Central in clearing the ground around the standing of the concept of 'race' are two positions with which we need to come to terms. The first is what I call 'the science' position and the second 'racial realism'. Neither of the positions is coherent and homogeneous. Neither, also, self-consciously projects itself as a political position in response to the other. In this contribution I attempt to bring these positions into a clearer juxtaposition with a view to developing a statement about the value of 'race' as an analytic concept. in taking this expository route I lay out what 'the science' position is in the first part of the discussion and proceed to engage with 'racial realism' in a second. The premise with which the 'science position' begins, adumbrated above, is the argument that 'race' cannot be empirically demonstrated. It takes its substance from the historical time and place in which it finds itself. In the Althusserian sense its materiality is in the effects of ideology. The second position of racial realism argues that the science position is naïve and fails to understand the materiality of 'race'. The focus of this paper is the second position. It looks at the issues and shortcomings of this position.
Towards a Re-statement
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.