Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice

By Catherine Bliss | Go to book overview

1 The New Science of Race

CONCEPTIONS OF RACE are never a closed case of self-evident truths. “Race” is a cipher for a set of relational meanings—meanings of difference that are always underdetermined, pliant, and manifold. Although the term seems to connote a specific set of physical or cultural characteristics, there is actually no fixed referent for race. It is “constantly resignified, made to mean something different in different cultures, in different historical formations, at different moments of time.”1

Scientists make new meaning of race as they pragmatically respond to a range of official and unofficial policies, norms, and values, which are constantly being reworked. Knowing the historical background of policies surrounding official racial classification is but a first step in understanding how legacies frame present-day practice and how the political climate informs choices made in the lab and field.2

Technologies like haplotype mapping and principal components analysis— the state of the art in the production of genomic taxonomies—also shape how scientists define populations, compare their classifications with self-reported identities, and create new avenues for identity formation. The application of these technologies around the world in the present U.S.-dominated bioeconomy has led to a hegemony of American racial taxonomies. Meanwhile, just as race-based medicine has hit the market, “whole genome sequencing” (technologies that map and interpret individual genomes in full) and the promise of a move to personalized medical healthcare are forecasting a departure from racial grouping. We must uncover what it means for scientists to

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Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1- Introduction 1
  • 1- The New Science of Race 19
  • 2- Making Science Racial 38
  • 3- The Sociogenomic Paradigm 70
  • 4- Making Sense of Race with Values 100
  • 5- Everyday Race-Positive 135
  • 6- Activism and Expertise 166
  • 7- The Enduring Trouble with Race 192
  • Notes 207
  • Index 257
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