. The Taino became extinct, and much later some Spanish-speaking Caribbean mestizos decided that they should call themselves Taino.

There are communities that still have cultural claims to the Taino

Of course no one can prevent anyone from believing anything about themselves. There are, for example, some English-speaking Britons who think of themselves as "Celts" or even "Picts", there are Slav inhabitants of Paionia who think of themselves as "Macedonians", there are triracial English-speaking people who fashion themselves "Native Americans", and so on.

The fact that a group asserts an identity X, does not mean that anyone else should accept that assertion without evidence. A naked assertion suffices not.

Dienekes said...

In the comments, Mr. Bustamente stated that he regards the Taino as alive.


Contradicted by the title of his ICHG 2011 talk

http://www.ashg.org/ICHG2011/EvoPopulationGenetics/index.shtml

"Carlos D. Bustamante, PhD – “Genomic Reconstruction of an Extinct Population from Next-Generation Sequence Data: Insights from the Taìno Genome Project”"

Of course Dr. Bustamante does great work in this and other projects, and it's a good idea not to antagonize potential DNA donors.

mooreisbetter said...

Kudos to Dienekes for cutting through the political correctness and injecting, um, science, into the scientific debate.

Onur said...

As Dienekes has given all the needed answers to the above statements, I don't need to add anything.

Brandon Li said...

Your claim that the Taino went extinct is false: biologically, culturally, and (most importantly) theoretically.

(1) Biologically: For the Taino to go extinct biologically would require 100% of the genome to no longer exist... which is not true present-day Puerto Ricans can claim 10-15% genomic similarity to 15 cent. Taino.

(2)Your post makes it seem as if the Taino were some biologically and culturally homogenous group that existed in the 15th century. No present or past cultural or biological group is 100% genetically or culturally homogenous. When we speak of a pre-Columbus Taino community, we are defining a population group through subjective interpretation of limited archaeological evidence. Subjective cultural definitions of biological population groups never yield correct measurements of biological variation or similarity (for example, the position of almost the entire biological community on the biological validity of race). There was no "authentic" Taino culture or biological group that existed undisturbed prior to Spanish contact. Taino culture was not only the offshoot of pre-Taino cultural practices and biological groups, it was also influenced by the cultural lifeways of(and intermarried to) surrounding native american tribes. In the same way other cultures infused to become Taino, Taino culture was later infused with Spanish and African traditions.

A bunch of Spanish-speaking Caribbean mestizos didn't just decide one day they would claim to be Taino because they wanted to fight the hegemony of Western culture. No, these Taino can trace their ancestral lines to Taino tribes and make equal claim to Spanish, African, and Taino traditions; which were passed to them through ancestral and familial practices. Some even continue to practice the rituals performed by the 15th century Tainos.
What "evidence" does one need to assert their cultural and biological identity? No human being can claim cultural authenticity or biological purity. What gives you the right to assert that you are Greek? You are not just Greek because you are biologically similar to the people in Greece, but also because you share cultural affinity to the people that live in the area we call Greece. On what authority do you claim you can determine a person's cultural legitimacy?

If the Taino are extinct, are was the "last Taino"? When exactly was their extinction?

(3) You fail to acknowledge your presentist ideological and cultural concerns for claiming the Taino don't exist. If you look into multivocality and post-processualism, you will find that no one can make a unilateral claim to history.

Dienekes said...

@Brandon Li, I am sorry to say that I don't believe in cultural Marxist stuff such as multivocality and post-processualism.

One does NOT need to assert that the Taino were "some biologically and culturally homogenous group that existed in the 15th century." But, one can definitely say that whatever their heterogeneity, the Taino spoke language(s) that were not Spanish or English, they practiced a religion that was not Roman Catholicism, and they had DNA that was not descended from recent Europeans and Africans.

They were not all the same, but they had definitely _something_ in common, some set of defining characteristics: there can be no named entity that is not somehow defined; if it is not defined, we enter the realm of opinion and leave the realm of science.

On what authority do you claim you can determine a person's cultural legitimacy?

If I asserted that I was Chinese, would you accept or deny my assertion?

If you accepted it, I have nothing more to add: it would signify that you believe that anyone can assert anything.

If you denied it, then on what basis? Presumably on me having little or no Chinese DNA, and not following enough Chinese customs and knowing enough Chinese words. In any case, you would have to deny it by comparing me with the Chinese, and asserting that I'm not "Chinese enough" according to some yardstick.

Similarly, I deny that there are Taino in the world today. If I accepted that, I would also have to accept that there are Etruscans, Tasmanians, Neandertals, and even dinosaurs in the world today. That possibility is too ridiculous for me to ponder, so I choose not to.

Vincent said...

Clearly those who cherish the notion of racial purity are willing to jump through some very convoluted hoops to justify their viewpoints, as Dienekes does here.

The idea that bright, clear lines define the boundaries between ethnic groups is an anachronistic one. If the advancement of population genetics has taught us anything, it is this.

Apparently, some people have tied up their self-worth in this notion of group identity to the extreme extent that they must go out of their way to deny other people a similar claim to THEIR group identity.

Without doubt, the Taino have evolved since pre-Columbian times. That evolution has affected their genetic, linguistic, and cultural make-up. Debates about whether modern Taino people are "enough" Taino to deserve that name are surely colorful, but they clearly aren't scientific since the underlying concept of racial or ethnic groups is - itself- unscientific.

Dienekes said...

Debates about whether modern Taino people are "enough" Taino

There has to be a standard of "enough".

Otherwise, anyone can assert any identity.

If anyone can assert any identity, then the concept of identity itself is rendered meaningless. If any of the 7 billion people in the world can assert any of the few thousand identities in existence, then what does it mean that "X is Y"? Nothing.

Clearly those who cherish the notion of racial purity are willing to jump through some very convoluted hoops to justify their viewpoints, as Dienekes does here.

Clearly those who don't have an argument are quick to employ rhetoric tricks.

Vincent said...

If anyone can assert any identity, then the concept of identity itself is rendered meaningless.

Indeed, you are getting close.

I would not go so far as to say that the concept of cultural identity is "meaningless" in all ways, but it clearly does not have - and never has had - any scientific meaning.

The boundary between "Taino" and "Puerto Rican" is indeed arbitrary: it is whatever people agree that it is.

While we might all agree that you are not Chinese, I am happy to suggest that you are no more similar to Greeks from 1492 than modern Taino are to the Taino of 1492. Where would you turn for proof otherwise?

Dienekes said...

While we might all agree that you are not Chinese, I am happy to suggest that you are no more similar to Greeks from 1492 than modern Taino are to the Taino of 1492. Where would you turn for proof otherwise?

Your suggestion would be wrong. I speak Greek for one thing, the modern "Taino" do not speak Taino.

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tnq

Taino
An extinct language of Bahamas

ISO 639-3: tnq
Population Extinct.

For another, I practice the same religion that Greeks practiced in 1492. The Taino do not.

For another, the Taino are 85% descended from non-Taino ancestors. Nothing even approaching that number can be argued for the modern Greek population in comparison to the 1492-era Greek population.

In short, as usual, you are wrong.

Annie Mouse said...

There are folk in the small islands of the Caribbean who are still largely Carib.

Admitting Arawak/Taino or Carib blood in the past was a social problem as all kids were taught in schools they were cannibals.

But when you travel though the area you can see it in body types and facial structures. In a few cases even retained culture.

Onur said...

For another, I practice the same religion that Greeks practiced in 1492. The Taino do not.

For another, the Taino are 85% descended from non-Taino ancestors. Nothing even approaching that number can be argued for the modern Greek population in comparison to the 1492-era Greek population.


All of those who call themselves Taino today are not even Taino but Taino wannabe hobbyists. They are as Taino as neopagans are original pagans. Real Taino are long-extinct.

apostateimpressions said...

Modern PC society abstracts as much as possible from notions of identity so as to be "inclusive" and so that anyone can take on or have any ethnicity. There is a very recent tendency to think or to pretend that "morality" somehow requires that. PC tends to "justify" its agenda in terms of an ultra-nationalist bogey man, either historical or present. But the fact is that *normal* and well-adjusted people of the recent past did not think PC.

Anthropology however does not seek to abstract from or to ignore the differences between peoples. On the contrary, and of its very nature, anthropology seeks rather to understand historical peoples according to their determinate qualities. Thus the art of PC and the science of anthropology are radically opposed in their methods. The anthropological method is necessarily free of PC "moral" demands and it sacrifices its theoretical integrity with the slightest concession.

We need to separate the "moral" and the scientific aspects of the present dispute. Do we question whether mestizos have the *right* to call themselves Taino or do we allude to whether it is theoretically *correct* to call them Taino? Dienekes has argued well to the theoretical point that the change has been too radical to identify the two groups in any meaningful or sensible way. It is totally anachronistic to transfer modern PC notions of multiculturalism and multiethnicism to the Taino. They were indisputably far more homogenous than multicultural inner cities today. Taino were a particular breed that is now long gone by any commonsensical estimation.

So: how do we define "extinct"? Likely the term is ambiguous and protagonists will argue about the meaning. Some protagonists however will more or less openly use the debate to further some PC agenda.

For "all must submit to PC" -- or they are "evil", "wicked" etc. And this they assert with an arbitrary air of "correctness". They are "good" and "better" people than the non-PC. They have the right to publicly accuse and berate the non-PC and even to destroy their careers and their lives. They are the "righteous" and the world belongs to them.

Schopenhauer argues that we all have an instinct to be "better" in some regard, however *psychological* or fabricated because it gives us some advantage in the struggle for survival. Arguably "morality" is an instinctive delusion that serves a group or an individual better or worse. So we are justified in asking: "who does PC serve?" if we are to understand its nature. And we can ask: does it suit me and those for whom I am responsible?

But let us not pretend that there is some objective "moral" truth that all must submit to -- as if there is some legislator hidden somewhere. That would be *medieval*. Science and its devotees should be above that sort of thing. All that is happening is the survival of the fittest and the evolution of the species -- everything else is a psychological drama, as Shakespeare alludes to the end of Macbeth.


She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Vincent said...

Dienekes, clearly it would be foolish to argue that the Greek language is unevolved since 1492. Since you are no fool, then perhaps we should just agree that merely using the same word ("Greek") to refer to different languages is only a subterfuge? Certainly those familiar with the history of the Greek language will see it that way.

In any event, the question was "where would you turn for proof"? If you are claiming unchanging Greek genetics or language, then how would you support such an absurd claim?

You and I both know it can't be done, because your claim isn't true.

Amanda S said...

This thoughtful article by writer Richard Flanagan from 2002 about a similar issue in relation to the identity of Tasmanian Aborigines sets out the issues well and in all their complexity.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/10/16/1034561211169.html

One of the key paragraphs reads:

It was a strangely pervasive and persuasive view which held until as late as the 1970s when prominent archaeologists would still talk of "the declining technological base of the extinct Tasmanian Aborigines". While this debate went on, descendants of Tasmanian Aborigines battled a bizarre and most Tasmanian of fates: while some were discriminated against as black people, being subjected to different laws, forced until the 1940s to live in special areas, and until the 1970s subjected to a policy of assimilation that could see their children being taken away from them, they would be reviled if they called for equal rights as Aborigines, being told Tasmanian Aborigines didn't exist.

Dienekes said...

Dienekes, clearly it would be foolish to argue that the Greek language is unevolved since 1492. Since you are no fool, then perhaps we should just agree that merely using the same word ("Greek") to refer to different languages is only a subterfuge? Certainly those familiar with the history of the Greek language will see it that way.

The Greek of 1492 is perfectly intelligible to a modern Greek. It may have lacked a few words added since, and had some different words, but it is indubitably Greek.

Taino is an extinct language
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tnq

In any event, the question was "where would you turn for proof"? If you are claiming unchanging Greek genetics or language, then how would you support such an absurd claim?

Enough with the red herrings please. You made the ridiculous claim that you were "happy to suggest that you are no more similar to Greeks from 1492 than modern Taino are to the Taino of 1492."

Your claim is wrong. I speak Greek, they don't speak Taino. The ancestors of present-day Puerto-Ricans are 85% non-Taino, mine are almost certainly derived from Greek speakers of 1492, and certainly nothing near 85% non-Greek, unless you are willing to argue either that

1. I am the exception

or

2. That there has been an 85% admixture in Greeks in the last 500 years, which would render your self-assured notions about inferring patterns in Y-chromosome haplogroups from modern populations across ten times that timespan particularly inconsistent.

Belenos said...

This is an interesting debate. Regarding the Taino, I am no expert on Puerto Rico, but I have very little doubt that today's Taino are largely descended (genetically speaking) from non-Taino. However, the same could be said of various peoples who retain the names of people they are only partially descended from and whose language they no longer speak, for example the French, English Romanies or the Russians.

The key to whether these people should be recognised by outsiders as Taino, is for me cultural continuity. If they, or part of their ancestry group, have continuously considered themselves to be Taino since the conquest, then it is correct to consider them to be Taino. If, however, they ceased to do this, then even if they call themselves Taino today, they are not the same people as the Taino of history

As for the cheap shot at the Macedonians, they evidently are Macedonian because they live in Macedonia and speak the Macedonian Language. They do not claim to be the same people as the ancient Macedonians (except for the loons that you find on the fringes of most cultures), but a group partially descended from them. This is an excellent blog, but I wish you wouldn't let it down with the occasional

Dienekes said...

As for the cheap shot at the Macedonians, they evidently are Macedonian because they live in Macedonia

They do not, they live in ancient Paionia mainly. A small part of their country intersects ancient Macedonia.

and speak the Macedonian Language.

They do not. They have named their language "Macedonian" even though it is unrelated to ancient Macedonian. If Englishmen decided to rename their language Pictish (i.e., a different language spoken in a different land), would you say that they spoke Pictish?

They do not claim to be the same people as the ancient Macedonians (except for the loons that you find on the fringes of most cultures), but a group partially descended from them.

They do claim that they are the true Macedonians and modern Greek Macedonians are not. They speak of a "Macedonian minority" in Greece, which implies an exclusive claim to the ethnonym "Macedonian". They define "Macedonian" as something non-Greek, and they always stress how the ancient Macedonians were not Greek. In that they are proving themselves to be non-Macedonians, since the ancient Macedonians, contrary to the modern "Macedonians" strongly asserted their Hellenicity.

Amanda S said...

I've been reading and learning about the tri-racial groups such as Lumbees and Melungeons in the US recently. I wonder if for some of the mixed race groups, whose sense of separateness is tied to an historical experience of discrimination and exclusion from mainstream "white" society, whether the current re-thinking of their identities isn't just another stage in their histories which could well end in full assimilation at some time in the future.

My understanding is that, in the past, Melungeons have tended to prefer exotic tales of Portuguese and Turkish ancestry rather than face up to the social taint of African ancestry but that this is now changing. People are learning that their own history is interesting in its own right.

In any case, genetic testing is showing that a large proportion of "white" people with colonial American ancestry have at least a small amount of African and Native American ancestry so the re-thinking of ideas of origins and racial purity is not just confined to these relatively small groups.

The Lumbees have got themselves recognised as a Native American tribe in North Carolina but not federally and one of the groups opposing them are the Eastern Band Cherokees (who are recognised federally).

Onur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Onur said...

Vincent's statements regarding Greeks are wrong. I agree with Dienekes on that issue.

The key to whether these people should be recognised by outsiders as Taino, is for me cultural continuity. If they, or part of their ancestry group, have continuously considered themselves to be Taino since the conquest, then it is correct to consider them to be Taino. If, however, they ceased to do this, then even if they call themselves Taino today, they are not the same people as the Taino of history

Which is exactly my point. There is no evidence that any one of the ancestral lines of people who call themselves Taino today has carried the Taino identity continuously down to the present. The Taino identity disappeared from the record not much after the Spanish colonization and was only "revived" during the last few decades. So there is no unbroken chain of Taino identity down to the present. Taino are extinct as a group, and all of people who call themselves Taino today are not Taino but Taino wannabes.

Vincent said...

Enough with the red herrings please. You made the ridiculous claim that you were "happy to suggest that you are no more similar to Greeks from 1492 than modern Taino are to the Taino of 1492."

Dienekes,

It's not a red herring: it is the crux of the matter. If your position is correct, if ethnic groups are tidy boxes which people are unambiguously either inside of or outside of, then it should be a trivial undertaking to define the boundaries of those boxes.

According to you, it seems, deciding whether someone is Greek or not-Greek should be extremely easy. Deciding whether someone is Chinese or not-Chinese should be extremely easy. Deciding whether someone is Taino or not-Taino should be extremely easy. You've certainly been quick to pronounce on these things in this blog.

Of course it is easy for YOU to make unsubstantiated pronouncements about your view on these matters, but such pronouncements are decidedly unscientific unless the PROCESS by which those decisions are made is transparent and objective.

My point is that such decisions are neither. The boundaries between ethnic groups are not clear and objective, but rather are arbitrary and subjective. They are noisy, multi-variate, constantly shifting, and context-dependent.

I challenge you to "prove" the similarity between modern Greeks and ancient Greeks not because I harbor a hope that you will adopt a more sophisticated view of ethnic identity, but because I hope your inability to make that proof will illustrate the absurdity of the racist world view.

J said...

The Taino issue is similar to many different groups all over the world that claim Jewish identity and demand to be admitted in Israel as full Jews. In China, mostly in the ancient capital of Kaifeng, there is minority called Jewish-descendants, who have forgotten everything related to Judaism and have mixed with the natives (they look Chinese) but are now trying to reclaim their heritage. Israel refuses to recognize them as Jews. On the other hand, there is large Ethiopian ethnic called Falasha who are Ethiopian Christians converted in the 13th century and have been persecuted for Jews and persisted many centuries. This minority was in danger during the last war there and Israel decided to save them and they are now all in Israel as full Jews and citizens.

My opinion is that the people wishing to be Taino and learning the Taino language and trying to revive the disappeared Taino nationality, well, they should be allowed to call themselves Taino and if they persist, they would have earned their right to be called Taino. Let them call themselves what they want, they will be Taino as the Kaifeng Jews are Jews, and the Mallorca Chuetas are Jew, and Texan Marranos are Jews. In our world of fluid indentitites, Taino is a question of self-identification.

German Dziebel said...

Christ is dead - this doesn't make modern Christians inauthentic. Quite the opposite. Should they refrain from using the name Christ and believing in his return just because Christ himself is "extinct" and they don't share either genes or language with him? Try to tell them "Christ is dead, now go home."

Modern Americans: does the science of genetics obligate all Americans of British descent to call themselves "British"? No. They are perfectly sane by calling themselves whatever they want - in this case "Americans," although their language is perfectly intelligible with British English and their genes are mostly British.

Should ancient Hebrews be classified as extinct? Their language was "extinct" until recently, but not anymore. Modern Jews is a mix of different lineages, with only a small portion traceable to the Palestine. But Jewish identity is continuous with ancient Hebrews.

There are different types of ethnic identities: some of them are akin to religious cults ("Taino"), other are fused with religion ("Jews"), others to natural classifications (Dienekes's "Greeks"), still others to commercial brands ("Americans"). This is normal. To use science to suppress this typological diversification of cultural forms of identification is like trying to keep wolves in a dog's kennel.

This is the case when positivist science is just too blunt of a tool when it comes to applying itself to culture. "Fact" and "fiction" are closely connected, linguistically and culturally: the first is derived from facere 'to do, to make', the second from fingere 'to make, to shape'. Luckily, scientists are becoming more intelligent, more anthropological, more anthropomorhic. And in no way more timorous.

Onur said...

My opinion is that the people wishing to be Taino and learning the Taino language and trying to revive the disappeared Taino nationality, well, they should be allowed to call themselves Taino and if they persist, they would have earned their right to be called Taino.

But they have no right to distort the past by talking about an unbroken chain of Taino identity down to the present, which is incorrect.

TruthPlease said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fanty said...

It reminds also to Neo-Paganism.
People who claim faith in Norse gods.

The "Norse Religion" went extinct many centuries ago and actually, did not leave enough knowledge to fully reconstruct/understand it.

Still, like 150 years ago, Neo-Pagans popped up from nowhere and claimed they re-new "Norse Religion". With only a glimpse of knowlede of the real thing, mixed with 80% modern Fantasy about it.

They are just "Wanna be´s" in my eyes too.

Onur said...

My point is that such decisions are neither. The boundaries between ethnic groups are not clear and objective, but rather are arbitrary and subjective. They are noisy, multi-variate, constantly shifting, and context-dependent.

Dienekes does not talk about unchanging entities with clear boundaries when talking about ethnic groups. You are ascribing to him ideas that he does not support. But when you consider the level of genetic continuity/discontinuity in Greeks within the last 500 years similar to the level of genetic continuity/discontinuity in Taino within the last 500 years, you sound ridiculous. Taino do not even exist today (people who claim to be Taino today are all fake) and their modern genetic descendants are genetically all mostly non-Taino and even non-Native American.

pconroy said...

@German,

But American is not an ethnicity, it is a Nationality.

It seems that the neo-Taino peole see themselves as some sort of ethnicity, when they are probably as Taino as African-Americans are British.

Annie Mouse said...

Puerto Rico is not the Caribbean. It is not even a typical Caribbean country, if such a thing exists. Techically it is not even a country. I dont think we can project results in Puerto Rico to the French isles, the Dutch, English or even the Spanish isles. Cuba and the Dominican Republic had very different histories from Puerto Rico. Compare also Hispaniola where the Haitian/Dominican Republic border is clearly visible from the air, and clearly visible in the faces of the people.

Arawaks were present in all the isles at some stage (although decimated by the Caribs according to the history books).

I look forward to the genetic analysis of the rest of the Caribbean which I think will be fascinating.

If I were to guess I would expect most the Caribbean to be dominated by the African/European mix with a consistent Native underlayer and large spikes of native blood (most probably Carib, but who knows) in the small islands.

I suspect that a lot of the "asian/native" African Americans carry is from the Caribbean.

For generations the Englsih considered themselves effectively a Saxon/Norman mix. This turned out to be a complete load of rubbish, a historians gross distortion.

I look forward to the truths that will be reealed by the analysis of ALL of the very different Caribbean nations.

Onur said...

Still, like 150 years ago, Neo-Pagans popped up from nowhere and claimed they re-new "Norse Religion". With only a glimpse of knowlede of the real thing, mixed with 80% modern Fantasy about it.

Well, at least most of neopagans are honest in acknowledging the fact that the original pagan religions went extinct and there is no unbroken link between the original pagan religions and the neopagan religions. In contrast, most modern Taino wannabes pretend as if there is an unbroken continuity of the Taino identity down to the present.

German Dziebel said...

@pconroy

"But American is not an ethnicity, it is a Nationality."

I wouldn't draw a sharp distinction between the two. Under the melting pot national ideology, American is (was) an ethnicity (the Jew Issur Danielovitch became the American Kirk Douglas), under the multiculturalist ideology it's a nationality. But if you ask any New Englander of English descent, if he's British or American, he'll say American and not British and not both. In the 19th-early 20th century there was also an interesting nativist movement in the U.S., whereby white Americans claimed Amerindian identities to give credibility to the nascent American identity and differentiate themselves from the British/European heritage. And not coincidentally, Tea Party involved dressing up as Mohawks in a symbolic revolt against British cultural authority.

TruthPlease said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vincent said...

But when you consider the level of genetic continuity/discontinuity in Greeks within the last 500 years similar to the level of genetic continuity/discontinuity in Taino within the last 500 years, you sound ridiculous.

On the contrary, it is the mental gymnastics one must undertake to justify this the myth of distinct boundaries between ethnic groups which comes across as ridiculous.

What makes modern Taino "fake" but modern Greeks "authentic"?

More precisely, how do you propose to quantify "genetic discontinuity", and at what value of "discontinuity" does the diagnosis shift from one of sameness to one of difference?

If you are so confident that the answers are easy, then you should have no trouble providing the formula for measuring it. But if your reply boils down to a seat-of-the pants "I'll know it when I see it" response, then there will no longer be any doubt that the allegation that "people who claim to be Taino today are all fake" is but so much hot air.

Dienekes said...

Apparently, Vincent thinks that because admixture can range from anything between 0.00001% to 99.99999%, we cannot make statements about coninuity or discontinuity of occupation. He thinks that an 80-85% replacement of the population cannot be called "discontinuity" Apparently he thinks that such a measure of discontinuity across a small timespan of a few centuries, accompanied with a shift in language, culture, and religion can be called "continuity". Perhaps he thinks that walking up a gentle hill and climbing a rock face do not deserve different names because they both entail moving _some_ distance at _some_ rate upwards.

This train of thought does no service to native peoples, because it belittles what happened to them. Beyond a certain point, a quantitative difference becomes qualitative and deserves to be acknowledged as such. If someone tore apart 90% of the Mona Lisa and spray painted much of the rest, we would not say that the Mona Lisa had survived.

Onur said...

On the contrary, it is the mental gymnastics one must undertake to justify this the myth of distinct boundaries between ethnic groups which comes across as ridiculous.

What makes modern Taino "fake" but modern Greeks "authentic"?

More precisely, how do you propose to quantify "genetic discontinuity", and at what value of "discontinuity" does the diagnosis shift from one of sameness to one of difference?

If you are so confident that the answers are easy, then you should have no trouble providing the formula for measuring it. But if your reply boils down to a seat-of-the pants "I'll know it when I see it" response, then there will no longer be any doubt that the allegation that "people who claim to be Taino today are all fake" is but so much hot air.


In the case of Taino, the genetic discontinuities are only part of the issue. There is also the fact that the Taino identity disappeared soon after the Spanish colonization. It only reappeared when a group of Puerto Ricans (either in Puerto Rico or in the diaspora) chose to adopt that identity a few decades ago. This is clearly a modern nativist movement that is very recent and ideological rather than traditional and old.

As for Greeks, the stark difference of the quantity of their past 500 genetic continuity from that of Taino is obvious. You must be blind not to see that.

Amanda S said...

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that five hundred years into the future, there is a United Europe, with English as its common language. Further suppose, that in a province of that United Europe, say Finland, the population's gene pool is composed of 10% current Finnish DNA and 90% other European/non-European DNA. Would we be justified in saying that the Finns were extinct?

If Finland is a province in a United Europe it would be likely that the people that lived there would think of themselves as Finns regardless of their ethnic origins.

On the other hand it might be that in the process of ethnic transformation that the country of Finland would be renamed. It really depends on some quite contingent aspects of history as to who feels assimilated by whom.

It seems that the context for assertions of Taino identity in Puerto Rico and amongst its diaspora is US federal law as it relates to the recognition of Native American tribal groups and the sorts of rights gained through recognition. So ultimately there might be some sort of legal process through which these issues are debated.

Vincent said...

Apparently, Vincent thinks that because admixture can range . . . .

Admixture is not a measure of genetic continuity. If that is the only way you think of to quantify genetic continuity, then you are clearly running on fumes.

In any event, bringing admixture into the picture is clearly a case of begging the question: admixture can only be estimated once the "source" or parent populations are identified. If you are trying to define the boundaries of populations using admixture percentages, you quite obviously have a circularity problem.

Further, the idea of un-admixed parental populations is - itself- a fantasy.

And even if we conceded that admixture percentage is the right quantifier of continuity, you still have to define the boundary between "continuous" and "discontinuous" if you are going to use it to illegitimize the ethnic identity of certain groups. If 85% admixture is too much, then how much is "just right"?

apostateimpressions said...

The Greeks have very strong genetic and cultural continuity dating back to antiquity. The modern Greek language is continuous with ancient Greek. Cypriot is closer to classical Greek than to modern Greek.

The Greeks have a very clear ethnic and national identity as an unified ethnic group that shares the same ancestors and the same cultural legacy going back thousands of years. As such the Greeks are very lucky to have an ethnic homeland for their own folk. No price can be put on such a national blessing.

The Greeks should do all in their power to preserve the integrity of their ethnic homeland for future generations of Greeks. That means that they will need to severely limit immigration into Greece and to return recent groups to their own homelands. The good of the nation comes first in any commonsensical and ethical estimation. The Greeks of modern Greece have never been a wandering tribe; they are a very settled people and other peoples should respect the settled nature of Greece and not impose upon them.

It has been a shock to see the integrity of Greece attacked on this thread. It seems that PC warriors are zealous to totally deconstruct ethnicities and nations, which technically amounts to genocide: the destruction of an ethnic group. And it is ironic that they use a long gone ethnic group like the Taino to make their case. They make it plain that their intent is the deconstruction of all ethnicities and nations.

Jim said...

"But if you ask any New Englander of English descent, if he's British or American, he'll say American and not British and not both."

Wrong, German. First off, British is not an ethnnic identity. It is a recently invented poltical identity - recent in British terms. My mother's family came to Massachussetts in the 1630s from Nottinghamshire. We still think of ourselves as englsih - suet puddings and all - and not British of course because that political or cultural identity did not exist when we left. The same holds for the Irish side of my family. I am the fifth generation to be born in the US and we still think of ourselves as Irish. No one has spoken Irish for at least that long and even in Ireland the Wexford side of the family hadn't spoken Irish in many generations (and in fact had only adopted it around 1000 CE after we dropped Norse). Of course we think of ourselves as American because the Irish and English are ethnic identities to us and American is not, any more than Catholic is.

There are indeed Americans descended from migrmnats form various areas in the british isles who claim only American identity. That's their choice. But not ours.

German Dziebel said...

@Jim

"First off, British is not an ethnnic identity. It is a recently invented poltical identity - recent in British terms. My mother's family came to Massachussetts in the 1630s from Nottinghamshire. We still think of ourselves as englsih..."

Yes, I agree that "English" is a more accurate way to refer to the ethnicity in question. It was a typo on my end. It's good to know that your family is faithful to your English heritage. But I'm not sure I'd compare your American identity to a religious identity. I'd rather consider your family's past due adherence to suet puddings as having religious undertones. In this case, your English identity after 5 generations of living in the U.S. is as much an "invented identity" as the Taino identity. Your family is an exception when it comes to maintaining such faithfulness to Mother England. But you're surely welcome to handle your identities the way you want.

My wife's mother's line are descendants of the first Mayflower settlers (to the extent their family historian could ascertain this fact), and this is what defines their ethnic identity as Americans, not their ultimately English ancestry. This is a typical American story.

Onur said...

Apparently he thinks that such a measure of discontinuity across a small timespan of a few centuries, accompanied with a shift in language, culture, and religion can be called "continuity".

Worse still, also in ethnic/group identity.

It seems that the context for assertions of Taino identity in Puerto Rico and amongst its diaspora is US federal law as it relates to the recognition of Native American tribal groups and the sorts of rights gained through recognition.

There are material benefits to them if they are officially recognized as Taino. This seems to be one of the primary reasons behind the assertions of Taino identity.

Lastly, a minor typing error correction:

As for Greeks, the stark difference of the quantity of their past 500-year genetic continuity from that of Taino is obvious. You must be blind not to see that.

Amanda S said...

We still think of ourselves as englsih - suet puddings and all - and not British of course because that political or cultural identity did not exist when we left.

Jim, your family might think of their identity this way (and it might not be unusual in New England) but it's not typical for Americans as this map shows.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.svg

The map shows what Americans have to say about their ancestry according to the 2000 US census. Admittedly the map can be difficult to interpret. There was no European American category for people who want to indicate mixed European origins to choose. But then people in that group could always choose the "American" category. The only parts of America where the majority think that they have English ancestry are the northern parts of New England and in the state of Utah and its surrounding areas which is dominated by Mormons who know their genealogies very well.

The Southern states outside of the areas where African Americans form a majority overwhelmingly chose the "American" option and the majority of people in Midwest and West (apart from Mexican and Native American dominated areas) chose the German option. Infact overall German ancestry was the most common county designation.

I wouldn't want to minimise the significance of German immigration to the United States but I'm quite sure that many of people choosing the German option have actually mixed European ancestry with a considerable proportion of it coming from England.

I just bring this up to show how much a matter of choice and perception it is as to how people of mixed origins choose to think about themselves.

Onur said...

In this case, your English identity after 5 generations of living in the U.S. is as much an "invented identity" as the Taino identity.

If their English identity is continuous since their arrival to the New World, then it is surely far from being as much invented as the "Taino" identity of the Taino wannabes.

Onur said...

The Greeks have very strong genetic and cultural continuity dating back to antiquity. The modern Greek language is continuous with ancient Greek. Cypriot is closer to classical Greek than to modern Greek.

The Greeks have a very clear ethnic and national identity as an unified ethnic group that shares the same ancestors and the same cultural legacy going back thousands of years. As such the Greeks are very lucky to have an ethnic homeland for their own folk. No price can be put on such a national blessing.


The Greek language reached its maximum geographical extent as the major spoken language of an area during the Byzantine era, as during the Byzantine era most of Anatolia switched to Greek with the spread of the Orthodox Christianity. But with the Turkic conquest of Anatolia and the concomitant end of the expansion of the Byzantine Empire, Greek lost its quality of being a spreading language and over the following centuries gradually lost many of its speakers to the Turkish language with the spread of Turkish and Islam after the Greek-speaking territories were one by one incorporated to the dominions of Muslim Turkish-speaking rulers first in Anatolia except its northeast portion, later in the Balkans and finally in northeast Anatolia and in the Greek-speaking islands (including Cyprus).

As for the Greek identity, it was a weak identity during the Byzantine and Islamic eras and instead of it the Roman identity was strongly preferred (likely because the Roman identity had become much more connected with Christianity than the Greek identity was). The Greek identity became strong only after the birth of the Greek nationalism during the early 19th century and the Greek independence that followed it.

Lastly, you should have written "Cypriot Greek is closer to Classical Greek than Modern Greek is" instead of "Cypriot Greek is closer to Classical Greek than to Modern Greek", which is wrong.

The Greeks should do all in their power to preserve the integrity of their ethnic homeland for future generations of Greeks. That means that they will need to severely limit immigration into Greece and to return recent groups to their own homelands. The good of the nation comes first in any commonsensical and ethical estimation. The Greeks of modern Greece have never been a wandering tribe; they are a very settled people and other peoples should respect the settled nature of Greece and not impose upon them.

The Greek homelands include territories outside the boundaries of the modern republics of Greece and Cyprus (e.g., most of the territories of the modern republic of Turkey). For instance, the territories of modern Greece is not the homeland for a Pontic Greek, most of northern Anatolia is.

It has been a shock to see the integrity of Greece attacked on this thread. It seems that PC warriors are zealous to totally deconstruct ethnicities and nations, which technically amounts to genocide: the destruction of an ethnic group. And it is ironic that they use a long gone ethnic group like the Taino to make their case. They make it plain that their intent is the deconstruction of all ethnicities and nations.

Vincent's and Brandon Li's arguments are very nonsensical and clearly smack of PC.

Vincent said...

If their English identity is continuous since their arrival to the New World, then it is surely far from being as much invented as the "Taino" identity of the Taino wannabes.

Are you now suggesting that people can legitimately call themselves whatever they want as long as they do it consistently?

In other words, a family that has for five generations considered itself to be "English" can do so legitimately, even if the family actually came from Germany?

What if this family considered itself to be German for three generations and it was only the fourth generation that considered itself to be English. Has the fifth generation lost its right to consider itself to be German?

The idea that "continuity of assertion" should carry that much weight, and that the actual facts carry none, would appear to be the result of putting a priority on legend over truth.

Onur said...

Vincent, you sound more and more silly with your odd and ridiculous examples. This will be my last reply to you and I am going to ignore you from now on.

Vincent said...

Vincent's and Brandon Li's arguments are very nonsensical and clearly smack of PC.

Onur,

So far, the only defense against my challenges that I've seen you offer has been name calling. Have you no substantial response?

Any allegation that my argument is motivated by "political correctness" could not be more untrue.

If you want to suggest that modern Taino are "wannabes", the politically correct argument is that you shouldn't do so because it might offend the Taino. That is not my argument.

My argument, rather, is that the suggestion is unscientific: based on subjective and arbitrary rules, not on objective and transparent criteria. I am confident in my argument because so far, despite having repeatedly asked for an explanation of the reason and logic behind your suggestion, no such criteria have been provided.

Dienekes said...

My argument, rather, is that the suggestion is unscientific: based on subjective and arbitrary rules, not on objective and transparent criteria. I am confident in my argument because so far, despite having repeatedly asked for an explanation of the reason and logic behind your suggestion, no such criteria have been provided.

You are asking for "objective and transparent criteria" and yet at the same time you accept the entirely subjective claim of the people who assert that they are Taino, speaking about the "evolution of the Taino" or the "modern Taino".

So, the truth is that you are not interested in objectivity. You are perfectly willing to accept the subjective claim of some people that they are Taino, in the absence of any objective criterion validating that claim.

My claim that they are not Taino is based on objective facts: 85-90% foreign admixture, change of language, to name a couple. These criteria may not be "set in stone", but they are a good approximation.

Most people would agree that there are no Sumerians or Etruscans in the world today; if you accept that the name Taino should be applied to a modern group, you could very well assert that there are Etruscans or Sumerians, if any Tuscans or Iraqis decided to resurrect that ethnic identity. If you think it's a good idea to use the same name for different entities, then that's your prerogative, but it's hardly good practice.

German Dziebel said...

@Onur

"If their English identity is continuous since their arrival to the New World, then it is surely far from being as much invented as the "Taino" identity of the Taino wannabes."

Wrong. It takes just as much conscious "effort" to maintain an old identity in the midst of a population that shifted to a new identity, as it takes to adopt an alternative identity. There's no substantial difference between "wannabes" and non-wannabes, both are part of a mutually dependent network of modern identities.

Dienekes said...

The obsession with "identities" is a modern-fad. An ethnic group is not the result of professing a particular identity, but of objective facts of biology and/or culture. Professing a particular identity is often the glue that helps a particular biocultural package's persistence through time, but is by no means necessary.

The inhabitants of an island in the Caribbean may not have had any notion that they belonged to a Taino ethnic group, or any other. They may have identified with their village or their family unit. But, this did not in any way mean that their non-assertion of a Taino "identity" meant that they were not Taino.

The name is not the named entity.

Vincent said...

You are asking for "objective and transparent criteria" and yet at the same time you accept the entirely subjective claim of the people who assert that they are Taino, speaking about the "evolution of the Taino" or the "modern Taino".

My position is that ethnic groups are NOT defined by "objective and transparent criteria": I am asking for people (e.g. you and Onur) who claim such object criteria exist to point them out. The fact that you can't illustrates the weakness of your claim.

As for "people who assert that they are Taino", I respond to that assertion as I would to most any assertion based on arbitrary and subjctive criteria: disinterest. If some people consider themselves to be Taino, or think that Justin Bieber is a talented singer, or like Greek films, then I say "fine". I may agree or disagree, but basically I don't care much what opinions others hold about things that don't affect me.

My interest kicks in, however, when people couch their opinions as being something more than just opinions. I value science and the scientific process, and when I see people start to couch their racism or political agendas in the flag of science then I am more than happy to take time out to illustrate just how illegitimate such assertions are.

Onur said...

Wrong. It takes just as much conscious "effort" to maintain an old identity in the midst of a population that shifted to a new identity, as it takes to adopt an alternative identity. There's no substantial difference between "wannabes" and non-wannabes, both are part of a mutually dependent network of modern identities.

German, the best analogies for the case of pseudo-Taino are the ones Dienekes made: Tuscans deciding to "resurrect" the Etruscan identity and Iraqis deciding to "resurrect" the Sumerian identity. Jim's case is different in that his family has preserved the ethnic identity they had all along, while pseudo-Taino are fancifully trying to "resurrect" a long extinct ethnic identity and rewriting their past history accordingly, i.e., distorting their past.

German Dziebel said...

@Dienekes

"An ethnic group is not the result of professing a particular identity, but of objective facts of biology and/or culture."

Wrong. An ethnic group is all about identity. If you prefer to talk about a non-relational social category, use the terms "population" or "language." But then you end up with abstract categories that aren't tied to human action.

"The name is not the named entity."

So, the Taino name is up for grabs. And the Taino entity can't go extinct as it never existed in the first place.

Amanda S said...

Most people would agree that there are no Sumerians or Etruscans in the world today; if you accept that the name Taino should be applied to a modern group, you could very well assert that there are Etruscans or Sumerians, if any Tuscans or Iraqis decided to resurrect that ethnic identity.

But then of course that's precisely what's happened in relation to the modern people who call themselves Assyrian. There's no reason to believe that modern northern Iraqi Christians are any more (or less) connected to the ancient Assyrians than their Moslem (but non Kurdish) neighbours. However as long as the Moslem neighbours don't really care too much about the pre Islamic past and aren't too bothered by the snaffling of this heritage by one ethnic group, it doesn't matter too much. In this sense it's different from the Macedonian / Greek dispute.

When I meet people who tell me that they're Assyrians, I don't bother telling them that they don't exist because they plainly do exist. The label is now attached to a modern ethnic/religious group. It's just that there is clearly a significant discontinuity between the modern and the ancient Assyrians.

Dienekes said...

My position is that ethnic groups are NOT defined by "objective and transparent criteria": I am asking for people (e.g. you and Onur) who claim such object criteria exist to point them out. The fact that you can't illustrates the weakness of your claim.

No, it serves to illustrate that you don't want to acknowledge that the fact that categories may be continuous does not prevent humans from naming them.

Do you call the color of the DIENEKES in my banner red or not? It's not a pure red, it has about 10% blue admixture. But, most people would call it red, I think. It may not be very clear at what point a red/blue balance shifts from "red" to "blue", and different people would call different hues by different names. But, if anyone wanted to call a 10% blue hue "blue" instead of "red", they'd better have their eyes (or brain) checked.

Similarly, anyone who claims that a 10% genetically Taino, and Spanish-speaking individual should be called simply "Taino" should have the same checked. Or, they are free to live in a world where hues are not named or acknowledged, but that is not the normal human world where people talk about "hills and mountains", or "red and blue", or "tall and short", or "blond and brown" or any other types of categories that don't have hard boundaries between them.

German Dziebel said...

@Onur

"the best analogies for the case of pseudo-Taino are the ones Dienekes made: Tuscans deciding to "resurrect" the Etruscan identity and Iraqis deciding to "resurrect" the Sumerian identity. Jim's case is different in that his family has preserved the ethnic identity they had all along, while pseudo-Taino are fancifully trying to "resurrect" a long extinct ethnic identity and rewriting their past history accordingly, i.e., distorting their past."

Onur, yours is an outsider's view. In reality I'm sure it's more complicated than this. One of the projects I was running while at Stanford was an in-depth study of Europeans who reenact traditional American Indian cultures. Trust me it's a normal cultural process, not inferior in any way to any other one. The very same American Indians used to dress up to look like the animals they killed and to perform their "totemic" dances. Now, someone else is recreating them. Until recently, John Hawks's website sported his own image as a Neanderthal. (And the very word "Neanderthal" goes back to the name of a guy, Joachim Neander, who was was so fascinated with Greek antiquities that he changed his German name Neumann to its Greek calque.) And not surprisingly Hawks keeps arguing that modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and other archaics. People do it all the time to express their identity, especially if they try to express a minority agenda. Now that John Hawks is not the only one who believes humans mixed with archaics he took that image of himself down. The more "Tainos", "Etruscans" and "Sumerians" are out there, the quicker these identities will disappear. But there's always some "truth" or at least a plausible claim behind an "invented" identity.

Amanda S said...

Dienekes, you seem to be insisting that biological kinship is the only genuine form of identity. This is clearly not true. Identity is about belonging; which groups accept us and which don't and how those groups conceive themselves.

As someone who grew up adopted, I don't accept someone telling me that my affiliation with my adoptive family is meaningless.

At the same time I agree with you that identity based on biological kinship is important (and a matter of verifiable truth) which is why I strongly oppose anonymous "donor" gamete programs and believe that people who are adopted or born through fertility programs should (as far as possible) never have the identity of their biological kin hidden from them or vice versa.

You asked earlier on this thread whether you could just proclaim yourself Chinese and whether that would have any truth value. Imagine that you with your ethnic Greek origins had been raised by diasporic Chinese parents eating Chinese food, celebrating Chinese New Year and learning to see the world through your adoptive parents' eyes. You may never be recognised by the wider world as Chinese because of your European appearance but nevertheless, to some extent, you would be Chinese.

Vincent said...

No, it serves to illustrate that you don't want to acknowledge that the fact that categories may be continuous does not prevent humans from naming them.

Not true: I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge this, and have done so repeatedly. Humans use arbitrary and subjective criteria to construct categories all the time, and often do so based on perfectly reasonable motivations. It is not the categorization that I object to, but rather the pretense that such categorization is scientific or objective when it clearly is not.

But, if anyone wanted to call a 10% blue hue "blue" instead of "red", they'd better have their eyes (or brain) checked.

Just because we have constructed strong cultural norms around something (e.g. "this color is red, not blue") the fact that the norm is an arbitrary one isn't mitigated. In fact this example of colors proves my point quite well: our culture has some pretty well established categories for naming colors (red, purple, blue, etc.) that work quite well and have great value even though the categories are entirely arbitrary.

You might call that color in your logo "red" and I might call it "crimson". Is there some objective and transparent way to prove you right and me wrong? Clearly not.

I have no compulsion to dictate to other people the names they may, or may not, call themselves. I avoid this compulsion because I can recognize an arbitrary distinction when I see one.

Onur said...

Onur, yours is an outsider's view. In reality I'm sure it's more complicated than this. One of the projects I was running while at Stanford was an in-depth study of Europeans who reenact traditional American Indian cultures. Trust me it's a normal cultural process, not inferior in any way to any other one. The very same American Indians used to dress up to look like the animals they killed and to perform their "totemic" dances. Now, someone else is recreating them. Until recently, John Hawks's website sported his own image as a Neanderthal. (And the very word "Neanderthal" goes back to the name of a guy, Joachim Neander, who was was so fascinated with Greek antiquities that he changed his German name Neumann to its Greek calque.) And not surprisingly Hawks keeps arguing that modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and other archaics. People do it all the time to express their identity, especially if they try to express a minority agenda. Now that John Hawks is not the only one who believes humans mixed with archaics he took that image of himself down. The more "Tainos", "Etruscans" and "Sumerians" are out there, the quicker these identities will disappear. But there's always some "truth" or at least a plausible claim behind an "invented" identity.

Emotional attachments do not give one the right to distort his past (e.g., saying "we have been Taino all along"). Saying "we have always been Taino" is one thing, saying "I have Taino origin" (in the distant past and together with other origins such as Spanish settler, Black slave) is another thing.

Dienekes said...

I have no compulsion to dictate to other people the names they may, or may not, call themselves. I avoid this compulsion because I can recognize an arbitrary distinction when I see one.

Most of the entries in an encyclopedia represent "arbitrary distinctions" according to your definition. Pluto was recently demoted from planet status because it didn't fit the new definition of planet, which was arbitrary, different from the ancient definition of a planet, but nonetheless adopted.

Scientific communication requires a common language, and common language -except perhaps in physics- requires naming entities. The distinction between a tropical storm and a hurricane is arbitrary but, nonetheless, scientists engage in it.

Dienekes, you seem to be insisting that biological kinship is the only genuine form of identity. This is clearly not true. Identity is about belonging; which groups accept us and which don't and how those groups conceive themselves.

I have repeatedly stated that the Taino are extinct on account of BOTH the substantial admixture and the shift in language. Neither genetic identity nor cultural identity makes one a member of a group by itself, except for those few groups that define themselves along strict cultural or genetic lines (e.g., Pentecostals or Cohanim).

Vincent said...

Scientific communication requires a common language, and common language -except perhaps in physics- requires naming entities. The distinction between a tropical storm and a hurricane is arbitrary but, nonetheless, scientists engage in it.

The distinction between a tropical storm and a hurricane is indeed arbitrary, but it also has a very important additional quality: substantial objectivity. In most classification schemes, the difference between storm categories is wind speed. The threshold wind speeds for the different categories are agreed upon and known.

This brings me back to my questions earlier: what is the measure of genetic continuity, and what is the value of that measure at which an ethnic group stops being legitimate?

In the case of tropical cyclones, these questions are quite easy to answer: wind speed is the measure, and cyclones with wind speeds above 74 mph are "hurricanes" and not "tropical storms". Once scientists agree on the measure and the standards, there is no longer room to quibble about the category in which category the cyclone belongs.

If you wish to assert that ethnic groups rise to the same level of scientific integrity as tropical cyclones, then you should be able to answer those questions about genetic and/or linguistic "continuity" just as easily as a storm researcher can. And if you can't, I'd hope you can admit that ethnic groups fall into an entirely more subjective class than truly scientific naming schemes.

Dienekes said...

In the case of tropical cyclones, these questions are quite easy to answer: wind speed is the measure, and cyclones with wind speeds above 74 mph are "hurricanes" and not "tropical storms". Once scientists agree on the measure and the standards, there is no longer room to quibble about the category in which category the cyclone belongs.

They are "easy to answer", because scientists have sat down to define an arbitrary limit distinguishing between the two. The fact that they haven't sat down to define a limit for distinguishing between ethnic groups, does not, of course, mean that the underlying phenomenon is any less amenable to such distinctions.

The fact that astronomers hadn't sat down to define what a planet was for a long time, does not mean that there was no distinction between what is now termed a planet and bodies like Pluto and Eris.

Your "argument" amounts to "scientists haven't defined X, therefore X cannot be defined", which is of course a ridiculous argument. Having failed to give any evidence that ethnic groups are in any way different than other named entities over a continumm, you resort to a Continuum fallacy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuum_fallacy

aka beard fallacy. According to your mode of argumentation, the Pope of Rome can claim that he has a beard and the Patriarch of Constantinople can claim that he doesn't, and they can choose to claim what they want, because, after all, there is a continuum in how much facial hairs can protrude from the skin.

Vincent said...

The fact that they haven't sat down to define a limit for distinguishing between ethnic groups, does not, of course, mean that the underlying phenomenon is any less amenable to such distinctions.

Yet, the classification of ethnic groups IS less amenable to these kind of distinctions.

For one things, it is relatively easy to reach a consensus about a categorization scheme for tropical cyclones because the reason we care about them (i.e. the likelihood they pose of inflicting severe economic harm and/or loss of life) is strongly correlated with a single variable (i.e. wind speed) which can be measured objectively. A failure to clearly communicate about the strength of a storm has very tangible consequences, in other words, and such failures can be easily avoided.

None of those things are true about human ethnic groups. It matters much less whether we agree on a classifications scheme and, even if it did, the number of variables that would go into an agreed-upon classification scheme is unmanageable. This is precisely why there are so many classification schemes (nearly as many as there are publications on the matter) that differ from each other in fundamental ways.

I do happen to think that if someone wishes to assert that "the Taino are extinct" that it is they who carry the burden for defining what they mean by "Taino" and what they mean by "extinct". As far as I can tell, you have only the fuzziest and most ambiguous notions of what you mean by those terms. And the definitions you DO have seem to be based more personal whim or political agenda than on any objective criteria.

If a person asserts that any modern group asserting a Taino identity must be sufficiently genetically, culturally, and/or linguistically similar to pre-Columbian Taino, it is not unreasonable to expect them to be able to tell us how they wish us to measure those similarities and at what values of those measures the modern Taino will pass or fail the test. If they can't, they should have the integrity to admit that the assertion is capricious.

Dienekes said...

For one things, it is relatively easy to reach a consensus about a categorization scheme for tropical cyclones because the reason we care about them (i.e. the likelihood they pose of inflicting severe economic harm and/or loss of life) is strongly correlated with a single variable (i.e. wind speed) which can be measured objectively. A failure to clearly communicate about the strength of a storm has very tangible consequences, in other words, and such failures can be easily avoided.

That is a rather instrumental view of science, that science should make hard distinctions along continuous variables only when there is some practical benefit. What practical benefit is there in claiming that Pluto is not a planet? Or that Mt. Everest is not a hill?

None of those things are true about human ethnic groups. It matters much less whether we agree on a classifications scheme and, even if it did, the number of variables that would go into an agreed-upon classification scheme is unmanageable. This is precisely why there are so many classification schemes (nearly as many as there are publications on the matter) that differ from each other in fundamental ways.

It may matter little to you, being a postmodern "races don't exist, ethnic groups don't exist, it's all conventions" kinda guy, but it matters a lot, apparently, to these people, and to many people around the world for whom ethnicity is not a trifle.

Dienekes said...

I do happen to think that if someone wishes to assert that "the Taino are extinct" that it is they who carry the burden for defining what they mean by "Taino" and what they mean by "extinct". As far as I can tell, you have only the fuzziest and most ambiguous notions of what you mean by those terms. And the definitions you DO have seem to be based more personal whim or political agenda than on any objective criteria.

You are like a broken record. You accept the personal whims of people who wish to call themselves Taino, and yet you seek "objective criteria" on who is a Taino.

The Taino were the pre-European contact inhabitants of the Bahamas, that spoke Taino, an extinct language, called by linguists Taino.

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tnq

Taino
An extinct language of Bahamas

ISO 639-3: tnq
Population Extinct.

MtDNA from extinct Tainos and the peopling of the Caribbean
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1469-1809.2001.6520137.x/abstract

Carlos D. Bustamante, PhD – “Genomic Reconstruction of an Extinct Population from Next-Generation Sequence Data: Insights from the Taìno Genome Project”
http://www.ashg.org/pdf/pr_ichg_evoandpopulationgenetics.pdf

"The first native American peoples encountered by Columbus in the Bahamas, Hispaniola
and Puerto Rico were Arawak, speaking Taino-their language became extinct within
the first hundred years of the white invasion (Rouse l992)."

The Arawak language family
A Aikhenvald

"One of the causes which led to the Taino extinction was the enormous physical fatigues for all sorts of work which the colonizers forced the Tainos to do. The Tainos were a pacific group, with an agricultural economy mixed with gathering and fishing, and were not used to such heavy work. But it was not only the physical fatigue that decimated the Tainos. The colonizers introduced into the island illnesses, such as German misles and chicken-pox, to which the Tainos were immunologically defenceless. Not least devastating, were the massacres perpetrated by the Spanish when »hunting» the Indios to subject and exploit them in the Spanish »encomiendas». Finally, the aborigines, to avoid captures, systematically committed suicide and mass abortions."
http://www.springerlink.com/content/22j2q40q02313606/

"The Taino were a relatively peaceful people; they were completely extinct just a century after
the conquest (STEGGERBA, 1963; GILMORE, 1963); they were often deported as slaves, as
we can read in Las Casas's <~Historia de las Indias~> (SUED BADILLO, 1983)."
Skeletal biology of the Taino: a preliminary report
A Drusini et al.

Got it yet?

mooreisbetter said...

I agree 95% with Dienekes and 5% with Vincent. After thoroughly reading all the comments though, I have the following proposals for objectivity.

The characteristics that we can agree "allow" a group to credibly claim identity CANNOT be as simple as just self-identifying.

(Were THAT the case, one can imagine a not too distant future where hip-hop listening philo-African high-school students take one of those cheesy, pseudo-scientific DNA tests, which purport to identify with precision one's ancestry. Said kid gloms onto a result that states he is 9% sub-Saharan descended, and calls himself African-American on scholarship applications).

That is probably not that different from the "Taino" today.

Vincent, would your answer change much if that same kid discovered that one of his 256 recent ancestors HAD been a black slave (which is fairly common for lower-class, been in the US a long time Americans)? This kid had adopted the "culture" of his self-identified target, including their music (hip-hop), etc.

As this example shows, we see how ridiculous unfettered self-identification is.

mooreisbetter said...

The objective criteria (more like factors really) that I propose are:

1. Continuity with self-identification over the ages.

2. Survival of the language, even if the language evolved like all languages do.

3. Reasonable genetic continuity along one of the lines of descent defined by the group at each contemporaneous generation.

Applying this to the Greeks, one sees that all 3 apply. You have people calling themselves Hellenes, speaking the Greek toungue (which is allowed to evolve, my God!), and reasonable/strong genetic continuity. Did some seafaring Greek merchants marry local women? Of course. Were some Greek women raped by Ottomans? Yes, perhaps. But the pre-existing culture continued to define such kids as Greek AT THAT MOMENT.

For most cultures, this is simply the (paternalistic) notion that heritance is passed to those who are welcomed into a family, which is most often the children of males in the culture, no matter what the identity of the wife.

Applying this to Jews:

1. We clearly have STRONG self-identification for Jews, although some would posit that for some Ashkenazi, the Khazaria issue complicates things.

2. Hebrew was a liturigical language, and was resuscitated as an everyday language. Again, not as strong as the Greeks, but the factor is present.

3. There is genetic continuity among Jews. One problem is that in pre-Talmudic times, Jewish identity was passed on the male line. That changed 180 degrees, as we all know today the identity is passed maternally now. This explains why there was some admixture, but again, we have the pre-existing strong culture accepting and defining who was a Jew, and the descendants today are those people accepted into the culture.

Applying these principles to the Taino:

1. There was no continuity of identity. And one cannot even point to crypto-Tainos, preserving the identity in the face of admitted strong discrimination. It just doesn't exist.

2. No one kept the language alive.

3. There is no reasonable genetic continuity.

Now I'll point out some problems with this debate, where my 5% of reservations lie.

I've often felt it was tremendously unjustified how Italians got the shaft with Americans' attitudes toward them.

For example, we refer to the Ancient Chinese as "Chinese" even though that is not the endonym (ie not what the Chinese have called themselves or their ruling class over the years).

Similarly, modern Americans mostly accept the Jewish-Hebrew-Israel connection.

Few people know that the nascent Republic of Italy briefly considered calling itself "Rome." I wonder if people would have a healthier attitude toward Italians (and not these ridiculous Tarantino-esque) ideas of admixture if the Italians were called Romans in modern American vernacular. Perhaps if the Italians resuscitated Latin for everyday use like the Israelis did for Hebrew?

The classical countries (Greece and Rome) experienced similar peaks in power and prestige, then odd hard-to-define periods (during Byzantium, the Dark Ages, etc.), then renascent identities during the Renaissance and neo-classicism in Italy, and modern times...

But we call the Greeks the "Greeks," so the Average Dumb American tends to think Greece didn't go through the same foreign domination and disruption that Italy did.

And don't get me started on China. I am so sick of commentators on TV saying "the 5000 year old kingdom has preserved its identity... blah blah blah."

We refer to MANY distinct dynasties with many different names, ruled by many different ethnic groups (Mongols, Koreans, etc.) as "Chinese," but the reality is, they've had as much or more upheaval and ethnic mixing as Italy and Greece and Persia (any of the Ancient Empires) have.

Yet we still call Ancient and Modern "Chinese" and people think they are the same as the ancient empire.

So my only check on my own Principle 1 above is: sometimes an exonym can intrude on the analysis.

Vincent said...

That is a rather instrumental view of science, that science should make hard distinctions along continuous variables only when there is some practical benefit. What practical benefit is there in claiming that Pluto is not a planet? Or that Mt. Everest is not a hill?

I never said anything about what scientists "should" or "should not" do. I merely pointed out that arriving at a consensus about categorical distinctions is easier when the distinctions matter and when the distinctions can be objectively measured.

It is easier to push an object downhill than uphill. Surely any reasonable person can read that observation without assuming that I believe objects should never be pushed uphill.

And as for Pluto and Mt. Everest, clearly there are benefits in naming those objects and - to some extent - categorizing them. But there is no objective benefit to doing so: if I want to estimate the gravitation attraction between Pluto and some other object, I care about the mass of Pluto and distance between it and the other object. I don't care in the least bit about whether the IAU calls Pluto a "planet" or "plutoid" or "ice dwarf" or "dwarf planet".

Further, the only way to settle an argument over whether Pluto is a "planet" or "plutoid" is by agreement over some set of rules (i.e. the IAU). In the absence of such rules about ethnic groups, calling the Taino "extinct" or "wannabes" amounts to nothing more than the bluster of a school yard bully.

You accept the personal whims of people who wish to call themselves Taino, and yet you seek "objective criteria" on who is a Taino.

I hope the fog of your confusion will eventually lift: I am asking you for "objective criteria" because I believe you have none and - if you don't - that your position is intellectually bankrupt. I am merely pointing out to you the thing you must offer if you want your position to be taken seriously by reasonable people, secure in the knowledge that you cannot offer it because it does not exist.

And I wouldn't say that I "accept the personal whims of people who wish to call themselves Taino" so much as I'd say that am perfectly content to ignore them. They are not making any definitive claim, in my view or (so far as I can tell) their own, nor are they subverting the integrity of scientific discourse through their assertion.

Dienekes said...

calling the Taino "extinct" or "wannabes" amounts to nothing more than the bluster of a school yard bully.

Then I'm in good company with all the above references who called them extinct. If anyone is a bully is the likes of politically correct folks such as yourself that are perfectly willing to criticize someone who calls the Taino "extinct", and perfectly willing to ignore those who claim that they are not extinct, showing their transparent bias in favor of one claim against another, even though they allege neither one is supposedy valid.

And I wouldn't say that I "accept the personal whims of people who wish to call themselves Taino" so much as I'd say that am perfectly content to ignore them. They are not making any definitive claim, in my view or (so far as I can tell) their own, nor are they subverting the integrity of scientific discourse through their assertion.

Incorrect. This type of facile acceptance of modern activists' assertions _is_ subverting science. In the United States, for example, it is currently virtually impossible to carry out research on pre-Columbian remains, lest one obtain permissions from modern tribes with an uncertain affiliation to the ancient groups.

formerjerseyboy said...

I have not commented on this blog in a while, but this topic really attracted my attention.
My birth parents were German, and my adoptive parents are Puerto Rican. My grandmother had classical Indian good looks, with jet black hair (later salt and pepper), eagle black eyes, Indian-looking face/profile. Her husband looked like his Spanish forebears – short, blue eyes, bad tempered. The looks of their eight kids contained a mixture of all of these features.
As an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico, I traced the family’s background back to the 1600s. I also traveled the island (virtually all 3500 square miles over 30 years plus the islets of Vieques and Culebra), and I never saw a locality or group on the island that called itself pure Taino. I did learn in my youth that parts of Taino culture survived into the present, including the place names of cities like my home town of Bayamon.
I recently had my personal genome sequenced, and if I were to use the “Taino activists” lines of “reasoning,” I could claim that I am really a Cro-Magnon European.! Duh!
It is sad that U.S. racial pre-conceptions and modes of analysis have now polluted Puerto Rican culture, to the point there in now a new one-drop rule (a U.S. specialty) that has created a new “race” of Tainos. What a waste of time and intellect.

Vincent said...

Then I'm in good company with all the above references who called them extinct.I don't doubt that it would be easy enough for you to cherry pick references supporting your point of view: racism is indeed an ancient and pervasive phenomenon, so there will be no shortage I'm sure.

But I do find it peculiar that, in the face of my simple request to define your terms and criteria, all I get in response is dancing: name calling, evasion, and diversion.

I find this particularly peculiar because you, yourself, said ". . . .there can be no named entity that is not somehow defined; if it is not defined, we enter the realm of opinion and leave the realm of science." Yet you insistently refuse to supply anything approximating an objective and transparent definition of what it means for an ethnic group to be extinct. Could this be because this notion of ethnic extinction depends more on opinion than on science?

Vincent said...

Incorrect. This type of facile acceptance of modern activists' assertions _is_ subverting science. In the United States, for example, it is currently virtually impossible to carry out research on pre-Columbian remains, lest one obtain permissions from modern tribes with an uncertain affiliation to the ancient groups.

Here, too, we disagree. I think it is not tolerance of people's rights to self-identity that is the problem, but rather the conference of special rights based on ethnic identity or race that is the problem.

If you, for example, wish to claim yourself to be Greek then I have no objection. If you attempt to claim that only modern Greek researchers have a right to conduct and publish genetic studies about Greece, then I quite definitely would have an objection. In other words, I see no inconsistency in acquiescing to a modern group calling themselves "Taino" but refusing to allow that group to unilaterally control the rights to ancient Taino remains. Quite the opposite, I think: if you believe that ethnic identity yields no special political or economic rights then that surely can cut both ways.

Dienekes said...

I don't doubt that it would be easy enough for you to cherry pick references supporting your point of view: racism is indeed an ancient and pervasive phenomenon, so there will be no shortage I'm sure.

A good sign of a losing argument is to resort to name-calling. There is absolutely no reason to think that all the references I provided were "racist" towards the Taino. This may come as a surprise to you, but a lot of scientists share my view and think that the Taino are extinct!

Your slurs are a good example of the kind of bullying by politically correct activists that is making it increasingly difficult to discuss human variation without offending someone's ill-motivated sensitivities. Thankfully, this blog is a cultural Marxist-free zone, so you had better find a different target to bully.

But I do find it peculiar that, in the face of my simple request to define your terms and criteria, all I get in response is dancing: name calling, evasion, and diversion.

You've spent about a dozen posts with your one idea. Time to find another.

I find this particularly peculiar because you, yourself, said ". . . .there can be no named entity that is not somehow defined; if it is not defined, we enter the realm of opinion and leave the realm of science." Yet you insistently refuse to supply anything approximating an objective and transparent definition of what it means for an ethnic group to be extinct. Could this be because this notion of ethnic extinction depends more on opinion than on science?

I have already shown why the Taino are extinct, on the basis of genetic and linguistic data. The fact that you choose to disregard that data or commit the Continuum Fallacy over and over again, does not mean that I have not provided a good argument why the Taino are extinct.

Dienekes said...

Here, too, we disagree. I think it is not tolerance of people's rights to self-identity that is the problem, but rather the conference of special rights based on ethnic identity or race that is the problem.

Once more you are inconsistent. Because on one hand you claim that you do not wish to confer special rights based on ethnic identity, and on the other, you are perfectly willing to side with the modern "Taino" and their campaign to declare their group as not extinct, even making the claim that anyone who says they are is "racist".

Onur said...

Dieneke, as soon as I realized this Vincent guy's motives I stopped responding to him. He is a waste of time and does not deserve responses, not even name-calling.

Vincent said...

I suppose that if you only respond to things I don't say and never to things I do say, there is no hope for a substantive discussion.

German Dziebel said...

Dienekes, Vincent,

Could I ask you for a favor: please do not clutter the string with incompetent, pointless, non-stop, one-on-one debates about an altogether minor point. I'm a professional and I'm not interested in what either of you has to say on the subject of "Taino" identity and the innocent bystanders won't learn anything from your confused language and thinking.

Dienekes, could you go back to actually fishing for the interesting papers that actually try to advance science?

Thank you.

Amanda S said...

I've avoided commenting on the Taino issue as I don't think that I know enough about it. However, if it's true that the Taino Identity movement is restricted to some emigre Puerto Ricans living in the United States then I would suggest that it's destined to the fate of the "here today gone the next generation" American subcultures featured in the documentaries of Louis Theroux. If on the other hand it's a movement with a voice in Puerto Rico then presumably it will feed a debate about history and identity amongst the people there who have the biggest stake in it.

On the subject of "extinct" identites, when I first came to live in Australia from the UK over twenty years ago, I was surprised to find people talking about "Anglo Saxons" to refer to Australians whose ancestry lay in the British Isles. This summoned up mental images for me of people with helmets, chain mail and spears straight from the Bayeux Tapestry. As far as I was concerned "Anglo Saxons" were extinct but this turned out not to be the case in Australia! Since living here the term "Anglo Celtic" seems to have generally replaced "Anglo Saxon" to refer to the same group of people.

mooreisbetter, I really can't leave the following comment unchallenged.

Vincent, would your answer change much if that same kid discovered that one of his 256 recent ancestors HAD been a black slave (which is fairly common for lower-class, been in the US a long time Americans)?

I'm not one to throw around the term "racist" but I would really like to know on what basis you make the assumption that the 30% of white Americans who have been found to have some African American ancestry are "lower class". If I was to make some guesses about which white Americans were likely to have such ancestry, I would guess that the proportion would be higher in the southern states and in the western states, such as California, where much of the white population came from southern states (people tended to emigrate west more or less along lines of latitude). I would also assume that the more ancestry that went back to colonial America a person has, the more likely it is that they have some African ancestry. I wouldn't assume anything about their social position in contemporary America. I would like to know why you have.

Annie Mouse said...

I think the Taino live on in their descendants. Of whom there are many (known and unknown), however there is no known test of Taino, as opposed to say, Carib, yet, so folk should be cautious. The Taino would only truly be extinct if none of the children of the Taino survived.

A wolf is still a wolf whether it lives out the fifth generation in captivity in a zoo or remains in the wild. So culture is irrelevant. An ethnically African baby raised outside its culture is still African ethnically. Who is to argue at what point that African childs admixtured progeny ceases to be mostly African and become.... what? As we have seen %African does not exactly correlate with perceived ethnicity or colour. By the USA 1 drop rule almost everyone of colonial USA ancestry is likely to be considered African. Which is likely to be a huge shock to some members of the KKK.

There are few neat spots on the genetic map of Europe that place folk neatly in a country. Genetically you can not be French or Greek (arguably the most admixed nation in Europe). You may be European genetically, but you are French or Greek because you beleive yourself to be based on what you perceive to be your family history.

The Taino are Taino because they beleive they have Taino blood (a reasonable argument) and are choosing to resurrect their culture.

Most of them have a better genetic case than the Ashkenazi for example.

J said...

Looking at Dienekes's avatar, one can understand his desire to be identified with Ancient Greeks who crated a glorious civilization. But why on Earth anybody would like to be called a Taino? They were a weak people that disappeared as soon they were visited by the Spanish.

Onur said...

I think the Taino live on in their descendants.

So do Neanderthals.

Of whom there are many (known and unknown), however there is no known test of Taino, as opposed to say, Carib, yet, so folk should be cautious.

These is nothing that differentiates Taino-wannabe Puerto Ricans from non-Taino-wannabe Puerto Ricans: not in language (they all speak Spanish), not in religion (they are all traditionally Catholic Christians), not in genetics (virtually they all have some Taino blood, but in the 10%-15% range on average) and not in culture. So the "Taino" identity of the Taino-wannabes is completely artificial on all grounds in addition to being fabricated during the last few decades.

A wolf is still a wolf whether it lives out the fifth generation in captivity in a zoo or remains in the wild. So culture is irrelevant. An ethnically African baby raised outside its culture is still African ethnically. Who is to argue at what point that African childs admixtured progeny ceases to be mostly African and become.... what? As we have seen %African does not exactly correlate with perceived ethnicity or colour. By the USA 1 drop rule almost everyone of colonial USA ancestry is likely to be considered African. Which is likely to be a huge shock to some members of the KKK.

Unlike Taino, African American is a race-based category, not an ethnic identity. So you are comparing apples and oranges.

The Taino are Taino because they beleive they have Taino blood (a reasonable argument) and are choosing to resurrect their culture.

How dare you claim that? Is the Taino culture in its original form or in a recognizable form so easy to resurrect? We are talking about a population/ethnic group that disappeared as a group centuries ago. If you regard what the pseudo-Taino do as the resurrection of the Taino culture, you are showing disrespect to the real Taino.

Vincent said...

German Dziebel,

If there is something I've written that strikes you (in your "professional" opinion) as "confused" I welcome your feedback: I'd be happy to reconsider or clarify it for you and others.

And perhaps you can offer the answer that so far eluded Dienekes: what, if any, objective criteria define the boundaries between ethnic groups? Or would you agree with me that such boundaries are inherently subjective and, therefore, not amenable to definitive pronouncements as in the title of this blog entry?

TruthPlease said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
German Dziebel said...

@Vincent

"If there is something I've written that strikes you (in your "professional" opinion) as "confused" I welcome your feedback: I'd be happy to reconsider or clarify it for you and others."

You don't invite feedback on thoughts that are completely uninformed. Even if those thoughts are yours. You are not a celebrity academic with a track record of publications, so I don't have the faintest clue what you're trying to say and, more importantly, why it matters to you. You haven't referenced any relevant research/case studies on cultural politics, identity, ethnicity, objectivity, etc. Without them it's a waste of everybody's time. Dienekes's post was not intended as a deep dive into Taino identity and there's no link to any publication that does it.

Here's what you could do to get my feedback: read at least "Taino revival," edited by Haslip-Viera, then write a blog post on one of your many websites.

"Or would you agree with me that such boundaries are inherently subjective and, therefore, not amenable to definitive pronouncements as in the title of this blog entry?"

If you'd read what I wrote above, ethnic identities are relational signs and hence are neither fully objective nor fully subjective.

Vincent said...

German Dzeibel,

I'm not sure whether to take comfort in the fact that you could not actually find anything I wrote to be objectionable, or frustrated that you follow Deinekes and Onur in dodging the hard questions.

Perhaps you'd recommend that I should follow the dodgy "both and neithet" approach you take on ethnic boundaries?

None of us know each other's true identities, but I reject the notion that it matters. You can read what I wrote and either agree or object without seeing my resume. I evaluate what Dienekes writes based on the quality of his data and reasoning, not on what I might imagine about his personal life. Surely I'm not alone in seeing that as the superior approach.

formerjerseyboy said...

I spoke last night with two of my Aunts in Puerto Rico (both retired school Principals, with master's degrees) about the Taino movement. They found the very idea to be hilarious, and have not heard of anything like this based in Puerto Rico. The "Taino" movement sounds to me like it is rooted outside of the real worl, as some elite navel-gazing U.S. universities.

Onur said...

Formerjerseyboy, the "Taino" movement is working like a religion. They are trying to "convert" Puerto Ricans to the "Taino" identity by telling them that they are actually Taino but were in the past centuries deceived by the "White Devil" to believe that they are not Taino. So much for the claims of continuity of identity!

Annie Mouse said...

"So do Neanderthals."

Yes indeed.

"Unlike Taino, African American is a race-based category"

So African ancestry is race-based and but Amerindian ancestry isnt? Are you even reading what you are writing?

"How dare you claim that? "

How dare I what? LOL. The most ineffectual attempt at intimidation I have ever seen. Thanks for making my day.

I will dare to speak my mind. Wrap your chains around yourself, not me.

Onur said...

So African ancestry is race-based and but Amerindian ancestry isnt? Are you even reading what you are writing?

My response was about how valid or invalid the "Taino" identity of pseudo-Taino are, not about how much Taino/Amerindian descended they are, please do not distort my statements. There is already a racial category for racially Caucasoid-Amerindian hybrids: mestizo. They can also be included in the lingio-geographical category of Hispanic.

How dare I what? LOL. The most ineffectual attempt at intimidation I have ever seen. Thanks for making my day.

It is not intimidation but a perfectly valid criticism of your argument.

Amanda S said...

Annie Mouse, I think that you missed Onur's funniest assertion.

If you regard what the pseudo-Taino do as the resurrection of the Taino culture, you are showing disrespect to the real Taino.

Firstly it's amusing to assert outrage on behalf of the assumed feelings of people who are all dead. And secondly if you really consider how any of us might feel to be remembered by our descendants and to know that they wish to uphold our values (even if they're a bit shaky on almost all of the details), you would be more likely to imagine that this would make them happy.

Joel said...

I think it's pretty obvious that the term "racist" is now part of Godwin's Law. Accusations of "racism" are tantamount to comparing someone to Hitler and the person leveling the accusation has automatically lost the argument.

An interesting study, that has recently been making the rounds of the internet, seems to indicate that black Americans who strongly identify themselves as black are happier than those who do not identify as such. Obviously, humans have a hardwired instinct to "belong". Belonging, though, has a flip-side: exclusion.

Vincent, this is a political issue, as the various politically-correct, oppression-mongering, postmodernist cultural Marxists want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want unity, social solidarity, but they assert that it can exist simultaneously with diversity. Yes, I have had this debate on several leftist websites, where the leftist commentators could not comprehend that unity and diversity where logical opposites.

The problem with "minority rights" is that the self-identifying minority wants to enjoy the rights of being in the modern nation-state, but they want to be excluded from the obligations of citizenship, the debt of unity.

This, by the way, has been my experience in conversing with Afrocentric American types on the internet. Here's a challenge: answer the question "what do black Americans owe white Americans?".

Now go to a black-oriented website and tell them your answer to that question. They will call you a "racist". So, what they are saying is that "black folk don't owe white people nutttin'". That is what the "minority rights" crowd is asserting, they want the privileges of living in modern civilization with none of the burdens.

When Dienekes calls himself "greek" he is simultaneously acknowledging his privileges deriving from that label as well as his duties to upholding the civilizational legacy that provides those privileges. "Minority rights" activists, like the Taino-identity movement, want identity privileges without any concurrent duties.

That is the real distinction between the two identities: rights and responsibilities. "Greek" accepts rights and responsibilities in equal measure, while "Taino" is an ex nihilo assertion of rights.

Vincent said...

Yes, I have had this debate on several leftist websites, where the leftist commentators could not comprehend that unity and diversity where logical opposites.

Perhaps it is only because "leftist commentators" have a more finely honed sense of vocabulary than you are used to.

"Unity" and "diversity" are not at all logical opposites, unless you think that unity can only exist in the presence of complete and total homogeneity. I think most political scientists would suggest something rather different, which is that a certain amount of diversity is required to have any appreciable degree of political unity.

And speaking as if there is only one spectrum of unity and one spectrum of diversity is, obviously, going to lead to a bizarrely abstract discussion. A nation can accommodate a nearly infinite amount of cultural and ethnic diversity just as long as there is a counterbalancing strength of political unity.

Besides, this strikes me as a peculiar time in world history to uphold "Greeks" as a model of accepting responsibilities: whatever you think about the Taino, they aren't bringing any national economies to the brink of collapse.

Jorge Baracutei Estevez said...

Hello everyone, I would like to post my humble opinion but am having trouble doing so. Is there someone I must send my comment to?
Thank you
Jorge Baracutei Estevez
Baracutay12@aol.com

Jorge Baracutei Estevez said...

Hello everyone,
I want to thank you all for such a lively and interesting debate. As a person from the Dominican Republic and one that identifies as Taino I would like to offer my opinion if I may. Missing from this discussion are the recent multi-disciplinary studies that have demonstrated the multitude of Taino cultural customs that have survived to the present. These customs were over- looked or ignored since it was accepted that the Taino had all “disappeared”. In some cases they were Africanized without a shred of evidence as to their origins. Today we know better. I fFor example was raised making casabe bread made from the poison yuca which was also the staple of the classic Taino. This bread along with Guayiga bread (samia) is still made by villagers in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Researchers such as Kathleen Deagen, Pedro Ferbel Azcarte, Lynne Guitar, etc have documented this cultural continuity that points to survival and continuity .Linguists have demonstrated that of the 3200 Taino words for place names, flora and fauna that are in existence today, as much as two hundred everyday words in use were never recorded by the Spanish. Can people with Neanderthal DNA say the same?
Villagers on the islands always knew this. The current Taino revival is focused on this and not DNA. I have always maintained that my identity did not begin in a test tube. When DNA came into the picture it merely confirmed what many campesinos (peasants) had been saying for a very long time. Take my grandmother Olympia for example. She always maintainedthat her grandparents were Indians. She died at 104 years of age Her grandmother was said to have lived to be 110 years old. So this Taino identity thing is not new. However they never called themselves Taino as this was a term coined in the 1920’s by Sven Loven from the Taino language to describe the culture of the Native people of the Caribbean.
Imagine my surprise when I participated in 3 autosomal DNA tests (I was curious yet doubtful that these test could actually be done at the time) and my Indian scores were 29% in test 1, 31 % in test 2 and 40 % in test 3. But the one who got the biggest surprise was my mother who commented “ You paid money so someone else could tell you what I have been telling you all your life?” DNA sequencing by individual and regionally shows higher percentages than national averages, so much of what was discussed here in my opinion is flawed.
There is a lot more on culture language and religiosity that I could post on here if you like. The rabbit hole is deeper and longer than you know. But I do realize that the main problem here is purity. It only takes one drop of black blood to be considered black but a whole lot more to be accepted as Indian.
Thank you
Jorge Baracutei Estevez

Mike Keesey said...

"If I accepted that, I would also have to accept that there are Etruscans, Tasmanians, Neandertals, and even dinosaurs in the world today. That possibility is too ridiculous for me to ponder, so I choose not to."

Actually, the cladistic sense of "dinosaur" is becoming increasingly popular, especially among researchers. Dinosauria is now commonly defined as the last common ancestor of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon and all descendants thereof. This happens to include thousands of living species (birds).

Even in the traditional, paraphyletic sense, "dinosaurs" are not a population, so not a great example.

Deluc said...

Most people on this thread are overlooking that 15% Taino is the National Average, if there is a group of people with Taino admixture above the average, lets say 70, 80 or 90% Taino then they are by conventional estimates, biologically Tainos, then if there is a group of high Taino admixture they are not extinct. Who says that a population must be 100% pure to be considered Taino or for that matter any other group? For example im 25% italian and 75% Spanish, that doesn't stop people in Spain from calling me "italiano". So in conclusion if there people with high admixture (let's say 70% plus) of Taino, even if they are few, from a biological perspective, they are not extinct. Culturally, well that' s another matter.

Baracutei said...

Hello again,
Curently we at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian are working on an exhibit which will debut in 2015 based on Taino cultural survival. Most exhibits if not all alway focus on the archelogival findings. This has created a belief that Taino culture is or was solely based on the usage of the Cemi (Taino religious items). However no one has ever attempted or explore in depthsuch things as Taino fishing methods, basket making, planting ways, religious practices, pottery techniques, canoe making etc
It is in these camps that one finds an outstanding amount of Taino cultural retention that survive to this day. In fact in a recent workshop , Beyond Extinction, we were surprised to learn of how these practices are found uniformaly throught the major islands of the Caribbean. So it is ot only DNA that has survived. One more note, in a recent DNA study my Tajima/Hamaguchi from Japan,
They found that 51% of their Dominican test subjects had Native American mtDNA. Added togther with the cultural practices that abound today of Taino extraction it is cler to see that Taino extinction was a myth created inadvertantly by Spanish chroniclers who no doubt hiding Indians (no indians no taxes) or relabling them
(if they are black they do ot have to be freed- see Lynne Guitar) etc
Thanks again- great thread
Jorge Baracutei Estevez

Mikey Slakowski said...

I am Puerto Rican and I agree that biologically the Taino are extinct however you have to understand that when a Puerto Rican tries to trace their heritage it is almost impossible with out some kind of DNA test. Most of us are faced with being part Spanish, part Taino, and part African and it's messed up to realize your ancestors were slaves to and killed by your own ancestors. The fact is that since they live on the island of the Taino they usually dig into that culture and they of course are trying to revive it. Taino is just a culture and heritage to me, just like the Spanish in me and the African in me it's not a race or ethnic group because I don't really give a damn about race. It's not about who is alive or what words are used or what remnants of the culture still exist if any it's about heritage. I really don't understand why you don't understand that people would be sensitive about this issue, it was a complete genocide that actually succeeded after all. I don't know I see a lot of crap in the comments (not from the author) for people taking part in the culture of their own heritage and use arguments like we're disrespecting our distant ancestors because we can't recreate what they had is like saying we shouldn't celebrate Halloween because we can't recreate Samhain exactly how the Gauls did, it's like getting pissed at people over renaissance fairs or getting worked up over the Irish for celebrating their Celtic heritage or even more accurately getting bent out of shape for an American being proud of being 1/3 Irish.

lawrence (Obef Luap) said...

fix your title and furthermore there are very few and far between pure bloods of anything the whole world have been around the block and mixed it up. The taino are not extinct that means they've been killed off they were just raped so there mixed. and if you've ever been to the island all those people with high cheek bones are Indians. they said all the Indians in mexico were bread out but that's false as well. you can see them selling trinkets at the border. you took the time to write something that insults a whole tribe that has already been raped and enslaved. I hope you grow up and think.