The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities presents
The Intellectual and Literary History Public Seminar Series


Paleoanthropological Futures and Historical Pasts:
Human Origins and Rewriting the Place of Africa in World History

The science writer Robert Ardrey began his 1961 book African Genesis with the arresting line: “Not in innocence, and not in Asia, was mankind born.” But by the end of the decade, it might have been unnecessary to include the second intervening phrase. Although the “out of Asia” hypothesis of human origins dominated models of human origins and prehistoric migration from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, it was rapidly replaced in both scientific circles and public awareness by the theory of African origins in the 1950s and was all but forgotten by the end of the 1960s. This talk explains how the rapid pivot from Asia to Africa could take place and examines the historiographic deployment of African origins in new world history writing in the 1950s and 1960s, in order to understand how the monumental history of the Asian origins hypothesis came to be so rapidly forgotten.

Emily Kern is a historian of modern global science who specializes in the history of human evolution and paleoanthropology. She is currently at work on a book about the long history of the African origins hypothesis and the search for the cradle of humankind. Her research focuses on the relationship between the production of scientific knowledge about the human species and the production of global political power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. 2012) and Princeton University (Ph.D. 2018). At Princeton, she was awarded a Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship (2017-2018) and held a Graduate Prize Fellowship from the University Center for Human Values (2016-2017). She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UNSW Sydney.

Image: The UNESCO Courier, October 1959



4pm Thursday 10th October 2019
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower
The University of Queensland, St Lucia

Please contact or 07 334 69492 for further details.
Find parking information here.

All welcome.


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower, UQ St Lucia