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Ontologies and Politics of Biogenomic 'Race'

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther and Jonathan Michael Kaplan

All eyes are turned towards genomic data and models as the source of knowledge about whether human races exist or not. Will genomic science make the final decision about whether racial realism (e.g. racial population naturalism) or anti-realism (e.g. racial scepticism) is correct? We think not. The results of even our best and most impressive genomic technologies under-determine whether biogenomic races exist, or not. First, different sub-disciplines of biology interested in population structure employ distinct concepts, aims, measures and models, producing cross-cutting categorisations of population subdivisions rather than a single, universal biogenomic concept of 'race.' Second, within each sub-discipline (e.g. phylogenetics, conservation biology), genomic results are consistent with, and map multiply to, racial realism and anti-realism. Indeed, racial ontologies are constructed conventionally, rather than discovered. We thus defend a constructivist conventionalism about biogenomic racial ontology. Choices and conventions must always be made in identifying particular kinds of groups. Political agendas, social programmes, and moral questions premised on the existence of naturalistic race should accept that no scientifically grounded racial ontology is forthcoming, and adjust presumptions, practices and projects accordingly.

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Book Reviews

Çağla Ay, Tayeba Batool, Arita Chakrabarty, Bill Derman, Ipsita Dey, Alexandra Holdbrook, Amy Leigh Johnson, Wangui Kimari, Daniel J. Read, Sailen Routray, Gabe Schwartzman, Noah Theriault, and Caroline White-Nockleby

understated. Even with the many struggles to face the ecological crisis, to target the “eye of the storm,” the double fracture remains stubborn, like tempestuous waves. This separation is nurtured by “the colonial ecology of racial ontologies that always

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Book Reviews

Steven Brooke, Dafne Accoroni, Olga Ulturgasheva, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Eugenia Roussou, Francesco Vacchiano, Jeffrey D. Howison, Susan Greenwood, Yvonne Daniel, Joana Bahia, Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Charles Lincoln Vaughan, Katrien Pype, and Linda van de Kamp

-strange-in-the-world” (p. 117); it is a “queer racial ontology” (p. 146) that draws on “alternative sources of power” (p. 100). These sources of power, depicted as ‘co-presences’ and ‘assemblages’, create a ‘non-transcendental’ and ‘kinesthetic’ kind of transnationalism