“General Heads,” Great Minds, and the Genesis of Scientific Racism

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2015-03-23 01:02Z by Steven

“General Heads,” Great Minds, and the Genesis of Scientific Racism

Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Volume 15, Number 2, Spring 2015
pages 112-118

Robin Runia, Assistant Professor of English
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana

It is commonly presum’d that the Heat of the Climate wherein they live, is the reason, why so many Inhabitants of the Scorching Regions of Africa are Black; and there is this familiar Observation to Countenance this Conjecture, That we plainly see that Mowers, Reapers, and other Countrey-people, who spend the most part of the Hot Summer dayes expos’d to the Sun, have the skin of their Hands and Faces, which are the parts immediately Expos’d to the Sun and Air, made of a Darker Colour than before, and consequently tending to Blackness; And Contrarywise we observe that the Danes and some other people that Inhabit Cold Climates, and even the English who feel not so Rigorous a Cold, have usually Whiter faces than the Spaniards, Portugalls and other European Inhabitants of Hotter Climates. But this Argument I take to be far more Specious than Convincing. (153–54)

There is another Opinion concerning the Complexion of Negroes, that . . . the Blackness of Negroes [is] an effect of Noah’s Curse ratify’d by God’s, upon Cham; But though I think that even a Naturalist may without disparagement believe all the Miracles attested by the Holy Scriptures, yet in this case to flye to a Supernatural Cause, will, I fear, look like Shifting off the Difficulty, instead of Resolving it; for we enquire not the First and Universal, but the Proper, Immediate, and Physical Cause of the Jetty Colour of Negroes; And not only we do not find expressed in the Scripture, that the Curse meant by Noah to Cham, was the Blackness of his Posterity, but we do find plainly enough there that the Curse was quite another thing, namely that he should be a Servant of Servants, that is by an Ebraism, a very Abject Servant to his Brethren. . . . Nor is it evident that Blackness is a Curse, for Navigators tell us of Black Nations, who think so much otherwise of their own condition, that they paint the Devil White. Nor is Blackness inconsistent with Beauty, which even to our European Eyes consists not so much in Colour, as an Advantageous Stature, a Comely Symmetry of the parts of the Body, and Good Features in the Face. So that I see not why Blackness should be thought such a Curse to the Negroes, unless perhaps it be, that being wont to go Naked in those Hot Climates, the Colour of their Skin does probably, according to the Doctrine above deliver’d, make the Sunbeams more Scorching to them, than they would prove to a people of a White Complexion. (159–60)

Greater probability there is, That the Principal Cause (for I would not exclude all concurrent ones) of the Blackness of Negroes is some Peculiar and Seminal Impression. (161)

—Robert Boyle, Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours (1664)

The above extracts present Robert Boyle’s delineation of racialized difference, as produced and evaluated by the Royal Society; this delineation, production, and evaluation is the lifeblood of Cristina Malcolmson’s Studies of Skin Color in the Royal Society. Exploring the development of the modern notion of race within the context of colonialism, Malcolmson argues that “the attention to skin color in the Royal Society allowed racialization to develop and eventually flourish within the practices of the new science” (7). Specifically, attention to the imbrication of this process within institutional and economic commitments to British imperial dominance helps to fill in the gaps between an attention to skin color, consideration of its causes, and the dehumanization and subjugation of non-European individuals. Malcolmson’s focus on the Royal Society’s activities and publications and on Margaret Cavendish’s and Jonathan Swift’s reactions to them provides an important and nuanced contribution to the recent scholarship in this area as well as a call for additional work to be done.

The value of this volume lies in Malcolmson’s thorough presentation of compelling evidence and insightful close readings that expose the Royal Society’s complicity in the spread of racialized discourse and racist thought. In addition, Malcomson’s original contributions to scholarship on the historical construction of race include her critique of polygenesis as inherently racist and her methodical…

Tags: ,

Genetics: No evidence of role in racial mortality gap

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-03-20 00:48Z by Steven

Genetics: No evidence of role in racial mortality gap

Science Daily: Your source for the latest research news
2015-03-16

There is still no evidence of genetic difference between blacks and whites to account for the health disparities in cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study by McGill University researchers. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers suggest that after a decade of genetic studies, factors such as lifestyle, education and socio-economics — not genetics — are more promising avenues to understanding racial health disparities.

The researchers focused on cardiovascular disease, the largest contributor to the racial mortality gap, and conducted a systematic review for articles published over a seven year period in which genetic data from African and European populations were available. The team found no explanation for racial disease disparities amongst any of the hundreds of genetic variants reported.

“After nearly a decade of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), no assessment had yet been made of their contribution toward an explanation of the most prominent racial health disparities observed at the population level,” says Jay Kaufman, of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health in the Faculty of Medicine…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Evolution of the Idea of Race: From Scientific Racism to Genomics

Posted in Anthropology, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-03-20 00:40Z by Steven

The Evolution of the Idea of Race: From Scientific Racism to Genomics

Oxford University Press Webinar
Oxford University Press
Friday, 2015-03-20, 18:00-19:00Z, 14:00-15:00 EDT

Join Oxford University Press on Friday, March 20th for a Webinar featuring Tanya Golash-Boza.

Tanya Golash-Boza is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts at the University of California, Mereced, and the author of the acclaimed textbook, Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach.

In 1735, Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus divided the world into four groups: Americanus, Asiaticus, Europeanus, and Africanus. In the 1850s, Samuel George Morton measured human skulls to prove European superiority. His successor, Paul Broca, compared brain sizes. Psychologist R. M. Yerkes used IQ tests to the same end in the early 20th century, as did Herrnstein and Murray in the late 20th century. Today, scientists use genomics to prove there are biological differences between the races. What has changed and what has not? In this webinar, we will develop a sociological analysis of the evolution of the idea of race and of the persistence of racism.

For more information, click here.

Tags: , , ,

The Contribution of Genomic Research to Explaining Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-03-18 01:31Z by Steven

The Contribution of Genomic Research to Explaining Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review

American Journal of Epidemiology
First Published online: 2015-03-01
DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwu319

Jay S. Kaufman, Professor
Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Lena Dolman
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dinela Rushani
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Richard S. Cooper, Anthony B. Traub Professor of Community and Family Medicine
Stritch School of Medicine
Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois

After nearly a decade of genome-wide association studies, no assessment has yet been made of their contribution toward an explanation of the most prominent racial health disparities observed at the population level. We examined populations of African and European ancestry and focused on cardiovascular diseases, which are collectively the largest contributor to the racial mortality gap. We conducted a systematic search for review articles and meta-analyses published in 2007–2013 in which genetic data from both populations were available. We identified 68 articles relevant to this question; however, few reported significant associations in both racial groups, with just 3 variants meeting study-specific significance criteria. For most outcomes, there were too few estimates for quantitative summarization, but when summarization was possible, racial group did not contribute to heterogeneity. Most associations reported from genome-wide searches were small, difficult to replicate, and in no consistent direction that favored one racial group or another. Although the substantial investment in this technology might have produced clinical advances, it has thus far made little or no contribution to our understanding of population-level racial health disparities in cardiovascular disease.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A reconsideration of the role of self-identified races in epidemiology and biomedical research

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-17 15:19Z by Steven

A reconsideration of the role of self-identified races in epidemiology and biomedical research

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Available online: 2015-03-16
DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.02.004

Ludovica Lorusso
Department of Political Science, Communication, Engineering and Information Technologies
University of Sassari, Italy
Department of Philosophy
University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Fabio Bacchini
Laboratory of Applied Epistemology, DADU
University of Sassari, Italy
Department of Philosophy
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Highlights

  • We explore the role of race in biomedicine and epidemiology.
  • We reject the use of race as a proxy for a genetic component to a complex disease risk.
  • Self-identified race and exposomic and epigenomic variation tend to match each other.
  • Self-identified race captures the effects of present and past racism on people’s health.

A considerable number of studies in epidemiology and biomedicine investigate the etiology of complex diseases by considering (self-identified) race as a relevant variable and focusing on the differences in risk among racial groups in the United States; they extensively draw on a genetic hypothesis—viz. the hypothesis that differences in the risk of complex diseases among racial groups are largely due to genetic differences covarying with genetic ancestry—that appears highly problematic in the light of both current biological evidence and the theory of human genome evolution. Is this reason for dismissing self-identified races? No. An alternative promising use of self-identified races exists, and ironically is suggested by those studies that investigate the etiology of complex diseases without focusing on racial differences. These studies provide a large amount of empirical evidence supporting the primacy of the contribution of non-genetic as opposed to genetic factors to the risk of complex diseases. We show that differences in race—or, better, in racial self-identification—may be critically used as proxies for differences in risk-related exposomes and epigenomes in the context of the United States. Self-identified race is what we need to capture the complexity of the effects of present and past racism on people’s health and investigate risk-related external and internal exposures, gene–environment interactions, and epigenetic events. In fact patterns of racial self-identifications on one side, and patterns of risk-related exposomes and epigenomes on the other side, constantly coevolve and tend to match each other. However, there is no guarantee that using self-identified races in epidemiology and biomedical research will be beneficial all things considered: special attention must be paid at balancing positive and negative consequences.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , ,

IRRPP Annual Bowman Lecture: Fatal Invention: Why The Politics of Race and Science Still Matters

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-11 16:52Z by Steven

IRRPP Annual Bowman Lecture: Fatal Invention: Why The Politics of Race and Science Still Matters

Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy
University of Illinois, Chicago
Student Center East
750 S. Halsted St, Room 302
Chicago, Illinois
2015-03-12, 16:00 CDT (Local Time)

Dorothy Roberts, Professor of Law and Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Co-sponsors: Medical Education, Institute for the Humanities Health and Society Working Group, Gender & Women’s Studies, Sociology, Biocultures, Racialized Body Cluster, African American Studies

An acclaimed scholar of race, gender, and the law, Professor Dorothy Roberts is the fourteenth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at University of Pennsylvania. She holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. Professor Roberts received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Harvard Law School.

This lecture was established to honor Phillip J. Bowman’s contributions to UIC during his tenure as Director of IRRPP and Professor of African American Studies. It features national scholars of race, ethnicity, and public policy who provide timely analysis of issues of critical importance to the field and to communities of color.

For more information, click here.

Tags: , , ,

Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-03-03 20:21Z by Steven

Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry

Social Studies of Science
Volume 38, Number 5 (October 2008)
pages 759-783
DOI: 10.1177/0306312708091929

Alondra Nelson, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies; Director, Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Columbia University, New York, New York

This paper considers the extent to which the geneticization of `race’ and ethnicity is the prevailing outcome of genetic testing for genealogical purposes. The decoding of the human genome precipitated a change of paradigms in genetics research, from an emphasis on genetic similarity to a focus on molecular-level differences among individuals and groups. This shift from lumping to splitting spurred ongoing disagreements among scholars about the significance of `race’ and ethnicity in the genetics era. I characterize these divergent perspectives as `pragmatism’ and `naturalism’. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, I argue that neither position fully accounts for how understandings of `race’ and ethnicity are being transformed with genetic genealogy testing. While there is some acquiescence to genetic thinking about ancestry, and by implication, `race’, among African-American and black British consumers of genetic genealogy testing, test-takers also adjudicate between sources of genealogical information and from these construct meaningful biographical narratives. Consumers engage in highly situated `objective’ and `affiliative’ self-fashioning, interpreting genetic test results in the context of their `genealogical aspirations’. I conclude that issues of site, scale, and subjectification must be attended to if scholars are to understand whether and to what extent social identities are being transformed by recent developments in genetic science.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: ,

Symposium S-H09: Understanding the Dynamics of Beliefs in Genetic and Racial Essences

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-26 20:34Z by Steven

Symposium S-H09: Understanding the Dynamics of Beliefs in Genetic and Racial Essences

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology
16th Annual Convention
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
Long Beach, California
2015-02-26 through 2015-02-28

Saturday, 2015-02-28, 15:30-16:45 PST (Local Time)
Room 202ABC
Chair:

Franki Kung
University of Waterloo

Co-Chair:

Melody Chao
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

The symposium presents research that transcends the static, and often negative, conceptualization of essentialism. Four papers present a dynamic view of essentialist beliefs and show that beliefs in genetic or racial essences could lead to both positive and negative social psychological outcomes in interpersonal, intergroup and clinical contexts.

The Implications of Cultural Essentialism on Interpersonal Conflicts in Inter- vs. Intracultural Contexts

Franki Yk Hei Kung
University of Waterloo

Melody M. Chao
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Donna Yao
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Ho-ying Fu
City University of Hong Kong

Although psychological essentialism has been shown to influence a wide range of psychological processes in intergroup contexts, little is known about its impact on managing interpersonal conflicts in intracultural and intercultural settings. The current research aims to address this question. Findings across three studies (N=387) revealed that individuals who endorse essentialist beliefs less were more likely to trust their interaction partner in intercultural than intracultural conflict situations. This increased trusting relationship, in turn, could lead to more integration of ideas and both better individual and joint outcomes in face-to-face dyadic intercultural negotiations. The current study unveils when and how essentialist beliefs influence individuals’ ability to function effectively in intercultural and intercultural contexts. Implications of the findings in advancing our understanding of intercultural competence will be discussed.

To be Essentialist or Not: The Positive and Negative Ramifications of Race Essentialism for Multiracial Individuals

Kristin Pauker
University of Hawaii

Chanel Meyers
University of Hawaii

Jon Freeman
New York University

Research documents the many negative implications of race essentialism for intergroup relations, ranging from increased stereotyping to less motivation to cross racial boundaries. This research has primarily examined such negative implications from the perspective of White perceivers. Two studies (N=138) explored positive and negative ramifications of adopting essentialist beliefs about race for racial minorities, specifically multiracial individuals. We hypothesized that adopting less essentialist beliefs may aid multiracial individuals in flexibly adopting the framework of multiple identities with positive consequences for their face memory, but may result in negative consequences for their racial identity. Results indicated that multiracial individuals with less essentialist views could readily adopt the lens of primed monoracial identities and exhibited preferential memory for identity-prime relevant faces. However, when it came to their own racial identification, more essentialist views appeared to be beneficial—as it was associated with higher identity integration and greater pride in a multiracial identity.

Folk Beliefs about Genetic Variation Predict Avoidance of Biracial Individuals

Jason E. Plaks
University of Toronto

Sonia K. Kang
University of Toronto

Alison L. Chasteen
University of Toronto

Jessica D. Remedios
Tufts University

Laypeople’s estimates of the amount of genetic overlap between vs. within racial groups vary widely. While some believe that different races are genetically similar, others believe that different races share little genetic material. These studies examine how beliefs about genetic overlap affect neural and behavioral reactions to racially-ambiguous and biracial targets. In Study 1, we found that the low overlap perspective predicts a stronger neural avoidance response to biracial compared to Black or White targets. In Study 2, we manipulated genetic overlap beliefs and found that participants in the low overlap condition explicitly rated biracial targets more negatively than Black targets. In Study 3, this difference extended to distancing behavior: Low overlap perceivers sat further away when expecting to meet a biracial person than when expecting to meet a Black person. These data suggest that a priori assumptions about human genetic variation guide perceivers’ reactions to racially-ambiguous individuals.

Genetic Attributions Underlie People’s Attitudes Towards Criminal Responsibility and Eugenics

Steven J. Heine
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia

Benjamin Y. Cheung
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia

People are essentialist thinkers – they are attracted to the idea that hidden essences make things as they are. When most people encounter genetic concepts they think of these as essences, and they then think about related phenomena as immutable, determined, homogenous and discrete, and natural. I will discuss experimental research that demonstrates how encounters with information about genetic causes leads people to view two highly politicized topics in quite different terms. Specifically, in contrast to those who were exposed to arguments about experiential causes, people who encountered genetic attributions of violent behavior were more open to defenses appealing to mitigated criminal responsibility, and genetic attributions of intelligence lead people to be more supportive of eugenic policies.

For more information click here and go to page 125.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Building a Face, and a Case, on DNA

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-24 02:39Z by Steven

Building a Face, and a Case, on DNA

The New York Times
2015-02-23

Andrew Pollack


The police in Columbia, S.C.,  released this sketch of a possible suspect based on DNA left at the crime scene. Parabon NanoLabs, which made the image, has begun offering DNA phenotyping services to law enforcement agencies.

There were no known eyewitnesses to the murder of a young woman and her 3-year-old daughter four years ago. No security cameras caught a figure coming or going.

Nonetheless, the police in Columbia, S.C., last month released a sketch of a possible suspect. Rather than an artist’s rendering based on witness descriptions, the face was generated by a computer relying solely on DNA found at the scene of the crime.

It may be the first time a suspect’s face has been put before the public in this way, but it will not be the last. Investigators are increasingly able to determine the physical characteristics of crime suspects from the DNA they leave behind, providing what could become a powerful new tool for law enforcement.

Already genetic sleuths can determine a suspect’s eye and hair color fairly accurately. It is also possible, or might soon be, to predict skin color, freckling, baldness, hair curliness, tooth shape and age.

Computers may eventually be able to match faces generated from DNA to those in a database of mug shots. Even if it does not immediately find the culprit, the genetic witness, so to speak, can be useful, researchers say…

…Law enforcement authorities say that information about physical traits derived from DNA is not permitted in court because the science is not well established. Still, the prospect of widespread DNA phenotyping has unnerved some experts.

Duana Fullwiley, an associate professor of anthropology at Stanford, said that she worried that use of such images could contribute to racial profiling. She noted that Dr. Shriver developed his system by analyzing the DNA and faces of people with mixed West African and European ancestry.

“This leads to a technology that is better able to make faces that are African-American,” she said. The image produced in the South Carolina case, Dr. Fullwiley added, “was of a generic young black man.”

Dr. Shriver said he initially studied people of mixed European and African ancestry, many of them from Brazil, because that made the analysis easier. His more recent research has involved people of many different ethnicities, he said…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dorothy Roberts: Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-18 02:55Z by Steven

Dorothy Roberts: Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race

University of California, Los Angeles
School of Law
385 Charles E. Young Drive East
1242 Law Building
Los Angeles, California 90095
2015-02-19, 17:00-18:30 PST (Local Time)
Room: TBD

Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

We are witnessing the emergence of a new biopolitics in the United States that relies on re-inventing race in biological terms using cutting-edge genomic science and biotechnologies. Some scientists are defining race as a biological category written in our genes, while the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries convert the new racial science into race-based products, such as race-specific medicines and ancestry tests, that incorporate false assumptions of racial difference at the genetic level. The genetic understanding of race calls for technological responses to racial disparities while masking the continuing impact of racism in a supposedly post-racial society. Instead, I call for affirming our common humanity by working to end social inequities supported by the political system of race.

For more information, click here.

Tags: , , ,