Accepted paper:

Racial types in science and medicine


Ricardo Gomes Moreira (Institute for Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

A current controversy around the usefulness of the concept of "race" merges science and politics into a lively debate. However, deep in the heart of laboratories, there remains a racialized schema of classification apparently kept to support cutting-edge biomolecular and medical research.

Paper long abstract:

The debate about the usefulness of the idea of "racial" types for classifying variations observed between human populations is still worth of some academic and science communication press, almost twenty years after the genetic revolution deemed the concept of race as dead.

Public debates keep renewing the scientific relevance of thinking about racial categories for understanding genetic differences between human populations (e.g. Banton, 2013, National Geographic magazine (April 2018), Reich, 2018). More than confronting "social construtivism" with biological truths, what is at stake is the usefulness of the concept of "race" for understanding contexts where it plays a major role in determining access to social, material, or scientific resources. Even where the lack of biological grounds for the use of racial categories is consensual, the sociological programme of research makes it relevant in the current political moment.

Still, biomedical research and genetic medicine have not given up the use of the old racial categories in current practices of amassing population data and biological collections for laboratory use.

This paper focus an ethnographic research in progress in a European biomedical context about the ways biomolecular and biomedical research continue to reproduce racial classifications in its scientific work, and confronts this use with larger political and sociological usages of the concept of race.

panel P141
The (im)mobility of race: European perspectives [Anthropology of Race and Ethnicity Network]