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Racialized Futures: Biologism and the Changing Politics of Identity

David Skinner
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jun., 2006), pp. 459-488
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25474453
Page Count: 30
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Racialized Futures: Biologism and the Changing Politics of Identity
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Abstract

This paper explores the changing role of science in public discourse on 'race' and racism, examining the contention that new biological accounts of human life ('biologism') are transforming how differences are lived and understood. The paper argues that recent developments must be interpreted in the context of two earlier periods during which science was integral to, first racism and then anti-racism. The growing ascendancy of biologism has prompted both utopian and dystopian accounts of the future: one in which scientific racism is revived, the other in which science finally abolishes race thinking. These futures resonate socially and politically, but lack plausibility when held up against either the historical experience of racism or detailed examination of the apparent direction of biologism. The paper argues, however, that there are significant changes taking place. The new biology challenges existing notions of relatedness, personhood and the nature/culture distinction, and is altering the terrain over which race is discussed. The paper highlights some the features of this new setting by exploring the emergence of novel expressions of racialized politics that both utilize biology in the construction of identity and see biology itself as a site of struggle.

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