INVESTIGATING THE POSTWAR DECLINE OF RACE IN SCIENCE
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Race as a biological category has a long and troubling history as a central ordering concept in the life and human sciences. The mid-twentieth century has been marked as the point where biological concepts of race began to disappear from science. However, biological definitions of race continue to penetrate scientific understandings and uses of racial concepts. Using the theoretical frameworks of critical race theory and science and technology studies and an in-depth case study of the discipline of immunology, this dissertation explores the appearance of a mid-century decline of concepts of biological race in science. I argue that biological concepts of race did not disappear in the middle of the twentieth century but were reconfigured into genetic language.
In this dissertation I offer a periodization of biological concepts of race. Focusing on continuities and the effects of contingent events, I compare how biological concepts of race articulate with racisms in each period. The discipline of immunology serves as a case study that demonstrates how biological concepts of race did not decline in the postwar era, but were translated into the language of genetics and populations. I argue that the appearance of a decline was due to events both internal and external to the science of immunology. By framing the mid-twentieth century disappearance of race in science as the triumph of an antiracist racial project of science, it allows us to more clearly see the more recent resurgence of race in science as a recycling of older themes and tactics from the racist science projects of the past.