The making of categories and differences is central in our fields of inquiry (race, ethnicity, health, medicine). How to account for it and for the resulting inequalities while avoiding reification? How to deal with these elephants in the rooms of our fieldwork, academic writing and public outreach?
The making of categories and the crafting of difference(s) are central practices in medicine, bureaucracy and broader political fields. These classifications produce inclusions as well as exclusions that have profound impacts on people's lives. However, the relationship between classificatory practices and their tangible social, political and material impacts is not always explicitly framed by social actors, nor is it systematically explored by anthropologists. With this roundtable, we seek to address this tension by focusing on the question how to account for the exclusionary politics of difference without reifying it? How to account for these elephants in the rooms of our fieldwork, our conceptualizations, our academic writing, our public outreach? We aim to discuss issues such as the classification of people into migrants, asylum seekers or expatriates; the usage and consequences of racialized categories in biomedical research; explorations of the genome in search of 'evidence' of ethnicity and ancestry; the definition of eligibility for citizenship or treatment; or the application of scales of perilousness to both viruses and people. As members of two of EASA's networks (ARE and MedAnthNet), we would like to share epistemological, methodological and ethical insights and troubles raised by these distinction processes and their consequences in our respective fields. For this roundtable, we welcome proposals for short and sharp provocations (10 minutes each), which will launch a broader discussion among the panelists as well as with the audience.