In this talk, I will discuss my ongoing research on the way genomic science reflects, reinforces, and sometimes challenges racial and caste hierarchies. Drawing upon developments in Mexico, South Africa, and India, I find the question of what the state owes particular groups increasingly connected to scientific definitions of what constitutes a group in the first place. And, ultimately, I argue that the epistemic and normative dexterity of the field — not a strict reinforcement of social hierarchy — makes it powerful, problematic, and for some, profitable.
Ruha Benjamin is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier, which examines the tension between innovation and equity in the context of state investment in stem cell research. A second project, Provincializing Science: Mapping and Marketing ‘Difference’ After the Genome, investigates the scientific and popular uptake of genomics in South Africa, India, and the United States. A third project explores how the arts, activism, and scholarship can be integrated to construct alternative social realities.