In 1951, the UNESCO concluded that that there was no biological evidence for race, and race as a biological object became an anathema. In biomedical research population became the dominant concept and race was relegated to the domain of bad science.
In addition, assumed biological differences in social research and critical theory were combated with the dictum “not in our genes”. Differences and similarities between groups of people were thus mainly studied in terms of social, economic, geographic or cultural variables. However, with the emergence of large-scale genetic research in the 1990s and the growing importance of the life sciences, it seems that the concept of race is back with a vengeance.
Today, race is being made relevant in a variety of fields such as medical practice and biomedical research, behavioral genetics and forensic policing, genetic genealogy and descent.
Given the growing relevance of this historically invested, politicized and uneasy concept, social scientists cannot but relate to race as an object of research. But how to do this in a manner that does not 'lock-up' differences in the body, the gene, or, the brain? What can we learn from other fields, such as gender studies and scholarship on sex-differences, or social studies of medicine, about the constructed and fluid nature of 'biological' phenomena?
In the seminar series ‘Ir/relevance of Race in Science and Society’ we discuss the relevance and irrelevance of race as an object and concept of research in order to explore ways to talk about race without naturalizing differences. How can we speak about race and study it without reproducing and feeding into racism? In the seminar we are interested in the various guises of race in the European context and in exploring when and how populations, religions, and cultures become naturalized and racialized.
The seminars were previously convened by prof. Amade M'charek and the programme group Health, Care and the Body. Since 2019 they are convened by the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR).