In this episode we tackle one of the most misunderstood aspects of race and biology: sickle cell. We demonstrate how the history of its discovery in the U.S. combined with the historical demography of North American colonialism and the slave trade all conspired to create the illusion of a race-based genetic condition. The history of this first "molecular" disease along with its connection to malaria can help to dispel lingering ideas of genetic races.
In this episode we begin the long and sordid saga of how race is entangled with health and medicine, and along the way you’ll find out how a rail-riding hobo took over two issues of the Journal of the American Economic Association in 1896 with 329 pages that shaped ideas about African American health for decades. Sources are available in the transcript.
Listener Al Ryan, a biological anthropologist, offered this comment: Excellent episode! Another lesson in history. I think you should give proper attribution to the famous quote highlighted a few times in your talk: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding something." Upton Sinclair, a socialist, journalist, and politician wrote the fabulous book, The Jungle. It described the poor working conditions of new immigrants. Although he was disliked by many, especially Teddy Roosevelt, what caught people's attention was the filthy conditions in a Chicago meatpacking plant. This led to new Federal regulations regarding food safety manufacturing processes etc. (Oops, sorry, different story but of interest to many who worked in the food/nutrition business).
Remember when we talked about race science and caste in India last summer? Here, we return to that thread with historian of science Projit Mukharji, whose work traces the ways scientific racism has persisted in India since the end of the colonial period and right up into the present. Once again, we find that scientific racism is not just a Euro-American phenomenon! And (spoiler alert) it hasn’t gone away!
Some sources (unfortunately, these are all behind pay-walls, but you can see the abstracts of the articles):
In this episode, we discuss the racial term Caucasian: origins, uses (and abuses) and how it figures in the racial conversation today.
In the fourth and final installment of our mini-series on race and intelligence, we get right-up-to-the-minute with James Watson’s recent (unfounded) claims that genetics and IQ are linked. Along the way, we figure out how IQ research has changed since the 1990s (spoiler alert: not much), and—most importantly—why people keep returning to this stuff even though it’s never been substantiated.
In this episode we try to shed some light on the shadowy Pioneer Fund which has supported racist science and white supremacist political activism since the 1930s. From its founder Wycliffe Draper through Henry Garrett and Roger Pearson with Mankind Quarterly to William Shockley and Arthur Jensen and finally The Bell Curve, we trace some of the racist threads that dogged the 20th century and are still active. Resources are available with the transcript.
In today’s episode, we travel to East Africa with Dr. Melissa Graboyes, a historian of medicine. Melissa talks with us about medical experimentation in East Africa during the colonial period, race-based health inequality in those parts of the world today, and how it was that prisoners in Zanzibar subverted racial categories through food!
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Some resources for this episode:
Some episode resources:
A couple of views on Elizabeth Warren's DNA ancestry:
In this episode, we restart our march through history, which we left off a few episodes ago back in the 18th century. With our guest, Dr. Hilary Green, we dive into 19th-century American slavery and the idea that black and brown bodies are “closer to nature” than light-skinned bodies. Dr. Green talks about racism, popular ideas of biology, and how our denial of black suffering still resonates today in racial health disparities.
In this episode, we continue our mini-series on global race. This time we travel with historian Teresa Cribelli to 19th-century Brazil, where she and Jo banter about slavery, colorism, and how Brazil came to be seen as a nation that embraces racial mixing despite the fact that it subscribed to a national strategy of “whitening” its population. No peacocks this time, but we do talk about Linnaeus!
Here are some resources for this episode:
A brief break to take stock of the past, project the future, and say hi to Jo in her new home.
Jo's in India!...So we're taking the podcast to India, too. In part one of this two-part series, we explore how the Indian caste system served as a central proving ground for emerging racial theories in Europe and Asia during British colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Here’s what we do for fun off script. Jo and Erik debate about how we can describe—in discrete steps—the process leading to the emergence of racial science in the 18th century. All you need to know about the development of racial science and how pathetic we are in 5 minutes! GO!
In this episode, we think we’ve finally found the main culprit: Immanuel Kant! We also discuss two scientists that get a lot of undeserved blame for scientific racism: Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and Petrus Camper.
In this episode we discuss two of the heavy lifters from the enlightenment when it comes to spreading a scientific concept of race: Buffon and Linnaeus.
Here are some resources for this topic:
In this episode we discuss how ideas about human differences evolved in Europe during the 1600s. From Noah's Curse to the Lost Tribes of Israel, to pre-Adamism, to race--this was a dynamic time in the history of race.
A "seismic" op-ed in the New York Times! Well known podcast host throwing down on another well known podcast host! A discredited race scientist from the 1980s-90s seemingly justified by a Harvard geneticist in 2018! What's going on here?
In our first ever "Flash" episode — and our first episode attempted (foolishly) without captain-of-the-ship Jim Bindon — Jo and Erik attempt to wade into a thicket and emerge with only a minimum of scratches. Can they do it? On a related note: can either of them actually sing: "Flash Gordon" by Queen?
Sam Harris, Charles Murray, and the Allure of Race Science (Ezra Klein, Vox)
Waking Up podcast #73: Forbidden Knowledge (Sam Harris)
How Genetics is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race' (David Reich, NYT)
How Not To Talk About Race and Genetics (67 scientists, Buzzfeed)
In our last episode, we showed that pre-Columbian ideas about human differences weren't consistent with what we think of today as race. In this episode we try to answer the question of how race got culturally constructed after Columbus. We talk to Professor Rob Schwaller of the Department of History at the University of Kansas who tells us how notions of difference in 16th century colonial Mexico led to legal decisions by the Spanish crown that resulted in a process of racialization of difference. He describes a complex and messy process between indigenous peoples, Africans, and Spanish that played an important role in the development of scientific ideas about race.
Here are some resources for this topic:
In this episode we go back to the beginning to kick off the history of race and science. First to ancient Egypt that played such a large role in the development of 19th century ideas on race, then on to ancient Greece and Biblical traditions to try to get a picture of what some of the ancients might have contributed to the race concept.
Here are some resources for this topic:
This episode, in honor of Black History Month, we interviewed Malcolm Byrnes about E.E. Just, a pioneering African American Biologist, and Joseph Graves about his own experience as an African American Evolutionary Biologist.
Some resources for these interviews:
In this episode we address another issue that students come into class with when we try to teach about the cultural construction of race: the biological reinforcement of race that comes from commercials run by DNA ancestry companies that promise to tell you whether you should be wearing lederhosen or kilts.
Methods of ancestry estimation: