Racial Taxonomy in Genomics

- Social Science and Medicine
Author/s: -Bliss, Catherine
Journal: Social Science and Medicine
Year: 2011
Abstract:

This article examines the reflexive, biosocial nature of genomic meaning making around race, drawing on discourse analysis of 732 articles on genomics and race published from the years 1986–2010, in-depth interviews with 36 of the world’s most elite genomics researchers, interviews with 15 critics, policymakers, and trainees involved in debates over race, and participant observation at a core genotyping facility that specializes in ancestry estimation. I reveal how biomedical researchers identify with, value, and make sense of the taxonomies they construct. My analysis goes beyond a consideration of instrumental rationales to analyze the experiential and political motivations that shape how researchers get involved in racial ethical dilemmas. I theorize taxonomic practice as a reflexive form of biosociality, a conscious shaping of social notions about biology and race to produce a future that researchers themselves want to live in. I demonstrate how reflexive biosociality paradoxically leads researchers to advance social explanations for race while investing in genomics as a solution to racial quandaries.

URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953611004436