Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice

By Catherine Bliss | Go to book overview
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6 activism and Expertise

LOOKING AT GENOMICS TODAY—a field in which examinations of race are commonplace, and calls to use technologies to decipher race are routine—one might guess that genomics was from its inception destined to be the new science of race. Yet the race-positive science that we see today is the product of a very specific configuration of expertise. Examining the ways in which elite genomicists amplify their role as public reformers, I discuss how scientists’ shared belief in their capacity as public stewards leads to their confidence in establishing genomic taxonomies as a better alternative to race.

As we have seen in earlier chapters, genomic race-positive science is in part conditioned by partnerships that scientists forge with social scientists and humanists. Not only do genomicists sit on a number of committees and panels dedicated to collaboratively managing racial reform, but they also coauthor op-eds and proclamations from an interdisciplinary perspective. While their methods may be collaborative and may appropriate the terms of social research, these scientists still hold onto their claim to biological objectivity. As such, genomics becomes consolidated as the apogee of expertise in a wider field of expertise on race. Thus, I also explore how interdisciplinarity between natural science and social science buttresses the field’s social and symbolic capital while simultaneously securing its position as the ultimate authority on scientific matters of race.

Genomicists seem to signal a departure from science-as-usual, particularly the characterization of scientists as cold, distant, arrogant, and impervious to

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