The short life of a race drug

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-04-23 23:44Z by Steven

The short life of a race drug

The Lancet
Volume 379, Issue 9811 (2012-01-14 through 2012-01-20)
pages 114-115
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60052-X

Sheldon Krimsky, Professor of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning; Adjunct Professor of Public Health and Family Medicine
Tufts School of Medicine
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

The headlines back in June, 2005, read “FDA approves a heart drug for African Americans”. The decision that gave the company NitroMed approval for its drug BiDil exclusively to a “racial group” represented a milestone in US drug policy. The decision ignited a debate that polarised the African American community, confounded proponents of personalised medicine, and dismayed groups opposed to reinscribing racial categories into science. Ever since Ashley Montagu published Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race in 1964 [1942?], scientists have reached a broad consensus that “race” applied to human populations has no standing in science…

…In a historical context too, the use of such racial classification is shown to be a subjective process. The concept of “race” in the USA grew out of slavery when state laws dictated racial identity by percentage admixture. A person who self-identifies as African American could have one great-grandfather (or about one-eighth of his or her genome) as the exclusive source of that identity. Homer Plessy was the plaintiff in an 1896 US Supreme Court decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) that established the “separate but equal” foundations of segregation in the USA. Plessy, who was escorted off a train for whites only, was considered black based on the infamous “one drop rule”, even though he considered himself seven-eighths white. By contrast, Jean Toomer, author of the 1923 book Cane, which chronicled the lives of black Americans, sometimes identified himself as black and sometimes as white. Thus, two individuals, both with one-eighth African ancestry, might either be defined by others as black or self-identify as white or black. Why should the drug’s approval for a differentiated group be based upon such quixotic criteria? Despite all the reasons why “race” has no role in science, it was a science-based agency that approved BiDil for a racial group…

…While many commentators who supported the approval of BiDil for black patients state that “race” is not a scientifically precise term for identifying relevant genomic or physiological characteristics that differentiate population groups, nevertheless, they argue that “self-identified race” is a useful proxy for those characteristics. However, what is the evidence that the proxy “self-identified race” is a reliable surrogate? The best evidence derives from the fact that genetic variation conferring disease susceptibility is not equally distributed among ancestral populations. For example, sickle cell anaemia is more prevalent in populations whose ancestry can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa. However, “self-identified race” is a subjective term, influenced by cultural factors, and not even grounded in the ancestral genomics of, for example, the International HapMap Project. For the purpose of the clinical trials, “self-identified race” is interpreted as a dichotomous variable (black or non-black). If race were used as a proxy for ancestral African genomics it should be a continuous function (10%, 30%, 70%, etc). It makes no scientific sense to map a continuous function onto a dichotomous variable…

Read the entire article here or here.

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Making Race: Biology and the Evolution of the Race Concept in 20 Century American Thought

Posted in Dissertations, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-23 20:41Z by Steven

Making Race: Biology and the Evolution of the Race Concept in 20 Century American Thought

Columbia University
December 2008
309 pages

Michael Yudell

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

At the dawn of the 21st century the idea of race—the belief that the peoples of the world can be organized into biologically distinctive groups, each with its own discrete physical, social and intellectual characteristics—is seen by most natural and social scientists as unsound and unscientific. Race and racism, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, are ideas with a measurable past, identifiable present, and uncertain future. They are concepts that change with time and place; the changes themselves products of a range of variables including time, place, geography, politics, science, and economics. As much as scientists once thought that race and racism were reflections of physical or biological differences, today social scientists, with help from colleagues in the natural sciences, have shown that the once scientific concept of race is in fact a product of history with an unmistakable impact on the American story. This dissertation examines the history of the biological race concept during the 20th century, studying how the biological sciences helped to shape thinking about human difference. This work argues that in the 20th century biology and genetics became the arbiter of the meaning of race. This work also brings the story of the evolution of the race concept to the present by examining the early impact of the genomic sciences on race, and by placing it in a contemporary public health context.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication
  • Preface
  • Introduction: The Permanence of Race
  • Chapter 1: A Eugenic Foundation
  • Chapter 2: Making Race A Biological Difference
  • Chapter 3: Race Problems for Biology
  • Chapter 4: Consolidating the Biological Race Concept
  • Chapter 5: Race in the Molecular Age
  • Conclusion: Race, Genomics, and the Public’s Health
  • Bibliography

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Obama as Anti-American: Visual Folklore in Right-Wing Forwarded E-mails and Construction of Conservative Social Identity

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-23 20:03Z by Steven

Obama as Anti-American: Visual Folklore in Right-Wing Forwarded E-mails and Construction of Conservative Social Identity

Journal of American Folklore
Volume 125, Number 496, Spring 2012
pages 177-203
DOI: 10.1353/jaf.2012.0018

Margaret Duffy, Associate Professor of Journalism
University of Missouri

Janis Teruggi Page
George Washington University

Rachel Young
Missouri School of Journalism

This paper investigates the group-building potential of forwarded e-mails through a visual analysis of negative images about President Barack Obama. We argue that these e-mails are a form of political digital folklore that may contribute to constructing participants’ individual and group identities. Images amplify the impact and believability of the messages, especially when linked to familiar cultural references and experiences and may lead to increased political polarization and hostility.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The ‘Other’ from within: Afro-Germans as Scapegoats for the post-WWII German Society

Posted in Europe, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2012-04-23 02:52Z by Steven

The ‘Other’ from within: Afro-Germans as Scapegoats for the post-WWII German Society

Postgraduate History Conference: Creating the ‘Other’
Department of History, University of Essex

Antje Friedrich
Department of English Literature
University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany

The theme of the graduate conference this year was ‘Creating the ‘Other’’ throughout history.  We were very pleased to welcome a large and diverse group delegates and presenters from a number of institutions who made for an engaging and lively audience.  We were also very happy to welcome Dr. John Bulaitis, of Canterbury Christchurch University, to provide the keynote address to the conference.  Contributions were arranged into four panels, which explored the relevance of historical processes of ‘Othering’ to the realms of national identity, crime, gender and colonialism.  Papers presented covered a multitude of topics, periods and contexts, ranging from the construction of persons of colour as servants in late 19th and early 20th century France, Germany and the United States, to the origins of sub-cultural cannabis-use in mid-20th century London, the utilisation of humour in the construction of masculinities during the English Civil Wars, and the introduction of the Contagious Diseases Act in the governance of the colonial ‘other’ in British-controlled Hong Kong in the late-19th century.  It is intended that a selection of papers presented shall form the basis of this years’ working papers series issued by the Department of History later on in 2011.  We would like to thank the Department for their generosity in funding this event.

For a long time in the collective German national memory, Afro-Germans had only been a side note to which little attention was paid. With the emergence of autobiographical works representing the perspective of Afro-German people, their struggle in society gained a public face. This article focuses on Ika Hügel-Marshall’s work Invisible Women: Growing up Black in Germany and the representation of her social struggle in post-WWII German society. Her depiction of the impact institutions had on her life – institutions that were meant to support the child’s development, but in her case prolonged the construction of the ‘Other’ as an outsider of society – will be accentuated.

The youth welfare office responsible for her, the orphanage she was sent to and the school she attended, represented the social spirit of the post-WWII era during which the anger of having lost the war and being under the control of the Allied Powers was projected onto people like Hügel-Marshall, who in the eyes of many Germans constituted the ‘Other’. Thus, this paper aims to highlight those social processes that constituted barriers for the development of the self and the mechanisms which helped Hügel-Marshall to finally break through and lead a self-determined life in a German society that often took the outward appearance as a decisive feature for creating an “in” and “out” group.

Read the entire paper here.

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