History of Race and Genetics
Resources and Reflections Based on a Study Group Held in 2020 at the University of Chicago
In the spring of 2020, as part of the national conversations around race and justice that arose after the tragic killing of George Floyd, a group of students and faculty who study genetics (largely from the Department of Human Genetics) decided to form an informal reading group on the history of race and genetics. The goal of the reading group was to explore more deeply the history of genetics in relation to race and racism. While there are many dimensions to issues of race and justice, as geneticists, our goal was to cultivate introspection on the history of our field and the historical/ on-going practices that contribute to racism in all its forms.
As a springboard for conversation, we chose first to read Angela Saini’s recently published, critical history of the field of genetics, “Superior”. Our readings of “Superior” ran through the summer. We then paused before re-joining to read Michael Yudell’s “Race Unmasked.” We complemented these two books with a small number of contemporary papers in human genetics to spur reflection on on-going practices. In the “Reading Group” tab here, we provide the preparatory notes we used for each of our discussion sections. In the “Blog” tab here, we provide written reflections from some members of the reading group composed after the reading group concluded. We hope these resources are useful to other groups exploring these issues.