CHC/STPEC Distinguished Lecture Series: Race is a Verb

April 2, 2014
4:00 pm

Commonwealth Honors College Building

Room: Events Hall- East

Handicap access available
Free admission

"Race is a Verb: From Race as Genetics to the Biological Consequences of Racism" Presented by Alan Goodman

The idea of race, that humans come in genetically distinct types with different abilities, became reified, made to seem real, by constant use. European and American scientists in the 18th to 20th centuries worked to prove that races differed genetically and in abilities. They failed because human genetic variation is too complex to be color-coded. Human variation is remarkable and it is not race-based.

Yet, we live in a society that still upholds this false but politically useful idea of race-as-genetics; this mythical notion of race is often in our heads and woven into our social and institutional fabrics. This disproven idea is alive and powerful. Racial ideology does work in setting the conditions for deplorable differences in wealth and health today. This talk will explain in steps why race does not work as a genetic construct. Yet, race has biological consequences. The talk will conclude by providing illustrations of the consequences of race and racism on stress and health and call for a new conception of race as a verb and new studies of the biology of racism. 

Alan Goodman is professor of biological anthropology at Hampshire College and a member of the Graduate Faculty in anthropology at UMass. His research, writing and teaching focuses on the intersections of biology and culture, and particularly on the health and nutritional consequences of political-economic processes including poverty, inequality and racism. He is the author/editor of seven books and over 100 articles. Goodman served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Hampshire and the president of American Anthropological Association (AAA), the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists. He co-directs the AAA’s public education project Race: Are We So Different?, which includes a an award winning website (understandingrace.org) and museum exhibits and a recent book with the same title.