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Paperback | $30.00 Short | £24.95 | 312 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 7 b&w illus. | April 2010 | ISBN: 9780262514248
eBook | $21.00 Short | April 2010 | ISBN: 9780262266376
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What's the Use of Race?

Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference


The post–civil rights era perspective of many scientists and scholars was that race was nothing more than a social construction. Recently, however, the relevance of race as a social, legal, and medical category has been reinvigorated by science, especially by discoveries in genetics. Although in 2000 the Human Genome Project reported that humans shared 99.9 percent of their genetic code, scientists soon began to argue that the degree of variation was actually greater than this, and that this variation maps naturally onto conventional categories of race. In the context of this rejuvenated biology of race, the contributors to What’s the Use of Race? investigate whether race can be a category of analysis without reinforcing it as a basis for discrimination. Can policies that aim to alleviate inequality inadvertently increase it by reifying race differences? The essays focus on contemporary questions at the cutting edge of genetics and governance, examining them from the perspectives of law, science, and medicine. The book follows the use of race in three domains of governance: ruling, knowing, and caring. Contributors first examine the use of race and genetics in the courtroom, law enforcement, and scientific oversight; then explore the ways that race becomes, implicitly or explicitly, part of the genomic science that attempts to address human diversity; and finally investigate how race is used to understand and act on inequities in health and disease. Answering these questions is essential for setting policies for biology and citizenship in the twenty-first century.

About the Editors

Ian Whitmarsh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

David S. Jones is Associate Professor of History and Culture of Science and Technology at MIT.

Table of Contents

  • What’s the Use of Race?
  • What’s the Use of Race?
  • Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference
  • edited by Ian Whitmarsh and David S. Jones
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • What's the use of race? : modern governance and the biology of difference / edited by Ian Whitmarsh and David S. Jones.
  •  p. cm.
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-51424-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)
  • 1. Genetics—Social aspects. 2. Racism. I. Whitmarsh, Ian, 1975– II. Jones, David S. (David Shumway), 1970–
  • QH438.7.W53 2010
  • 323.11—dc22
  • 2009037118
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1 Governance and the Uses of Race 1
  • Ian Whitmarsh and David S. Jones
  • Ruling
  • 2 What’s the Use of Race in Presenting Forensic DNA Evidence in Court? 27
  • Jonathan Kahn
  • 3 Forensic DNA Phenotyping:
  • Reinforcing Race in Law Enforcement 49
  • Pamela Sankar
  • 4 Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Difference:
  • The Biopolitics of Health 63
  • Steven Epstein
  • Knowing
  • 5 Arguments against the Use of Racialized Categories as Genetic Variables in Biomedical Research:
  • What Are They, and Why Are They Being Ignored? 91
  • Simon M. Outram and George T. H. Ellison
  • 6 From Self-Identity to Genotype:
  • The Past, Present, and Future of Ethnic Categories in Postgenomic Science 125
  • Richard Tutton, Andrew Smart, Richard Ashcroft, Paul Martin, and George T. H. Ellison
  • 7 The Genomics of Difference and the Politics of Race in Canada 147
  • Amy Hinterberger
  • 8 Race and Ancestry:
  • Operationalizing Populations in Human Genetic Variation Studies 169
  • Joan H. Fujimura, Ramya Rajagopalan, Pilar N. Ossorio, and Kjell A. Doksum
  • Caring
  • 9 Use of Racial and Ethnic Identity in Medical Evaluations and Treatments 187
  • Jay S. Kaufman and Richard S. Cooper
  • 10 What’s the Use of Culture?:
  • Health Disparities and the Development of Culturally Competent Health Care 207
  • Angela C. Jenks
  • 11 The Science and Epidemiology of Racism and Health:
  • Racial/Ethnic Categories, Biological Expressions of Racism, and the Embodiment of Inequality—an Ecosocial Perspective 225
  • Nancy Krieger
  • Looking Forward
  • 12 Race and the New Biocitizen 259
  • Dorothy Roberts
  • About the Contributors 277
  • Index 281


CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2010.