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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The Color of American Genomics: Genetics in the Era of Racialized Medicine

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-12-08 03:36Z by Steven

The Color of American Genomics: Genetics in the Era of Racialized Medicine

University of California, Los Angeles
306 Royce Hall
340 Royce Drive
Los Angeles, California 90095
Friday, 2016-12-09, 13:30-16:30 PST (Local Time)


Michael Montoya, Associate Professor
University of California, Irvine

Sandra Soo Jin Lee, Senior Research Scholar
Stanford University

Joan Donovan
University of California, Los Angeles

Élodie Grossi
University of California, Los Angeles/EPIDAPO

Since the 1960s, American ethno-racial categories have been increasingly used to respond to the inclusion of ethnic and racial minorities in biomedicine and genetics. It has been the researchers’ very dedication to the positive ideals of diversity and to the struggle against medical disparities that has paradoxically allowed racial categories to massively gain ground in science. This half-day symposium aims to shed light on the scope of racialized science and the political and ethical considerations raised by this new paradigm.

This workshop is free and open to the public

Presented by EPIDAPO.  Co-sponsored by the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics.

For more information, click here.

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Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-29 21:17Z by Steven

Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

The Americas
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2014
pages 179-181
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2014.0105

Emily Wentzell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Iowa

Montoya, Michael J., Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011)

Michael J. Montoya investigates U.S.-based genetic research and discourse asserting Mexican-American susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, to reveal “the role of genetic research in the persistent use of race to divide populations in society at large” (p. 12). Montoya makes the importance of this project clear, situating it in a sociocultural context where genetics suffuse our understandings of humanness, identity, and sickness, and where folk taxonomies of race—which Montoya understands as embodiments of group-based oppression—are simultaneously contested and enduring. His chapters follow blood samples and their use from donation, though abstraction into datasets and analyses, to market and the popular cultural deployment of the scientific claims they generate. Montoya reveals how each of these moments entails the construction of scientific objects, including the recasting of borderlands residents who cannot afford healthcare as humanist donors, the elision of folk taxonomies of race into bodily attributes on the population level, and the construction of “the Mexican American population” as a homogenously admixed ethno-racial group. These chapters also illustrate the process of what Montoya terms “bioethnic conscription,” in which “ethnicity comes to be construed as meaningful for scientific research,” supporting genetic or clinical claims (p. 26) and obscuring the social origins of human difference and sickness. Overall, this book reveals how broader contexts of oppression lead well-meaning researchers to further the biologization of inequality into ethno-racial categories, which pathologize and homogenize the oppressed while obscuring the material causes of sickness.

This work builds on the best foundations from anthropology and STS, wedding attention to the co-construction of society and science with an anthropological eye to material and social realities. Montoya’s resistance to dualities when investigating science-race relationships is at the same time a resistance to reductionist traditions. Avoiding oppositions between biology and society, he productively frames biology as part of society to understand how embodied inequality can come to look like racial disease susceptibility, and how broader social phenomena, like the existence of racial labels, filter into biological research.

He similarly complicates debates about the use of race in science. Pointing out that scientists are themselves wary of naturalizing race, Montoya sees that simply identifying their failures is a dead end. Instead, he investigates how even those seeking to avoid biologizing folk taxonomies of race participate in broader cultural assemblages that reinforce them. His claims draw authority from his impressive engagement with scientific practice and fluency in the language of genetics, which enable him to avoid critiquing a scientific straw man.

Such analysis draws on remarkable ethnography. Montoya conducted extensive participant observation in multiple sites of an international diabetes research consortium. This research yields data on geneticists’ daily practice in offices in Chicago, DNA sample collection along the U.S.-Mexico border, and diabetes research conferences, as well as the resulting documents such as grant proposals. Linking rich ethnography with equally rich analysis, Montoya shows readers how interactions in these sites illustrate widely varying uses and even critiques of ideas of race which ultimately, because of broader social forces, revivify ideas of human difference that perpetuate inequality. Montoya clearly situates himself in the work, discussing his intellectual and social background and its relationship to the development of his project; graduate students designing their own fieldwork will find this instructive.

This book is a must-read for scholars seeking an ethnographically grounded yet highly theoretical read on science, sickness, race and Mexicanness. It reveals relationships between race, science, and context that should be widely understood, and Montoya expresses hope that a broadly interdisciplinary readership might apply these insights. However, this aim of applicability might be thwarted by the book’s impressive but dizzying linkage of analyses to relevant theories from multiple disciplines, as well as its inclusion (especially in the introduction) of rafts of provocative questions that will not be explicitly answered. Somewhat ironically, given Montoya’s engaging discussion of a geneticist critiquing an ethnography of science’s emphasis on “philosophy shit” (p. 128), this work uses high-level theory in a way that will excite social scientists but overwhelm others. While excerpts (especially the engaging sections analyzing rich ethnography) would be useful for undergraduate classes on medical and cultural anthropology, race…

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Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-09-14 18:21Z by Steven

Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

University of Texas, Austin
2013-09-23 through 2013-09-24

One of the primary goals of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and many public health programs is the reduction of health disparities in the United States. However, significant racial/ethnic disparities persist in the prevalence of disease, access to medical care, quality of care, and health outcomes for the most common causes of death (including cardiovascular and lung disease, infectious disease, cancer, diabetes, and accidents). At this conference, nationally-recognized speakers will discuss the causes of such disparities and describe new approaches in clinical care and medical education that improve care, achieve better health outcomes, and reduce racial/ethnic health disparities. We will also discuss how these best practices can be incorporated into medical training at the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas and at other medical schools around the country. One key goal of this conference is to help design a cutting-edge curriculum that will better prepare medical students to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century medicine.

Conference registration is open to anyone interested in attending this event. See the Continuing Medical Education (CME) tab for information regarding continuing education for the September 23rd portion of the conference.

The second day of the conference (September 24) is open to invited participants only. Discussions and working groups on the second day will focus on developing new pedagogical approaches and innovative learning modules for the pre-clinical curriculum at the Dell Medical School, with the goal of more effectively integrating training on human genomic variation, race/ethnicity, health disparities, and social/environmental determinants of health into the medical curriculum.


For more information, click here.

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