Accepted paper:

Race as a multiple object in contemporary biomedicine

Author:

Anna Bredstrom (Linköping University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing upon research on psychiatry and human genetics, the paper shows that the ontology of race in contemporary biomedicine is best conceptualised as 'multiple'. This points to the fruitfulness of combining STS-tools and critical race theory to examine how biomedicalization is stratified by race.

Paper long abstract:

This paper probes the question of how biomedicalization is stratified by race. The rapid development of biotechnological science has in the view of biomedicalization theory (Clarke et al. 2010) produced a discursive shift where bodies are viewed as fragmented and manipulable, consisting of transferable elements and units (proteins, genes, molecules), and where 'life itself' has become subjected to a new 'politics of vitality' (Rose 2007). What results from this 'ontological shift' in human self-understanding is an ever-growing focus on health as well as an endless opportunity realm for the optimization of the body; we have become 'somatic' beings (ibid.).

Drawing upon two different research projects - one interrogating diagnostic procedures in psychiatry and the second analysing racial and ethnic constructions in human genetics in Sweden - I argue that while it is important to acknowledge that biomedicalized subjectivities - somatic beings - are not just unmarked beings, but bodies stratified along the lines of race/ethnicity (as well as other differences), the paper shows that race nonetheless is enacted differently in different biosciences. I thus argue that the ontology of race in contemporary biomedicine is best conceptualised as 'multiple' (Mol 2002), and that using STS tools would be a fruitful way to further develop a critical race theory of biomedicalization.

panel E08
Topologies of race: bringing a touchy object in STS