Habits of Power: Science Politics in Anti-Science Times, Race Politics in Anti-Racist Times

11 Apr 2018
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Wildavsky Room, ISSI

Event Type
Non-CSTMS Event

Duana Fullwiley
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

In contemporary race politics, as in discussions around science in the US today, two dynamics characterize the present moment. The first is that the concepts of both race and science are up for fierce debate about the degree to which specific identity politics power them. On this front, racial identification as a social construct – and perhaps political necessity – is often contested as a biological reality. Yet scholars in fields from history to public health to medical anthropology often show that racialized bodies incur biological consequences. Activists agree, with death being the most extreme. In this, race is necessary as an index of documentation and lived experience. The second dynamic is that the continued edification of race may beget further belief in its immutability and physical reality at the genetic level.  Certain scientific domains have become deeply implicated in these questions, opening themselves up to contests of truth andpower to defend one position or the other.

Drawing from ethnographic work in the US on geneticists who are researching aspects of racialized ancestry, in this talk I probe liberal notions of science invested in inclusion, fairness and truth with regard to the place of U.S. minorities in genetic research. I trace the ways that identity politics inform genomic science to multiple ends. I propose a second order inclusive analysis that an acknowledgement of the politics of science could provide openings to more informed research hypotheses. I conclude with a discussion of the broader climate around science facts and how policy discussions, now more than ever, could benefit from anthropological work that chronicles the mutually constitutive nature of cultural anxieties and scientific pursuits.

Duana Fullwiley is an anthropologist of science and medicine interested in how social identities, health outcomes, and molecular genetic findings increasingly intersect. Her first book, The Enculturated Gene: Sickle Cell Health Politics and Biological Difference in West Africa (Princeton, 2011), is a detailed ethnography of sickle cell population genetics and economies of care in postcolonial Senegal.   She is currently finishing her second book entitled Tabula Raza: Mapping Race and Human Diversity in American Genome Science.  Her current work focuses on ancestry genetics and how scientists use this data to create new technologies for personalized medicine, genealogical ancestry tracing, and DNA forensics.  She is also interested in questions of privacy, informed consent, information ownership and ethics. Dr. Fullwiley is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University.  She also teaches in the interdepartmental program in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity as well as the program in Science, Technology and Society.

UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program
This event is sponsored by: Berkeley Center for Social Medicine • UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program • UCSF

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