The Bioinformatic Basis of Pan-Asianism

Volume 07, Issue 2

The socially calculated Asian body is an abstract discursive space bridging early twentieth- and twenty-first-century Pan-Asianism across multiple scientific understandings of race and ethnicity. In the early twentieth century, the pan-Asian body was a static, statistical taxonomy of precisely measured blood and body parts. As an administrative tool of empire and nation building, the quantitatively defined Asian was plotted along Cartesian coordinates of racial purity. By the twenty-first century, new computational technologies flexibly supported both national and transcendent pan-Asian ethnic identities by constructing regional populations as dynamic probabilistic clusters over time. This paper focuses on how the Pan-Asian SNP Consortium (PASNP) of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO), the first inter-Asian genomics collaboration, embodied a revival of Pan-Asianism in both the members' collaborative network and scientific research. As a network of scientists, the PASNP members heralded the spirit of regional cooperation to bring about the rise of a pan-Asian research area in science. Through their research, the members reflexively calculated a new narrative of the shared ethnic origin and genetic unity of the region. Biochip data, probabilistic clustering algorithms, and computer simulations in the hands of Asian scientists calculated that the region was most likely populated as a single wave of historical migration. This overturned the dominant theory supported by Western-led international projects that divided Asian populations. The PASNP thus mapped the metageography of Pan-Asianism through big data computation.

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