Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2020-02-20 22:46Z 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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Penn Medicine and the Afterlives of Slavery (PMAS) presents: Christianity, Race, and Haunting of the Biomedical Sciences

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2020-02-18 19:13Z by Steven

Penn Medicine and the Afterlives of Slavery (PMAS) presents: Christianity, Race, and Haunting of the Biomedical Sciences

University of Pennsylvania
Max Kade Center
3401 Walnut Street
Suite 329-A
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wednesday, 2020-02-19, 16:00-17:30 EST (Local Time)

Terence Keel, Associate, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society & Genetics
University of California, Los Angeles

The idea that so-called races reflect inherent biological differences between social groups has been a prominent aspect of Western thought since at least the Enlightenment. While there have been moments of refuting this way of thinking—most notably, the social constructionist thesis emerging as a dominant framework in the aftermath of WWII—fixed biological conceptions of race haunt new genetic technologies, where race is thought to be measurable at the molecular level. Keel argues that the resilience of this naturalized understanding of race may stem less from overtly political motives on the part of scientists and more from our inherited theological traditions that predate the Enlightenment and continue to shape and limit the intellectual horizon of scientific reasoning.

For more information, click here.

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The pseudoscience of hate

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2020-02-06 18:35Z by Steven

The pseudoscience of hate

The New Statesman
2020-02-05

Anjana Ajuha, Contributing Science Writer
The Financial Times

Genetics does not recognise race as a biologically meaningful concept, but that doesn’t stop racists invoking its findings.

How To Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality. Adam Rutherford Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 224pp, £12.99

Accidental encounters with racists lead me to believe that they are open to neither reason nor self-improvement. I must conclude, then, that a book entitled How to Argue With a Racist will remain untouched by those who would most benefit from reading it. This is a pity, as there is a growing army who have succumbed to a phenomenon known as “race realism”. This is racism reinterpreted for the internet age: a heady brew of misunderstood science, ugly conspiracy and plain old prejudice that forms the basis of (usually) far-right and white supremacist thinking.

Race realism promotes the spurious idea that science has uncovered distinct and meaningful differences between races but that this “truth” is somehow suppressed by snowflake scientists in hock to political correctness. Those supposed truths are then contorted by their abusers into parodies of racial destiny: black men are born to sprint but not to swim; Jews are born into moneylending; and, of course, whites are born above all others. Black people are several rungs below white peers on the social ladder not because of systemic oppression and discrimination but because they are naturally more stupid.

It is a perverse system of thought that seeks to justify racial separateness and conveniently reinforce assertions of white superiority. This is an ideology treading water amid the flood of data pouring out of genetics studies and a mistaken concept of ancestry propagated by the consumer DNA testing market – which happily nurtures fantasies of Viking descent…

Read the entire review here.

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

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2020-02-06 18:26Z 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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Episode 4: Race, Identity, Reparations, and the Role of Ancestral DNA Testing ft. Alondra Nelson

Posted in Audio, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2020-01-28 16:17Z by Steven

Episode 4: Race, Identity, Reparations, and the Role of Ancestral DNA Testing ft. Alondra Nelson

The Received Wisdom Podcast
2020-01-27

Dr. Shobita Parthasarathy (co-host), Professor of Public Policy
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Dr. Jack Stilgoe (co-host) – Senior Lecturer
Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London

In this episode, Shobita and Jack answer listener questions, discuss Jack’s trip to the weird world of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and talk to Professor Alondra Nelson about the social life of ancestral DNA testing. Professor Nelson is the Harold F. Linder Chair in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and President of the Social Science Research Council.

Listen to the episode (00:59:21) here. Read the transcript here.

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Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2020-01-27 18:11Z by Steven

Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science

Stanford University Press
January 2018
200 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780804795401
Paper ISBN: 9781503610095
Digital ISBN: 9781503604377

Terence Keel, Associate, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society & Genetics
University of California, Los Angeles

Winner of the 2018 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, sponsored by the American Library Association.

Divine Variations offers a new account of the development of scientific ideas about race. Focusing on the production of scientific knowledge over the last three centuries, Terence Keel uncovers the persistent links between pre-modern Christian thought and contemporary scientific perceptions of human difference. He argues that, instead of a rupture between religion and modern biology on the question of human origins, modern scientific theories of race are, in fact, an extension of Christian intellectual history.

Keel’s study draws on ancient and early modern theological texts and biblical commentaries, works in Christian natural philosophy, seminal studies in ethnology and early social science, debates within twentieth-century public health research, and recent genetic analysis of population differences and ancient human DNA. From these sources, Keel demonstrates that Christian ideas about creation, ancestry, and universalism helped form the basis of modern scientific accounts of human diversity—despite the ostensible shift in modern biology towards scientific naturalism, objectivity, and value neutrality. By showing the connections between Christian thought and scientific racial thinking, this book calls into question the notion that science and religion are mutually exclusive intellectual domains and proposes that the advance of modern science did not follow a linear process of secularization.

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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 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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