“Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century,” talk by Dorothy Roberts
Professor Roberts will be discussing her latest project in connection with the “Understanding Race” theme semester. In “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century” she argues that America is experiencing a dangerous resurgence of classifying populations into biological races. By searching for differences at the molecular level, a new race-based science is obscuring racism in our society and legitimizing state brutality against communities of color at a time when many claim that the United States is “post-racial.” Moving from an account of the evolution of the concept of race—proving that it has always been a mutable and socially defined political division supported by mainstream science—Roberts delves deeply into the current debates, interrogating cutting-edge genomic science and biotechnology, interviewing its researchers, and exposing the political consequences of the focus on race-based genetic difference. Fatal Invention is a powerful call for us to affirm our common humanity by eliminating the social inequities preserved by the political system of race.
Dorothy Roberts is a frequent speaker and prolific scholar on issues related to race, gender, and the law and has published more than 80 articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review, 3 books, and 5 co-edited casebooks and anthologies. Her award-winning book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and The Meaning of Liberty, examined the intersection of race and gender experienced by African American women in the context of reproduction. In her second book, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, Roberts demonstrated the impact of racism on the U.S. child welfare system. Her new book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century, provides a provocative argument about the importance of understanding precisely how race is reconstructed through science, including in this moment.
Dorothy Roberts began as the 14th University of Pennsylvania “Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor,” the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology, and the Raymond Pace & Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights in 2012, after serving on the Northwestern Law School faculty and as a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research from 1998. Roberts has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Searle Fund, Hastings Center, Fulbright Scholars Program, Harvard University Program in Ethics and the Professions, and Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and as a visiting professor at Northwestern was the recipient of the Outstanding First-Year Course Professor Award for 1997-98.