Teaching and Learning Guide for: Ethnographic approaches to race, genetics and genealogy

Teaching and Learning Guide for: Ethnographic approaches to race, genetics and genealogy

Sociology Compass
Volume 3 Issue 5
Pages 847 – 852
DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00231.x

Katharine Tyler, Lecturer in Race and Ethnicity
University of Surrey

Over the last 20 years, there has been a technological advance and commercial boom in genetic technologies and projects. These developments include a renewed scientific interest in the biological status and genetic constitution of race. This aspect of genetic research is of interest to sociologists and others working in the field of race and ethnicity studies. While the consensus among sociologists is that race is a social construction with no biological foundations, innovations in genetic research have pushed sociologists and other social scientists to reflect upon the ways in which ideas of biology mediate everyday understandings of race. Anthropologists, cultural geographers and sociologists have begun to study the complex and ambivalent ways in which laypeople think about the biological and genetic constitution of racial identities. Central to this area of inquiry has been analysis of laypeople’s engagements with the new reproductive technologies, such as IVF. In addition, social scientists have begun to study laypeople’s uses of genealogical technologies that claim to trace family ancestries, including racial descent and ethnic origins. Ultimately, such studies enable a deeper understanding of the social construction of ‘race’, and in the course of so doing provide an important research avenue to challenge racism.

Author recommends
…Wade, Peter (ed.) 2007. Race, Ethnicity and Nation: Perspectives from Kinship and Genetics. Oxford: Berghahn, New York.

This book brings together a collection of essays written by scholars who worked collaboratively for 3 years exploring everyday articulations of race, ethnicity and genetics across Europe in the face of innovations in genetic science. The book draws upon a rich array of anthropological studies of ‘assisted reproduction, transnational adoption, mixed-race families, Basque identity politics and post-Soviet nation-building’ to explore how ideas of race, ethnicity, nation and nature are lived and experienced by people within differing European social contexts….

Post-race: The end of race?

Lecture 10 – Interracial Identities

With a marked rise in the number of children of mixed parentage, there is a growing body of literature that explores the experiences and identities of the members of interracial families. This body of literature challenges simplistic understandings of ‘race’, nation and culture through an interrogation of what it means to be the parent of mixed-race children and/or to grow up and claim a ‘mixed’ identity.

  • Ali, S. 2003. Mixed-Race, Post-Race. Berg.
  • Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin 2001. Mixed Feelings: The Complex Lives of Mixed-Race Britons. The Women’s Press.
  • Brah, A. and Coombes, A. 2000. Hybridity and its Discontents. Politics, Science and Culture. Routledge (see Part 1 of this book titled ‘Miscegenation and Racial Purity’ that include essays by Stoler, Labanyi, Phoenix and Owen, Treacher).
  • Frankenberg, R. 1993. White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness. Routledge (chapter 5).
  • Howell, S. 2001. ‘Self-Conscious Kinship: Some Contested Values in Norwegian Transnational Adoption’, in Franklin, S. and Mckinnon, S. (eds), Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies. Duke University Press.
  • Ifekwunigwe, J. 1999. Scattered Belongings: Cultural Paradoxes of ‘Race’, Nation and Gender. Routledge.
  • Parker, D. and Song, M. 2001. Rethinking ‘Mixed Race’. Pluto Press.
  • Root, M. (eds) 1992. Racially Mixed People in America. Sage.
  • Tizard, B. and Ann Phoenix 1993. Black, White or Mixed-Race? Race and Racism in the Lives of Young People of Mixed Parentage. New York: Routledge.
  • Twine, F. W. 2000. ‘Bearing Blackness in Britain: The Meaning of Racial Difference for White Birth Mothers of African-Descent Children.’ Pp. 76–108 in Ideologies and Technologies of Motherhood: Race, Class, Sexuality, Nationalism, edited by H. Ragone and F. W. Twine. Routledge.
  • Tyler, K. 2005. ‘The Genealogical Imagination: The Inheritance of Interracial Identities.’The Sociological Review 53 (3): 475–94.
  • Wilson, A. 1987. Mixed Race Children: A Study of Identity. Allen and Unwin.
  • Zack, N. (ed). American Mixed-Race: The Culture of Microdiversity. Rowman and Littlefield Pub….
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