Social Science Matters: Fatal Invention - Re-creating Race in the Genomic Era

Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 4:30pm
Cape Cod Lounge

Dr. Dorothy Roberts to present. The mapping of the human genome in 2003 confirmed that race is not written in our genes. As Dorothy Roberts explains, race is a social category that was invented to support an unjust political hierarchy. Yet we are witnessing the re-creation of race in biological terms using cutting-edge genomic science and biotechnologies, such as race-specific medicines and ancestry tests, that incorporate false assumptions of racial difference at the genetic level. Roberts argues that this genetic understanding of race masks the continuing impact of racism in a supposedly post-racial society and she calls instead for affirming our common humanity by working to end the social inequalities that truly divide us.

About Dorothy Roberts

Roberts is the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor and George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania with joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology and the Law School, where she is the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights. She is also the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science, and Society. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics. Professor Roberts is the author of the award-winning books Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Random House/Pantheon, 1997) and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books/Civitas, 2002), as well as co-editor of six books on constitutional law and gender. She has also published more than 100 articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review. Her latest book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century, was published by the New Press in July 2011.

Professor Roberts has been a professor at Rutgers and Northwestern University, a visiting professor at Stanford and Fordham, and a fellow at Harvard University's Program in Ethics and the Professions, Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research, and the Fulbright Program. She serves on the boards of directors of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, on the advisory boards of the Center for Genetics and Society and Family Defense Center, and on the Standards Working Group of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (stem cell research). Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship. Recent recognitions for her scholarship and public service include 2016 Society of Family Planning Lifetime Achievement Award, Harvard Women’s Law Association 2016 “Women Inspiring Change,” Harvard University 2016 Tanner Lectures on Human Values, and American Psychiatric Association 2015 Solomon Carter Fuller Award.