It might surprise a great many people to learn what social scientists have long maintained, that race has little if any biological basis. If, as Kittles and Benn-Torres explain race has “no clear biological definition yet strong social and cultural meanings,” what does it mean today to study race in science, medicine, and health?
Though race may not actually exist as a biological category, there’s no denying its power as a socially-constructed concept. The fact that the Norse God Wōdan exists only as myth does not change the fact that it is Wednesday (Wōdan’s day) as I write this. Non-verifiable concepts structure our lives in countless quiet ways, and not always benignly. The fact that race is a dubious concept does not obviate racism, nor prevent it from causing harm or confusion, perhaps even in the supposedly dispassionate realm of science.
In our upcoming series of articles, social and cultural experts will weigh in on the question of race and racism as they pertain to science, medicine, and health. What do social science and humanities scholarship have to say to the scientific and medical community, where, despite the broad consensus that race lacks clear boundaries or predictive value, its use as a category of analysis persists? We hope you look forward to finding out!