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Week 7

Theme 2 Race, medicine and national identities: Subjects, citizens, and ‘civilization’


Week 7

Race, Science and (imposed) Identity

From slave-medicine to IQ tests to the licensing of BiDil (the first modern pharmaceutical to be marketed only to one racial or ethnic group), science and medicine have been used to identify, define and rank the human ‘races’ -- and to resist, critique, and disprove such claims about the biological reality of 'race'. Here we will explore this relationship and its impact on how individuals and groups have historically perceived each other.


Seminar: Who do we think you are?

Here we will explore the nature and effects of imposed or external identities, particularly in relation to race. We will evaluate the impact of medical and scientific work on difference and compare and contrast the history of racial identity with those of class and gender. What were the uses of ‘race’, and to whom was the concept useful? Why was ‘race’ so interesting to scientists, doctors, and the public? Has anything changed?


Required reading:

  • Anne Fausto Sterling, ‘Refashioning Race: DNA and the Politics of Health Care’, d i f f e r e n c e s : A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 15:3 (2004): 2-37. ProjectMuse

    and EITHER

  • Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man Chapter 2, ‘American Polygeny and Craniometry before Darwin: Blacks and American Indians as Separate and Inferior Species’ pp 62-105.


  • Londa Schiebinger,. "Theories of Gender and Race," in Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1993), pp. 143-183.

If you can't get a copy of the above, read:

  • Heather Winlow, ‘Mapping the Contours of Race: Griffith Taylor’s Zones and Strata Theory’, Geographical Research, 47:4 (December 2009):390–407. [ResearchPro]

  • Brad Hume, ‘Quantifying Characters: Polygenist Anthropologists and the Hardening of Heredity’, Journal of the History of Biology Vol. 41 Issue: Number 1 (March 2008): 119-158. [ResearchPro]

** A helpful overview can be found in Michael Yudell, “ A Short History of the Race Concept” at


Background/Further Reading:

Lucy Bland, ‘British Eugenics and 'Race Crossing': A Study of an Interwar Investigation’, New Formations, 60 (Spring 2007): 66-78. Project Muse/Research Pro

Elazar Barkan, Retreat Of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts Of Race In Britain And The United States Between The World Wars. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001)

Geoffrey C., Bowker and Susan Leigh Star. "The Case of Race Classification and Reclassification under Apartheid." In Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), pp. 60-64, and 195-225.

Bruce R. Dain, A Hideous Monster Of The Mind: American Race Theory In The Early Republic. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002)

Drew Gilpen Faust, The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981)

George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002)

Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure Of Man. (New York: Norton, 1996).

Stephen Jay Gould, "Why We Should Not Name Human Races - A Biological View." In Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), pp. 231-236

Joseph Graves, The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).

Ivan Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996)

Sandra Harding (ed.) The "Racial" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993).

Nicholas Hudson, "From 'Nation' to 'Race': The Origin of Racial Classification." Eighteenth Century Studies 29, no. 3 (1996): 247-264.

Matthew Frye Jacobson, "Race and American Nativism. From Anglo-Saxons and Others, 1840-1924." in Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 68-90. [Available as an e-book]

Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman (eds.) The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Times Books, 1995).

Daniel Kevles The Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986).

Rosa Medina-Domenech, ‘Scientific Technologies of National Identity as Colonial Legacies: Extracting the Spanish Nation from Equatorial Guinea’, Social Studies of Scientific Knowledge 39/1 (February 2009):81-112.

Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (New York: Routledge, 1994).

Jenny Reardon, ‘Decoding Race and Human Difference in a Genomic Age’, d i f f e r e n c e s : A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 15:3 (2004):38-65.

Pamela Sankar; Jonathan Kahn, ‘BiDil: Race Medicine Or Race Marketing?’Health Affairs 24 (Jul-Dec 2005): 455-463.

Audrey Smedley, Race In North America: Origin And Evolution Of A Worldview. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999)

William Stanton, The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Attitudes Toward Race In America, 1815-59. (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1960)

Nancy Stepan, The Idea Of Race In Science: Great Britain, 1800-1960. (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1982);

Additional resources: