Joan H. Fujimura. Confounded Categories: What is Race in the Age of Genomics

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Confounded Categories:  What is Race in the Age of Genomics

This talk focuses on the relationship between the production of knowledge and socio-political understandings of group categories and racial inequalities. It examines how socio-political and institutional notions of race have been woven into the fabric of contemporary practices of knowledge production in new biomedical genomic and population research.  We conduct an archaeology of the infrastructures used in genomic researchto unearth the assumptions built into its practices and tools.  Since some of this use of cultural assumptions about racial differences in genomic medical research is unintentional, I hope that our work will help to promote change in these practices and to convince the world that any “evidence” for races as genetic categories is based on the introduction of social notions of race into the very production of scientific knowledge. 

Joan H. Fujimura is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was the founding director of the Science and Technology Studies Program and the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Research on Science and Technology.  She has been the Henry R. Luce Professor for Biotechnology and Society, and Associate Professor of Anthropology, at Stanford University, and Assistant Professor in Sociology at Harvard University. Fujimura is currently a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. Using ethnographic and other methods, Fujimura has studied the production of knowledge in cancer research, molecular genetics, the history of bioinformatics, genomics, and now new developments in epigenetics and systems biology. She is interested in the issues that arise when epistemologies of science collide with social and political issues. She writes about classification, standardization, bandwagons, boundary work, theory-methods packages, socio-material analysis, awkward surpluses, and genome geography. Fujimur’as books include Crafting Science (Harvard 1996) and The Right Tools for the Job: At Work in Twentieth Century Life Sciences (Princeton 1992).  Recent articles include “Different Differences” (Social Studies of Science, 2011)and “Clines without Classes:  How to Make Sense of Human Variation” (Sociological Theory, 2014)