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Human Molecular Genetics and the Subject of Race: Contrasting the Rhetoric with the Practices in Law and Medicine

This Breaking the Silence Lecture is co-sponsored by the Center for Human Development and Family Research in Diverse Contexts presented by Troy Duster, Professor, Institute for the History of Production of Knowledge and Department of Sociology, New York University.
When Apr 16, 2003
from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Contact Name
Contact Phone 814-863-5911
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Troy Duster Troy Duster

Professor, Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge and Department of Sociology, New York University

Troy Duster is currently Professor of Sociology at New York University, and he also holds an appointment as Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and he serves on the Advisory Committee of the Social Science Research Council. He is the former Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change. His books and monographs include The Legislation of Morality, Aims and Control of the Universities, and Backdoor to Eugenics. He is also the author of a number of works including articles in Politics and the Life Sciences, The Genetic Frontier: Ethics, Law and Policy, and DNA and Crime: Applications of Molecular Biology in Forensics.

Human Molecular Genetics and the Subject of Race: Contrasting the Rhetoric with the Practices in Law and Medicine

The revolution in molecular genetics captured the public media and the public imagination for much of the last quarter of the twentieth century. We are now accustomed to hearing news stories of the discovery of the genetic basis of a full range of human attributes, conditions, and disorders. The potential impact of the genetic revolution on how individuals, members of families and social groups think about each other is profound and we can already point to demonstrable impacts upon how we avoid, insure, stigmatize, and "explain" each other.

A number of important markers highlight the speed and drama of the genetic revolution. These include the more sensational developments and breakthroughs, such as the technique of somatic nuclear cell transfer (with the realization of mammalian cloning and the specter of human cloning), and germ-line gene therapy (with the specter of altering the genetic make-up of future generations). But there are more subtle and more immediate developments that are closer at hand, and which are largely unnoticed and without much public scrutiny, commentary, or debate. In this presentation, we turn our attention to several of these developments, including the new technologies that are or soon will be speeding the development of new classificatory systems of humans at greater or lesser risk for certain health problem -- alongside some developments in forensic work that ominously, could reinforce old ways of thinking about "ethnic" and "racial" essentialisms.

April 16, 2003