Is Race Still Socially Constructed? The Recent Controversy over Race and Medical Genetics
Current controversies in the field of genetics are provoking a reassessment of claims that race is socially constructed. Drawing upon Bruno Latour's model of how to analyse scientific controversy, this article argues that race is gaining in reality in such a way that renders claims about its social construction tenuous and uncertain. Such claims can be seen as failing in two key regards. The first relates to changes in the way genetics is practised and promoted, which are undermining the stability of fundamental assertions that there is no biological basis for race or that race does not exist. The second involves the confusion of analytical domains in making assertions about race. This problem stems from investing genetics research with hopes that it would reveal the truth about race. This confidence has led to equating the cultural with bias, while ignoring the cultural dynamics which shape race. Subsequently, I argue for making a domain claim for the primacy of cultural analysis that does not simply dismiss the possible relevance of biology or genetics to racial issues.