Ruha Benjamin F'12
ACLS Fellowship Program 2012
Department: Sociology and African American Studies
Provincializing Science: Mapping and Marketing Ethnoracial Diversity in the Genomic Age
This project explores how science shapes and is shaped by society. By investigating the interaction between folk ethnoracial taxonomies, government classifications, and population genomics in India, Mexico, and South Africa it examines how people struggle over “who we are, what we're owed, and what we're responsible for” as objects and subjects of science. The study draws on a combination of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and a mixed archive of documents and media to understand the relationship between biological knowledge and political demands, focusing on the use of genomics in pharmaceutical development—who does it, who owns it, and who consumes it—as a primary locus of struggle. By moving beyond the often-dismissive maxim “race is (just) a social construct,” this study reveals how the quintessentially modern idea of race continues to fashion our biopolitical imagination and the material practices on which it rests.