How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Social Science on 2011-12-12 03:12Z by Steven

Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History

Rutgers University Press
368 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-5255-2
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-5254-5

Keith Wailoo, Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs
Princeton University

Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology
Columbia University

Catherine Lee, Assistant Professor of Sociology; Faculty Associate
Institute for Health
Rutgers University

Our genetic markers have come to be regarded as portals to the past. Analysis of these markers is increasingly used to tell the story of human migration; to investigate and judge issues of social membership and kinship; to rewrite history and collective memory; to right past wrongs and to arbitrate legal claims and human rights controversies; and to open new thinking about health and well-being. At the same time, in many societies genetic evidence is being called upon to repair the racial past and to transform scholarly and popular opinion about the “nature” of identity in the present.

Genetics and the Unsettled Past considers the alignment of genetic science with commercial genealogy, with legal and forensic developments, and with pharmaceutical innovation to examine how these trends lend renewed authority to biological understandings of race and history.

This unique collection brings together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to explore the emerging and often contested connections among race, DNA, and history. Written for a general audience, the book’s essays touch upon a variety of topics, including the rise and implications of DNA in genealogy, law, and other fields; the cultural and political uses and misuses of genetic information; the way in which DNA testing is reshaping understandings of group identity for French Canadians, Native Americans, South Africans, and many others within and across cultural and national boundaries; and the sweeping implications of genetics for society today.

In this interview for Dalton Conley’s book, You May Ask Yourself, Alondra Nelson describes her research on genetic testing and how it is changing the way people think about race.

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Race Categorization and the Regulation of Business and Science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2010-11-22 02:33Z by Steven

Race Categorization and the Regulation of Business and Science

Law & Society Review
Volume 44, Issue 3-4 (September/December 2010)
pages 617–650
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5893.2010.00418.x

Catherine Lee, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research
Rutgers University

John D. Skrentny, Director, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Professor of Sociology
University of California, San Diego

Despite the lack of consensus regarding the meaning or significance of race or ethnicity amongst scientists and the lay public, there are legal requirements and guidelines that dictate the collection of racial and ethnic data across a range of institutions. Legal regulations are typically created through a political process and then face varying kinds of resistance when the state tries to implement them. We explore the nature of this opposition by comparing responses from businesses, scientists, and science-oriented businesses (pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies) to U.S. state regulations that used politically derived racial categorizations, originally created to pursue civil rights goals. We argue that insights from cultural sociology regarding institutional and cultural boundaries can aid understanding of the nature of resistance to regulation. The Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for research by pharmaceutical companies imposed race categories on science-based businesses, leading to objections that emphasized the autonomy and validity of science. In contrast, similar race categories regulating first business by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and later scientific research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) encountered little challenge. We argue that pharmaceutical companies had the motive (profit) that NIH-supported scientists lacked and a legitimate discourse (boundary work of science) that businesses regulated by the EEOC did not have. The study suggests the utility of a comparative cultural sociology of the politics of legal regulation, particularly when understanding race-related regulation and the importance of examining legal regulations for exploring how the meaning of race or ethnicity are contested and constructed in law.

…Drug companies and their industry association representatives argued that other conflicts could arise in using these categories outside the United States. Test subjects outside the United States would be unwilling, they claimed, to answer questions that many Americans might not find objectionable. A number of the pharmaceutical companies commented that in clinical studies conducted outside the United States, the Latino or Hispanic ethnicity question would render meaningless information from places such as Spain, where all subjects could be classified as Hispanic but whose cultural experiences and history may be more in alignment with France than with those of American Hispanics. Equally troubling as the Hispanic question was the lack of group specificity for the Asian category and uncertainty related to how multiracial subjects should be counted. In raising these concerns about how to identify and count Australian Aborigines, Spaniards, or Asians, these companies and organizations challenged the scientific integrity, applicability, and generalizability of the OMB categories. The lack of external validity violated a central tenet of the scientific method…

Read the entire article here.

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