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

Colloquium | April 11 | 4:30 p.m. |  2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues)

 Duana Fullwiley, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University

 Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, The Joint Berkeley-UCSF Program in Medical Anthropology

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 and power 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.

 bcsm@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813