What's the Use of Race?: Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference (MIT Press)

What's the Use of Race?: Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference (MIT Press)

Language: English

Pages: 313

ISBN: B0058W1M7U

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The post--civil rights era perspective of many scientists and scholars was that race was nothing more than a social construction. Recently, however, the relevance of race as a social, legal, and medical category has been reinvigorated by science, especially by discoveries in genetics. Although in 2000 the Human Genome Project reported that humans shared 99.9 percent of their genetic code, scientists soon began to argue that the degree of variation was actually greater than this, and that this variation maps naturally onto conventional categories of race. In the context of this rejuvenated biology of race, the contributors to What's the Use of Race? investigate whether race can be a category of analysis without reinforcing it as a basis for discrimination. Can policies that aim to alleviate inequality inadvertently increase it by reifying race differences? The essays focus on contemporary questions at the cutting edge of genetics and governance, examining them from the perspectives of law, science, and medicine. The book follows the use of race in three domains of governance: ruling, knowing, and caring. Contributors first examine the use of race and genetics in the courtroom, law enforcement, and scientific oversight; then explore the ways that race becomes, implicitly or explicitly, part of the genomic science that attempts to address human diversity; and finally investigate how race is used to understand and act on inequities in health and disease. Answering these questions is essential for setting policies for biology and citizenship in the twenty-first century.

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can do the work of adjusting for population stratification “to genetically match cases and controls” without inferring shared ancestry for individuals with similar patterns of SNP variation and without assigning a particular ancestry label to such individuals. Nevertheless, some made the leap of reading shared ancestry and its implied relatedness onto individuals with similar SNP patterns. Furthermore, some geneticists among the GWAS researchers attributed geographic meaning to differences in SNP

argues that despite these varied critiques of race, the concept has a definite purpose. While she accepts the argument that race is not a valid biological entity in medicine, she does not think that use of the category should be discontinued. On the contrary, for Krieger, the continued use of race in state approaches to health and inequality is morally urgent and indispensable. Krieger draws on her study of preterm deliveries to argue that racial inequalities in health can only be understood by

evidence on differences in the effects and side effects of antipsychotic and antidepressant medications. Antiviral drugs targeting HIV have provided yet another important example: women appear to have more frequent and more severe side effects with several classes of anti-HIV medications, though some research also indicates that such drugs may also be more efficacious for women in terms of keeping the virus in check (Gandhi et al. 2004, 512–513). “We now know that gender is one of the most

characteristics related to ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ difference: that ethnic differences are to some extent natural.” Karlsen’s argument is that within epidemiological research, there is a tendency to downplay the fluidity of ethnic (as well as racial) categories and to interpret these as markers for a set of fixed, and to some extent innate and naturalized, attributes. Indeed, as Pfeffer (1998, 1382) noted, “essentialism can be social as well as biological. Essentialist versions of ethnicity (defined

sociocultural factors and engages more fully with the challenges facing the analysis of the multifactoral causes for disparities in health among racialized groups. In this context, the lack of a thoroughly examined theoretical or conceptual basis for using racialized categories in genetics and biomedical research appears to produce a largely unexamined and self-perpetuating analytical/interpretative framework (Weed 2000). Once racialized categories are used in this self-referential manner, it

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