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Darwin's Hunch
Darwin's Hunch

Darwin's Hunch

Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins


352 Pages, 6 x 9.25

Formats: Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $24.95 (US $24.95) (CA $33.95)

Publication Date: July 2017

ISBN 9781431424252

Rights: US, CA, AU & NZ

Jacana Media (Jul 2017)

Price: $24.95


There is broad agreement in the scientific world today that all humans share common origins in Africa, but when Charles Darwin first suggested it in 1871, few European scientists took his theory seriously. When the Taung child skull was found in South Africa in 1924, Raymond Dart supported Darwin's theory, but it did little to shift scientific opinion. In the 1980s, when genetics research concluded that all living humans can trace their maternal ancestry back to Africa 200 000 years ago, many international scientists were slow to accept this claim. Scientists, and their research, are often shaped by the prevailing social and political context at the time. Kuljian explores this trend in South Africa and provides fresh insight on the search for human origins – in the fields of palaeoanthropology and genetics – over the past century. The book follows the colonial practice in Europe, the US and South Africa of collecting human skeletons and cataloguing them into racial types, in the hope that they would provide clues to human evolution. Kuljian sheds light on how, during apartheid, the concept of racial classification mirrored the way in which many scientists thought about race and human evolution. In more recent years, the field has been shaped by a more open and diverse approach, and more women and African scientists are entering the field. Research continues and new information is gathered all the time. Darwin's Hunch also examines current developments in the search for human origins, and uncovers stories that shed new light on the past.

Author Biography

Christa Kuljian is a Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007. Kuljian studied with palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould for her BA in the History of Science at Harvard (1984), which provided inspiration for Darwin's Hunch. She also holds an MA in Public Affairs from Princeton (1989). In 2010, Kuljian delivered the Ruth First Lecture about the refugee crisis at Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg, which led to her first book Sanctuary (Jacana 2013).