Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2020-01-16 04:01Z by Steven

Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Bloomsbury
2020-02-20
224 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781350099838
EPUB eBook ISBN: 9781350099852
PDF eBook ISBN: 9781350099845

Josie Gill, Lecturer in Black British Writing
University of Bristol, United Kingdom

In this important interdisciplinary study, Josie Gill explores how the contemporary novel has drawn upon, and intervened in, debates about race in late 20th and 21st century genetic science. Reading works by leading contemporary writers including Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Octavia Butler and Colson Whitehead, Biofictions demonstrates how ideas of race are produced at the intersection of science and fiction, which together create the stories about identity, racism, ancestry and kinship which characterize our understanding of race today. By highlighting the role of narrative in the formation of racial ideas in science, this book calls into question the apparent anti-racism of contemporary genetics, which functions narratively, rather than factually or objectively, within the racialized contexts in which it is embedded. In so doing, Biofictions compels us to rethink the long-asked question of whether race is a biological fact or a fiction, calling instead for a new understanding of the relationship between race, science and fiction.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Roots of African Eve: Science Writing on Human Origins and Alex Haley’s Roots
  • 2. Race, Genetic Ancestry Tracing and Facial Expression: “Focusing on the Faces” in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
  • 3. “One Part Truth and Three Parts Fiction”: Race, Science and Narrative in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
  • 4. “The Sick Swollen Heart of This Land”: Pharmacogenomics, Racial Medicine and Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt
  • 5. Mutilation and Mutation: Epigenetics and Racist Environments in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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UVA and the History of Race: Eugenics, the Racial Integrity Act, Health Disparities

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2020-01-16 03:45Z by Steven

UVA and the History of Race: Eugenics, the Racial Integrity Act, Health Disparities

UVA Today
2020-01-09

P. Preston Reynolds, Professor of Medicine and Nursing
University of Virginia


Thomas Jefferson’s writings included observations about race that aligned with later eugenicists. Under the medical school deanship of Paul Brandon Barringer, right, UVA built its first hospital in 1901, but also continued to advance eugenic science.

Editor’s note: Even an institution as historic as the University of Virginia – now entering its third century – has stories yet to be told. Some are inspiring, while the truths of others are painful, but necessary for a fuller accounting of the past. The President’s Commissions on Slavery and on the University in the Age of Segregation were established to find and tell those stories. Here are some of them, written by those who did the research. One in an occasional series:

By the start of the 20th century, the University of Virginia had become a center of an emerging new strain of racism – eugenics – that would create and perpetuate myths created under the guise of scientific research, but ultimately was intended to demonstrate white racial superiority.

The goal of eugenic science was knowledge of how various traits – emotional, physical, intellectual – were inherited, so that such information could be applied in order to advance the human race and preserve imagined racial superiority. Eugenic scientists used the census, genealogy, measurement of physiological functions and human anatomy, as well as intelligence testing, as methods of investigation.

They believed application of eugenic knowledge, through legislation and community practices, would eliminate mental illness, physical disabilities, moral delinquency, crime and even physical illnesses. They assumed the benefit to society would be a dramatic reduction in the cost of caring for the sick, poor, mentally ill and incarcerated…

Read the entire article here.

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How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2020-01-13 02:47Z by Steven

How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality

Weidenfeld & Nicolson an (imprint of The Orion Publishing Group)
2020-02-06
224 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781474611244
eBook ISBN-13: 9781474611268

Adam Rutherford

How to Argue With a Racist

Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. But the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise – and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. Stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steers them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. Even some scientists are uncomfortable expressing opinions deriving from their research where it relates to race. Yet, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be.

How to Argue With a Racist is a vital manifesto for a twenty-first century understanding of human evolution and variation, and a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry.

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How I changed my mind about the biology of race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2019-12-29 02:07Z by Steven

How I changed my mind about the biology of race

The Guardian
2019-12-28

Philip Ball, Science Writer


‘I have all the liberal lefty’s revulsion at racism, but I couldn’t help thinking that if we insisted that race is not biologically determined, wouldn’t that just confuse people?’ Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Angela Saini’s book Superior showed me our misconceptions about race and science arise from a habit of the mind

It has been common for several years now to assert that science shows the concept of race has no biological basis, and that we must see it instead as a social construct. That case was argued, for example, by Kenan Malik in his 2008 book Strange Fruit, and it is presented, too, in Angela Saini’s Superior (which I reviewed for the Guardian in July), a popular choice on many “books of the year” lists.

I used to be sceptical about this claim. I have all the liberal lefty’s revulsion at racism, but I couldn’t help thinking: “If we insist that race is not biologically determined, won’t that just confuse people, given that it is so blindingly obvious that characteristic markers of race are inherited?” The usual argument is that genomics has identified no clusters of gene variants specific to conventional racial groupings: there is more genetic variation within such groups than between them. But doesn’t that insist on a definition of race that most people simply won’t recognise? Isn’t it better to say that yes, race has a biological basis – but the relevant bodily features are a trivial part of what makes us us?

I confess that I was too nervous to make this suggestion in such an incendiary area. Fortunately, after reading Saini’s book I no longer need to, for Superior gave me the perspective I needed to see what is wrong with it. Our concept of race is not really about skin colour or eye shape, and never has been. It has baked into it beliefs that can’t be dispelled merely by reducing its biological correlates to trivialities. For in our assumptions about race, those features have always been rather irrelevant in themselves. Rather, they serve to activate prejudices stemming from deeply ingrained cognitive habits…

Read the entire article here.

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Genetic Options: The Impact of Genetic Ancestry Testing on Consumers’ Racial and Ethnic Identities

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-12-01 00:52Z by Steven

Genetic Options: The Impact of Genetic Ancestry Testing on Consumers’ Racial and Ethnic Identities

American Journal of Sociology
Volume 124, Number 1 (July 2018)
pages 150-184
DOI: 10.1086/697487

Wendy D. Roth, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Biorn Ivemark, Postdoctoral Researcher
School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

Publication Cover

The rapid growth of genetic ancestry testing has brought concerns that these tests will transform consumers’ racial and ethnic identities, producing “geneticized” identities determined by genetic knowledge. Drawing on 100 qualitative interviews with white, black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Native Americans, the authors develop the genetic options theory to account for how genetic ancestry tests influence consumers’ ethnic and racial identities. The theory maintains that consumers do not accept the tests’ results as given but choose selectively from the estimates according to two mechanisms: their identity aspirations and social appraisals. Yet consumers’ prior racialization also influences their identity aspirations; white respondents aspired to new identities more readily and in substantively different ways. The authors’ findings suggest that genetic ancestry testing can reinforce race privilege among those who already experience it.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The return of race science — the quest to fortify racism with bad biology

Posted in Articles, Audio, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2019-11-21 21:03Z by Steven

The return of race science — the quest to fortify racism with bad biology

Quirks & Quarks
CBC Radio
2019-11-15

Bob McDonald, Host and CBC’s Chief Science Correspondent


An anti-racism demonstrator holds a placard during a protest march in 2018 in London, U.K. Author Angela Saini said when she grew up as an ethnic minority in the city, there was a lot of racism in her area. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

A look at the re-emergence of ‘scientific’ attempts to explain perceived racial differences

In an era of rising ethnic nationalism and white supremacy, a British science writer’s new book explores why old notions of “race science” are finding new popularity.

This revival drew Angela Saini to explore the history and new life that’s been given to the idea that science can justify old ideas of human difference based on skin colour, nationality or religion — what she called the biologization of race. The persistence of this idea in the modern era can be seen in a variety of ways, from the popularity of dubious DNA ancestry testing to shadowy online groups repackaging scientific racism for the 21st century.

In her new book Superior: The Return of Race Science, Saini traces the history of race science back to the Age of Enlightenment, when philosophers and European thinkers started to classify human beings based on colour or other superficial features, the same way they classified plants or other animals.

Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald spoke with Saini about a range of topics: how modern science shows that racial categories are social constructs, not well-defined biological categories; how notions of race science are fed by and feed into politics; and how well-intentioned scientists should think about studying questions about human difference, including marginalized groups who may share susceptibility to disease…

Read the article an listen to the interview here.

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Race, genetics and pseudoscience: an explainer

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Teaching Resources on 2019-10-27 01:15Z by Steven

Race, genetics and pseudoscience: an explainer

Ewan’s Blog: Bioinformatician at Large
2019-10-24

Ewan Birney, Joint Director
European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Jennifer Raff, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Kansas

Adam Rutherford, Professor of Genetics, Evolution & Environment
University College London

Aylwyn Scally, Professor of Genetics
University of Cambridge

Human genetics tells us about the similarities and differences between people – in our physical and psychological traits, and in our susceptibility to disorders and diseases – but our DNA can also reveal the broader story of our evolution, ancestry and history. Genetics is a new scientific field, relatively speaking, merely a century old. Over the last two decades, the pace of discovery has accelerated dramatically, with exciting new findings appearing daily. Even for scientists who study this field, it’s difficult to keep up.

Amidst this ongoing surge of new information, there are darker currents. A small number of researchers, mostly well outside of the scientific mainstream, have seized upon some of the new findings and methods in human genetics, and are part of a social-media cottage-industry that disseminates and amplifies low-quality or distorted science, sometimes in the form of scientific papers, sometimes as internet memes – under the guise of euphemisms such as ‘race realism’ or ‘human biodiversity’. Their arguments, which focus on racial groupings and often on the alleged genetically-based intelligence differences between them, have the semblance of science, with technical-seeming tables, graphs, and charts. But they’re misleading in several important ways. The aim of this article is to provide an accessible guide for scientists, journalists, and the general public for understanding, criticising and pushing back against these arguments…

Read the entire article here.

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New Evidence of Skin Color Bias and Health Outcomes Using Sibling Difference Models: A Research Note

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-10-26 03:32Z by Steven

New Evidence of Skin Color Bias and Health Outcomes Using Sibling Difference Models: A Research Note

Demography
Volume 56, Issue 2 (April 2019)
pages 753-762
DOI: 10.1007/s13524-018-0756-6

Thomas Laidley, Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado

Benjamin Domingue, Assistant Professor of Education and, by courtesy, of Sociology
Stanford University

Piyapat Sinsub
Princeton University

Kathleen Mullan Harris, James Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology
University of North Carolina

Dalton Conley, Henry Putnam University Professor in Sociology
Princeton University

In this research note, we use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to determine whether darker skin tone predicts hypertension among siblings using a family fixed-effects analytic strategy. We find that even after we account for common family background and home environment, body mass index, age, sex, and outdoor activity, darker skin color significantly predicts hypertension incidence among siblings. In a supplementary analysis using newly released genetic data from Add Health, we find no evidence that our results are biased by genetic pleiotropy, whereby differences in alleles among siblings relate to coloration and directly to cardiovascular health simultaneously. These results add to the extant evidence on color biases that are distinct from those based on race alone and that will likely only heighten in importance in an increasingly multiracial environment as categorization becomes more complex.

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Opinion: The pernicious myth of a Caucasian race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2019-10-26 03:06Z by Steven

Opinion: The pernicious myth of a Caucasian race

The Los Angeles Times
2019-09-11

Joel Dinerstien, Professor of English
Tulane University, New Orleans Louisiana

Anthropologists have for centuries studied human skulls and drawn conclusions about human origins — some of them inaccurate.
Anthropologists have for centuries studied human skulls and drawn conclusions about human origins — some of them inaccurate. (Menahem Kahana / AFP/Getty Images)

How did a female skull lead to “Caucasians”?

In the vocabulary of ethnicity, some designations are obvious. African Americans are of African descent; Latinos have Latin American roots. But what about Caucasians? If a Native American told a Caucasian to “go back where you came from,” where would that person go?

Geographically, Caucasia is a region of Russia, a place from which few white Americans come. Yet the term Caucasian remains in wide use as a synonym for a white person.

The classification dates back to 1795, when Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a respected German physician and anthropologist, conducted research in which he measured skulls, a then-common practice for comparing disparate human groups…

Read the entire article here.

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Context-dependence of race self-classification: Results from a highly mixed and unequal middle-income country

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2019-10-19 03:08Z by Steven

Context-dependence of race self-classification: Results from a highly mixed and unequal middle-income country

PLOS ONE
2019-05-16
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216653

Dóra Chor
Department of Epidemiology and Quantitative Methods
National School of Public Health
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Alexandre Pereira
Laboratory of Genetics and Molecular Cardiology, Heart Institute (InCor)
University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil

Antonio G. Pacheco
Scientific Computing Program
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil

Ricardo V. Santos
Department of Epidemiology and Quantitative Methods
National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Department of Anthropology, Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil

Maria J. M. Fonseca
Department of Epidemiology and Quantitative Methods
National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Maria I. Schmidt
Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, School of Medicine
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS Brazil

Bruce B. Duncan
Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, School of Medicine
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS Brazil

Sandhi M. Barreto, Faculty of Medicine & Clinical Hospital
Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil

Estela M. L. Aquino
Institute of Collective Health
Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, BA Brazil

José G. Mill
Department of Physiological Sciences
Federal University of Espirito Santo, Vitória, ES Brazil

Maria delCB Molina
Department of Physiological Science
Federal University of Espirito Santo, Vitória, ES Brazil

Luana Giatti, Faculty of Medicine & Clinical Hospital
Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil

Maria daCC Almeida
Gonçalo Muniz Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Salvador, BA Brazil

Isabela Bensenor
Center for Clinical and Epidemiological Research, University Hospital
University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP Brazil

Paulo A. Lotufo
Center for Clinical and Epidemiological Research
University Hospital, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP Brazil

Ethnic-racial classification criteria are widely recognized to vary according to historical, cultural and political contexts. In Brazil, the strong influence of individual socio-economic factors on race/colour self-classification is well known. With the expansion of genomic technologies, the use of genomic ancestry has been suggested as a substitute for classification procedures such as self-declaring race, as if they represented the same concept. We investigated the association between genomic ancestry, the racial composition of census tracts and individual socioeconomic factors and self-declared race/colour in a cohort of 15,105 Brazilians. Results show that the probability of self-declaring as black or brown increases according to the proportion of African ancestry and varies widely among cities. In Porto Alegre, where most of the population is white, with every 10% increase in the proportion of African ancestry, the odds of self-declaring as black increased 14 times (95%CI 6.08–32.81). In Salvador, where most of the population is black or brown, that increase was of 3.98 times (95%CI 2.96–5.35). The racial composition of the area of residence was also associated with the probability of self-declaring as black or brown. Every 10% increase in the proportion of black and brown inhabitants in the residential census tract increased the odds of self-declaring as black by 1.33 times (95%CI 1.24–1.42). Ancestry alone does not explain self-declared race/colour. An emphasis on multiple situational contexts (both individual and collective) provides a more comprehensive framework for the study of the predictors of self-declared race/colour, a highly relevant construct in many different scenarios, such as public policy, sociology and medicine.

Read the entire article here.

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