141st APHA Annual Meeting

In This section

Beyond the race-genetics critique

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 5:10 PM - 5:30 PM

Adolph Reed Jr., Ph.D. , University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Merlin Chowkwanyun, MPH , History, Public Health, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
The sociologist Rogers Brubaker has noted that although a consensus exists (among acacademic social scientists) on the biological incoherence of the "race" concept, analysts often unknowingly persist in treating unitary racial groups as a given, even if they do not do so in the language of biology. Brubaker labels this "groupism." This paper takes stock of the critique of racial biology, a cross-disciplinary body of literature that has exploded in the past 20 years and focuses in particular on the persistence of the biological race concept in medical/public health research and practice. It argues for the importance of this critique but also notes severe limitations in the focus on biology alone. Problematic use of "race" in a groupist manner continues, even in the absence of explicit biological invocation. Groupism, in turn, can result in hamstrung uni-variate analysis that designates "race" as the key analytic for interpreting health inequalities, at the expense of other contexts that mediate the influence (or lack thereof) of race. The paper concludes by suggesting alternative ways of studying racial health disparities without committing racial groupism.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Assess the body of work critiquing biological reification of "race" that has emerged in the past two decaes. Explain the limitations of focusing only on *biological* reification -- what the authors call the "race-genetics critique." Identify other problematic non-bioloigcal use of "race" as an analytic lens in helath research.

Keywords: Health Disparities, Minority Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a co-author on a project examining the history and current state of racial health disparities research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.