November 19, 2019 | Forensic Genomics for Investigators Panel

Wednesday, November 19

Time and Location to be confirmed.

Science & Justice Visiting Scholar and UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Alum, Cris Hughes, reunites academics and forensic technicians to discuss historical and current field training to better understand genomic technological applications, the problems and limits of interpretation, the resources available, and the incentives technicians face tied to case resolution.

Looking at police and lay perceptions of race, ancestry, and physical appearance, as well as the caveats with new genetic tools like HIrisPlex and Parabon’s® Snapshot® that are being incorporated into case investigations at an alarming rate, this event follows the outcomes of the recently launched Forensic Genomics for Investigators course first offered for California investigators through P.O.S.T. November 12, 2019 here in Santa Cruz.

Cris Hughes is a forensic anthropologist interested in perceptions of race, and the use of ancestry in both forensic investigations and the practice of forensic anthropology. Cris uses genetic and skeletal data to study estimates of ancestry in present day Latin American populations and is particularly interested in how ancestry as a piece of information drawn from the body, can impact the identification process of that person. As an Assistant Clinical Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cris has lectured at  annual Genomics for™ workshops (e.g. Genomics for™ Teachers, Genomics for™ Judges, Genomics for™ Prosecutors, and Genomics for™ Police) since 2013 as an outreach affiliate for the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the UIUC. Recently, Cris’ work with ancestry is centered around the deaths of migrants along the US-Mexico border. Cris is a visiting scholar with the UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, and UC Santa Cruz Anthropology alum.

Bridget Algee-Hewitt (Senior Research Scientist, Humanities and Sciences Interdepartmental Programs, Stanford) is a biological anthropologist who studies skeletal and genetic trait variation in modern humans. Her research combines data analytic and hands-on laboratory approaches to the estimation of the personal identity parameters – like sex, ancestry, stature, and age – that are essential components of the biological profile used in forensic identification of unknown human remains and for the paleodemographic reconstruction of past population histories in bioarchaeology. Concerns for social justice, human rights, and issues of group disparities underlie much of her work. As a practicing forensic anthropologist and geneticist, she provides forensic casework consultation to the medico-legal community.

Co-Sponsored By: The UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the UC Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation and the Anthropology Department.

Developing: Debate on ‘Race’ and Genomics

In March 2018, Harvard geneticist David Reich published a New York Times op-ed, entitled “How Genetics is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race.’” In the piece, Reich argues that geneticists “are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.”

The article prompted 67 natural and social scientists, legal scholars and public health researchers to draft an open letter in response to Reich’s claims. The letter, published by Buzzfeed, asserts that Reich misrepresents critiques of of the use of ‘race’ and ‘population’ in biomedical and genetic research.  It urges collaboration between geneticists and their social science and humanities colleagues so that more careful thinking and writing can be brought to bear upon consequential and controversial questions about how human differences should be ordered and understood.

In following weeks and months, a debate took shape. This page will continue to follow this debate. It will serve as repository for related stories and will be regularly updated with new information and new links.

We will pay particular attention to how this debate is playing out differently in different countries.  Professor of Sociology and Science and Justice Director Jenny Reardon, who helped draft the Buzzfeed response, and who just finished a second book on the condition of living with genomes, has participated in this continuing discussion from Germany.  There she is collaborating with historians and population geneticists who are responding to efforts to re-introduce into Germany genetic definitions of human groups.  Since WWII, it has been taboo in the German context to use the term Rasse (the German word for ‘race’) to refer to humans.  However, many major German language media outlets are mobilizing the Reich op ed to argue that this taboo should end.  To give the reader some context for this current debate, in addition to the news coverage, we provide links to relevant academic articles.  We also provide links to coverage in other parts of the world.

In May 2019, Angela Saini published her book Superior: The Return of Race Science. This book takes up questions of scientific racism and its history, as well as its more recent relationship with genetics and genomics. Reviews and responses to the book are also linked and covered here.

 

Resources (updated regularly, last updated May 21, 2019):

Op-Ed and Initial Response:

Reich’s Op-Ed:

 

Buzzfeed response co-authored by natural and social scientists, legal scholars, and public health researchers:

 

Responses in the Popular Press:

United States:

  • Sam Harris, Charles Murray, and the Allure of Race Science – Vox, March 27, 2018
    • Ezra Klein discusses a debate between himself and Sam Harris reignited by Reich’s op-ed, arguing, in short, that “in this country, given our history, discussions about race and IQ need more care and context than they get.”
  • Denying Genetics is Not Shutting Down Racism, It is Fueling it – New York Magazine, March 30, 2018
    • Andrew Sullivan agrees with Reich’s op-ed, and argues that dismissing science as “racist” helps fuel racism.
  • Race, Genetics and a Controversy – The New York Times, April 2, 2018
    • A series of letters to the editor in response to Reich’s op-ed.
  • Scientific Racism Isn’t ‘Back’: It Never Went Away – The Nation, April 6, 2018
    • Edward Burmila argues that Reich’s op-ed is merely the latest example of scientific racism, which is finding new purchase in the current political climate.
  • What Happens When Geneticists Talk Sloppily About Race – The Atlantic, April 25, 2018
    • Ian Holmes argues that biologists’ use of race as a category often reinforces historical biases.
  • Stop Talking about Race and IQ – Slate, April 27, 2018
    • William Saletan reflects on his past as a believer in the scientific validity of racial IQ disparities and argues that “the genetics of intelligence” and “the genetics of race” are, and should remain, separate fields of research.
  • Race Has a Place in Human Genetics Research, Philosopher Argues – Penn Today, May 2, 2018
    • Michelle Berger profiles Penn philosopher Quayshawn Spencer, who uses semantic theory to reconcile US Census racial categories with population geneticists’ ancestry groups and encourages collapsing the former into the latter.
  • Push for Forensic DNA Phenotyping, Ancestry Testing in Germany Raises Discrimination Concerns – Genome Web, May 4, 2018
    • Turna Ray describes the concerns surrounding legislation introduced in the Bavarian parliament that would allow DNA collection from ‘dangerous’ individuals and forensic DNA phenotyping of crime scene samples. Chief among these concerns is discrimination against immigrants.
  • Observations: “Plug and Play” Genetics, Racial Migrations and Human History – Scientific American, May 29, 2018.
    • John Edward Terrell discusses Reich’s book and argues that writing about “populations,” “migration,” and “admixture” reinforces ideas about separate human groups in potentially dangerous ways.
  • James Watson Had a Chance to Salvage His Reputation on Race. He Made Things Worse. – The New York Times, January 1, 2019.
    • Scientists debate the reasons for James Watson’s re-assertion that differences in IQ between “blacks and whites” are genetic.  Is this just an “old man” out of step with his time, or is he part of a dominant but rarely spoken view in genomics, a view that appeared to be bolstered in the spring by David Reich’s editorial in The New York Times?
  • Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps? – The New York Times Magazine, January 17, 2019.
    • Gideon Lewis-Kraus explores how Reich’s ancient DNA work has challenged existing archaeological consensus and transformed the academic landscape. He points out that the pressure to work with the handful of powerful ancient DNA labs, which he calls an “oligopoly,” is strong enough to create a “smash-and-grab” environment of “suspicion, anxiety, and paranoia.” Lewis-Kraus also characterizes this as setting up a divide between “those [like Reich] bewitched by grand historical narratives… and those who wearily warn that such adventures rarely end well.” He thoughtfully explores the practical agendas of racialized histories and forms of knowledge that claim to say who people “really” are and where they are “really” from, describes some of the scientific concerns and broader controversy surrounding ancient DNA research in particular, and ultimately connects the claims in Reich’s op-ed to his “broad brush” view of history.
      • Response: Letter in response to Jan. 17 article in The New York Times – David Reich, January 19, 2019
        • Reich responds to Lewis-Kraus, admitting that ancient DNA research faces unresolved ethical issues but also arguing that Lewis-Kraus misapprehends the rigor and nuance of the science to make his argument. Reich argues that his research has “rendered racist and colonialist narratives untenable.”
  • Genetics and Race: How Do We Have This Awkward Conversation? – Genetic Literacy Project, February 13, 2019.
    • Patrick Whittle argues that “genetic facts — including evidence of genetic differences between racial populations — carry no necessarily social or political implications,” and that confirmation of human difference may aid in designing policies to reduce inequalities. He also suggests that human geneticists should acknowledge the history and politics of ideas of race and understand the motives of what he calls “the opposition.”

Germany:

Switzerland:

Austria:

United Kingdom:

  • The Unwelcome Revival of ‘Race Science’The Guardian, March 2, 2018
    • Writing several weeks prior to Reich’s op-ed, Gavin Evans describes race science as “debunked” and notes how race science is taken up by the alt-right and defended as “standing up for uncomfortable truths.”
  • How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the pastBBC News, April 12, 2018
    • A BBC reporter asks Reich about Buzzfeed response.  Rather than responding to substance to the critique, Reich says he is “very pleased to be part of introducing this discussion.”
  • Neanderthals, Denisovans and Modern Humans – London Review of Books, September 13, 2018
    • Steven Mithen reviews Reich’s Who We are and How We Got Here. He notes that ancient DNA research has “implications for the politics of the present,” mentions the Buzzfeed-published response to Reich’s treatment of race. Ultimately, he argues that population genomics, while illuminating, ultimately stand on equal footing with culture and beliefs as ways of defining ‘who we are.’

France:

Korea:

  • Race, Genetics and Us – Korea Times, March 30
    • Jason Lim questions Reich’s optimism about the ability of society to not ‘weaponize’ findings about race and genomics.

Canada:

  • Opinion: Is ‘Race” a Made-Up Label?The Globe and Mail, April 14, 2018
    • Margaret Wente defends Reich for “expanding the range of what is sayable on a topic that is explosive, uncomfortable, and also increasingly inescapable.”
  • Why Your DNA Test Won’t Reveal the Real You – The Globe and Mail, May 4, 2018
    • Timothy Caulfield argues that race is a “biological fiction” and that attempts to attach genetics to human classification, as exemplified by genetic ancestry testing, tend to reify and legitimate racist perspectives.

India:

  • The Science is ComingIndia Times Magazine, April 5, 2018
    • Razib Khan compares Reich’s op-ed to “tossing a grenade into the public square,” but defends his work and his book as not controversial, but “wondrous.”

 

Race and Genomics Debates in the U.S. and Germany:

 

Superior: The Return of Race Science  – Angela Saini, May 21, 2019
  • Why Race Science is on the Rise Again – The Guardian, May 18, 2019
    • Angela Saini describes her new book, Superior: The Return of Race Sciencewhich focuses on the renewed growth of “intellectual racism” and its ties to global right-wing populist movements. She traces race science back to modern science’s earliest days, highlights its inherently political nature, and expresses concern for its growing acceptance in mainstream scientific publications.
  • The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism – Smithsonian Magazine, May 20, 2019
    • Ramin Skibba reviews Saini’s book, drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois to argue that the “problem of the color line” has persisted in the 21st century and taken root in the field of genetics. He highlight’s Saini’s insistence on both keeping the study of race, a social construct, out of genetics research and studying race responsibly in other disciplines.
  • Medical Controversies – Start the Week, BBC Radio, May 21, 2019
    • Andrew Marr discusses a number of medical controversies with guests, including Angela Saini. Saini discusses her new book, and the panel discusses how race science has made a return to the mainstream. The program also deals with gender bias in medical research and with how personalized medicine reproduces existing inequalities.
  • Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini – review – The Guardian, May 27, 2019
    • Alok Jha writes, “This is an urgent, important book.” He observes that racialized science has proceeded “in the name of academic freedom to conduct dispassionate inquiry into the human condition” and notes the book’s timeliness amid the resurgence of white supremacist and authoritarian movements.
  • Superior by Angela Saini – are we all created equal? – Financial Times, May 29, 2019
    • Clive Cookson favorably reviews Saini’s new book but objects to the suggestion that “scientists refrain from investigating the genetic basic of human variation in intelligence and intellectual ability.” He suggests that this research is important to science’s attempts to understand “the brain,” as long as it is “conducted with proper safeguards.”
  • Why Do So Many Researchers Still Treat Race as a Scientific Concept? – Slate, May 30, 2019
    • Tim Requarth calls Saini’s book “damning” and says that she is not simply pointing out the abuse of science for racist political ends, but is telling a “complex and surprising story about the relationship between science and race today, one that is sure to challenge anyone who thinks these ideas are only kept afloat by avowed racists.” Requarth specifically mentions David Reich’s op-ed as an example of racialized science.
      • Requarth ends with a salient point for Science & Justice: “Scientists are required to take ethics courses, but these courses tend to focus on the ethical behaviors of scientists and the ethical ramifications of science. In other words, we consider how science percolates out of the lab and into the broader culture. What we tend not to address is how the broader culture finds its way back into the lab to influence our science. A small step would be for us to spend more time thinking not only about how our science shapes society, but also how society shapes our science. (After reading Saini’s books, I suggested we add such a section to the ethics course my department offers.) The best scientists relentlessly question their own scientific assumptions. It might make for even better science if they used this same self-awareness to question their cultural ones.”

 

Book cover for Herman Gray Racism postrace (Duke, 2019)

Book Release! Racism Postrace (Duke, 2019)

Overview

With the election of Barack Obama, the idea that American society had become postracial—that is, race was no longer a main factor in influencing and structuring people’s lives—took hold in public consciousness, increasingly accepted by many. The contributors to Racism Postrace examine the concept of postrace and its powerful history and allure, showing how proclamations of a postracial society further normalize racism and obscure structural antiblackness.

Book cover for Racism Postrace (Duke, 2019)

They trace expressions of postrace over and through a wide variety of cultural texts, events, and people, from sports (LeBron James’s move to Miami), music (Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”), and television (The Voice and HGTV) to public policy debates, academic disputes, and technology industries. Outlining how postrace ideologies confound struggles for racial justice and equality, the contributors open up new critical avenues for understanding the powerful cultural, discursive, and material conditions that render postrace the racial project of our time.

The book and introduction are available at: https://www.dukeupress.edu/racism-postrace

Editor(s):

Roopali Mukherjee, Sarah Banet-Weiser, Herman Gray (UCSC Sociology)

Contributors:

Inna Arzumanova, Sarah Banet-Weiser, Aymer Jean Christian, Kevin Fellezs, Roderick A. Ferguson, Herman Gray, Eva C. Hageman, Daniel Martinez HoSang, Victoria E. Johnson, Joseph Lowndes, Roopali Mukherjee, Safiya Umoja Noble, Radhika Parameswaran, Sarah T. Roberts, Catherine R. Squires, Brandi Thompson Summers, Karen Tongson, Cynthia A. Young

Praise

“In this well-written, wide-ranging collection, imaginative and innovative researchers from across the disciplines conduct a post-mortem of the illusion of postracialism. Through case studies of the role race plays in diverse areas of contemporary culture, Racism Postrace takes stock of the continuing allure of the postracial despite its implausibility, but also of the ways in which its demise can point the way toward better and more effective imaginings of social justice.” — George Lipsitz, author of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

“According to this stellar array of scholars, racism is alive, well, and thriving both in the United States and globally, and they offer important theoretical and empirical insights into why and how. This volume effectively dismantles the myth of postraciality, using a range of cultural forms and texts to demonstrate how racism rears its ugly head in the service of capitalism and white supremacy. Indeed, these essays tell us that the popular and common usage of ‘postrace’ neutralizes antiracist movements and props up antiblackness and other modes of racial and ethnic antipathy with devastating effect. This volume is a wake-up call to all who have luxuriated in the liberal fantasy of a democratizing media.” — Jane Rhodes, Professor of African American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

May 08, 2019 | Works-in-Progress with James Doucet-Battle

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

4:00-5:30 PM

SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Join SJRC scholars in the SJRC Common Room for an open discussion of works-in-progress! This is a wonderful chance to engage with one another’s ideas, and support our own internal work. At this session, we will hear from Assistant Professor of Sociology, James Doucet-Battle who will discuss his book project entitled, Recruiting Sweetness: Translating Race, Risk, and Gender in Type 2 Diabetes Research, that explores the knowledge production emerging from the increasing importance of biological and racial difference in diabetes research since the genomic revolution.

James Doucet-Battle is Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Santa Cruz. His Ph.D. is in Medical Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley/University San Francisco. James’ research interests include health disparities, race, and medicine; power, subject-making, and citizenship; ethnography, political economy, grounded theory: diasporic and transnational Africa.

 

April 20, 2019 | “No Really, What Percentage are You?” Race, Identity & Genetic Ancestry Testing

Saturday, April 20, 2019

1:00-5:00pm

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (705 Front St. Santa Cruz)

Free and open to the public; refreshments provided; no registration needed

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com are rapidly becoming a cultural touchstone, a mainstream phenomenon with significant implications for common notions of race and ethnicity, personal and social identity. Our public event will explore the promises and the problems of DTC genetic testing services, under the broader umbrella of racial justice and genomics.

We will explore questions arising within this new landscape of public genomics: How are people integrating genealogical knowledge (such as of their family tree) with new forms of DNA-based ancestry testing? What is the relationship between our genetic makeup and our racial and ethnic identities (and the ways we are racially classified)? What kinds of genetic ‘truths’ are being produced by these forms of commercialized science? Further, who owns, and has access to, our genetic data? What kinds of organizations are using our data, and for what purposes?

We will engage both science and art to creatively grapple with questions of race and ethnicity in this age of data-driven identities. Our event will host an art exhibit on genomics and identity; an interactive collage-making session; and an experimental type of panel called a chain reaction in which professors and graduate students working in this broad field will converse in a semi-structured conversation through a chain of dyads.

Hosted by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows:

Jon Akutagawa (Biomolecular Engineering), Dennis Browe (Sociology), Maggie Edge (Literature), Dorothy R. Santos (Film & Digital Media) and Caroline Spurgin (Education) with undergraduate fellow Diana Sernas (Mathematics). 

If you feel that genetic ancestry testing has benefited or impacted you in some way, please inquire and send anecdotes to Dennis Browe.

Participants:

Chessa Adsit-Morris, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of History of Art & Visual Culture

Russ Corbett-Detig, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering

James Doucet-Battle, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Sociology

Ed Green, UC Santa Cruz Associate Professor of Biomolecular Engineering

Chris Hables Gray, Lecturer, UC Santa Cruz Crown College

Braden Larson, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology

Paloma Medina, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of Biomolecular Engineering, Science & Justice Fellow

Co-Sponsored by

The UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, the School of Engineering NIH Training Grant, College Nine Student Senate, the departments of Biomolecular Engineering, Education, and the Genomics Institute Office of Diversity, Oakes College Senate, and the Stuart Lab.

Rapporteurs’ Report

Introduction

With the human genome first sequenced and reported in 2001 and then a final draft in 2003 – the end-goal of the Human Genome Project (HGP) – some scholars now term this post-HGP era as one of ‘postgenomics.’ (Reardon 2017; Richardson and Stevens 2015). In this postgenomic era, questions of race and ethnicity are at the forefront of both scientific debates and popular cultural movements: the recent controversy over Harvard geneticist David Reich’s New York Times op-ed in March, 2018 has scholars publicly debating the usefulness of racial categories as precise forms of scientific analysis; the public return of white nationalism(s) across many countries; as well as the use of forensic genetics to solve crimes, the growth of DNA ‘magic boxes’ in police stations, and the raising of concerns about discrimination in DNA phenotyping.

On the level of ‘personal genomics,’ direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com are rapidly growing into a mainstream phenomenon. They have arguably become a cultural touchstone, with significant implications for common notions of race and ethnicity, personal and social identity. The tools of genetic ancestry testing are increasingly being used for myriad projects of adjudicating one’s identity, such as conceptualizing racial/ethnic heritage as percentage points of ancestry. For example, many in the US now hope to find ‘Native DNA’ to believe they are members of a tribal nation, while tribes do not simply recognize blood quanta as the primary marker of tribal belonging (TallBear 2013); white supremacists are chugging milk; and African Americans are using personal genomics to construct meaningful biographical narratives, engaging in what Alondra Nelson terms ‘affiliative’ self-fashioning in the context of their genealogical aspirations (2016).

To grapple with the implications of some of these world-making projects, our event “No, Really, What Percentage are You?”: Race, Identity, and Genetic Ancestry Testing, explored the promises and the problems of DTC genetic testing services, under the broader umbrella of racial justice and genomics. Over the course of a 4-hour event held at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on April 20th, over 120 community members joined the fellows along with guest panelists to explore how both science and art engage questions of race and ethnicity that are so prevalent today in this age of data-driven identities. The primary questions explored were as follows:

  • How are people integrating genealogical knowledge (such as of their family tree) with new forms of DNA-based ancestry testing?
  • Is mapping one’s genetic ancestry an act of restoring the past, or does granting a private company access to this information encourage us to commercialize our own genes, or some combination of both?
  • Does it act to uphold existing concepts of race through ancestry, or can it encourage people to see categories as being more flexible than previously thought?
  • Who benefits from these projects, and who might be harmed?
Event Activities and Outcomes

To explore these questions through various activities employing science and art, our event unfolded across two areas of the museum — the main atrium and small conference room (seated, approximately 50) — and featured a number of main attractions: 1) an art installation showcasing the work of artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg; 2) an experimental conversational panel called a chain reaction; 3) large educational posters covering aspects of the foundational concepts and science behind genetic ancestry testing; 4) a collaborative art-making and collage station; 5) and a curated playlist of videos about genetic ancestry testing. We detail each of these activities below.

1) Art Installation

Two people watch the tv screen, a table is in view with information pamphlets.

Artworks were shown near the museum entrance

Two artworks were shown close to the museum entrance and near the event’s welcome table in the atrium. Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s video work, Stranger Visions, along with a zine she co-created with Chelsea Manning and Shoili Kanungo titled Suppressed Images, were shown as a pop-up solo show. The artworks showed the process the artist performed to create 3D printed sculptures from DNA sequencing and phenotyping processes. Through this work she raises concerns about the impulse genetic determinism and the biases and limitations of these DNA phenotyping processes. Event participants displayed curiosity toward this forensic process and the critical (and critically important) questions raised by this video-artwork.

2) Chain Reaction Panel

The chain reaction is an experimental take on the panel discussion format. Seven experts served as panel participants (see below). Dyads were in conversation for approximately 12 minutes each. The format was as follows: the first and second speakers engaged in an initial semi-structured conversation on pre-selected topics for 12 minutes. Once the first conversation ended, expert 1 was asked to leave and was replaced by expert 3. Expert 2 and 3 continued the conversation for another 12 minutes. Then, expert 2 was replaced by expert 4. This process continued until all seven speakers spoke with two other speakers. Fellow Dorothy R. Santos served as the moderator for chain reaction.

Chain Reaction Panelists, Braden Larson and Paloma Medina speaking with each other in front of the audience.

Chain Reaction Panelists, Braden Larson and Paloma Medina

True to the panelists’ diverse expertise, a wide range of topics were covered during this panel, ranging from the importance of narrative through the use of DTC genetic ancestry testing (both the use of cultural narratives as a marketing tool for these companies and the constructing of identity narratives through using the knowledge gained from these tests); who uses these tests and how they, as tools of identity-making, can be used toward many different ends and purposes; the history of genetics, replete with racism and eugenics; the question of gift exchange in our society and whether certain types of genetic gifts (such as agreeing to have one’s genome sequenced for the benefits of ‘science’) fall under sacrificial exchange or egalitarian forms of exchange; the appeal of DTC ‘personal genomics’ due to people’s striving for forms of certainty rather than uncertainty about their lives and identities; the technical possibilities for what DTC genetic ancestry tests can and cannot tell us, and with what levels of certainty, about our ancestry; histories of colonialism and genocide that must be taken into account when trying to paint accurate pictures of many people’s ancestries; and the ongoing question of improving technologies, such that we cannot necessarily predict how genomic information will be used in five and ten years from now — by whom, and toward what sorts of purposes and ends genomic knowledge will be employed.

In general, feedback on the chain reaction was positive, especially by the panelists who commented that they enjoyed the open-ended and stimulating conversation. Some audience members lamented the use of jargon by chain reaction participants–if we were to hold a similar event again in the future, we might consider working with chain reaction participants beforehand to help them think about communicating in more accessible ways.

3) Educational Posters

We hung four educational posters in the museum’s atrium, designed to break down complex scientific topics explored at our event.

SJTP Fellow Caroline Spurgin standing with one of the posters hanging from the ceiling of the museum.

SJTP Fellow Caroline Spurgin

The four posters covered: modelling genetic variation; racism and genetic science; beyond Mendellian inheritance; and inferring genetic ancestry. The posters provided a foundation to engage in conversation and that would result in an invitation to engage in the Collaborative Art Project. Event coordinators were able to spark interesting conversations by asking visitors (who were reading the posters) what they thought about different parts of the posters.

 

 

4) Collaborative Art Activity

The museum’s atrium served as a wonderful focal point for the collaborative art activity. With little to no verbal instruction, visitors gravitated to the art making table and began making collages answering two prompts. The following prompts were printed and displayed on the tables and the wall hanging for community members to respond to creatively:

“To quantify means to measure or express the quantity of something. For example, Genetic Ancestry Test results quantify your genetic ancestry. In two collages, show us how you would quantify yourself and the ways you cannot be quantified. Then add your collages to the wall to be part of the collaborative art project!”

Participants contributed their collages as responses to both the prompts and the educational posters hanging in the atrium. People of all ages were able to participate in the collaborative art activity.

Paper collages strung across a red wall using twine.

Collage display in atrium.

5) Curated Video Playlist

In the small conference room, prior to the start of the chain reaction panel, short, accessible videos on genetic ancestry testing played on loop as visitors sat waiting for the panel to begin. Videos included a newly released educational video by Vox: What DNA ancestry tests can – and can’t – tell you; A provocative and satirical ad for AeroMexico Airlines for ticket discounts based on DNA test results; and informative, humorous videos, including one by BuzzFeedVideo: Ethnically Ambiguous People take a DNA Test; and a CBC News video called Twins get ‘mystifying’ DNA ancestry test results (Marketplace). The idea of curating the videos involved showing, first, a breakdown of the science involved, and second, some moral, ethical, and cultural questions raised around using DNA ancestry test results to rethink one’s ancestry.

Conclusion

This event served to engage the multi-layered discussion of genomics, race, and ancestry by providing students and the general public with the means and tools to become more informed and to think critically about this timely subject. We achieved our goal of facilitating an interdisciplinary discussion between art, science, and science education. We could also have had a more diverse range of experts on the panel since the majority were from the Biomolecular Engineering department. It may have been advantageous to include more social scientists and humanities scholars. This observation was made by a community member and the fellows made certain to listen to this visitor’s concern of lack of disciplinary diversity on the panel. Yet they, along with other visitors to the museum and students from the university, commented on the informative and engaging nature of the event. We realized after speaking with many event participants that we could have created a take-away bibliographic resource. We sparked the curiosity of many visitors and, we think, let people leave with many questions for further reflection, but we could have provided a more concrete list of relevant resources.

One line of future inquiry that arose from this event is the challenge of trying to understand the moral and ethical questions that are continuously arising as genomic technologies improve. As practices of DNA phenotyping are on the rise and the spectre of novel forms of genetic discrimination continues to haunt the fields of genetics and genomics, how can we, as members of a multitude of larger collectives, continue to ask relevant questions and remain pertinent in thinking through complex issues spanning science and race, identity and ethnicity, and the intertwining of genealogical and genetic ancestry?

References

Nelson, A. (2016). The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome. Beacon Press.

Reardon, J. (2017). The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice and Knowledge After the Genome. University of Chicago Press.

Richardson, Sarah S. & Stevens, H. (2015). Postgenomics: Perspectives on Biology After the Genome. Duke University Press.

TallBear, K. (2013). Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. University of Minnesota Press.

Book cover for Reporting Inequality Tools and Methods for Covering Race and Ethnicity (Routledge, 2019)

New Book! Reporting Inequality (Routledge, 2019)

Reporting Inequality: Tools and Methods for Covering Race and Ethnicity, 1st Edition

Overview
Book cover for Reporting Inequality Tools and Methods for Covering Race and Ethnicity (Routledge, 2019)

Book cover for Reporting Inequality Tools and Methods for Covering Race and Ethnicity (Routledge, 2019)

Under increasingly intense newsroom demands, reporters often find it difficult to cover the complexity of topics that deal with racial and social inequality. This path-breaking book lays out simple, effective reporting strategies that equip journalists to investigate disparity’s root causes.

Chapters discuss how racially disparate outcomes in health, education, wealth/income, housing, and the criminal justice system are often the result of inequity in opportunity and also provide theoretical frameworks for understanding the roots of racial inequity. Examples of model reporting from ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and the San Jose Mercury News showcase best practice in writing while emphasizing community-based reporting. Throughout the book, tools and practical techniques such as the Fault Lines framework, the Listening Post and the authors’ Opportunity Index and Upstream-Downstream Framework all help journalists improve their awareness and coverage of structural inequity at a practical level.

For students and journalists alike, Reporting Inequality is an ideal resource for understanding how to cover structures of injustice with balance and precision.

The book is available at: https://www.routledge.com/Reporting-Inequality-Tools-and-Methods-for-Covering-Race-and-Ethnicity/Lehrman-Wagner/p/book/9781138849884

Authors:

Sally Lehrman is an award-winning reporter on medicine and science policy with an emphasis on race, gender and social diversity. Her byline credits include Scientific AmericanNatureHealth, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Salon.com and The DNA Files, three public radio series distributed by NPR. Honors include a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, and the JSK Fellowship at Stanford University. She started and leads the Trust Project, a global network of newsrooms that is addressing the misinformation crisis through transparency. Sally is an affiliate of the Science & Justice Research Center.

Venise Wagner is a professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, where she has taught since 2001. She has a 12-year career as a reporter for several California dailies, including the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle. She has covered border issues, religion and ethics, schools and education, urban issues and issues in the San Francisco Bay Area’s various black communities.

Jan 25, 2017 | Against Purity

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
4:00-6:00 PM
Engineering 2, Room 599

Science and Justice Visiting Scholar and UCSC alum Alexis Shotwell, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, will be in conversation with Jess Neasbitt (History of Consciousness, UCSC) about politics, movements and ethics in her new book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised TimesAgainst Purity proposes a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures. Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.

Jan 23, 2017 | Film Screening: KONELĪNE: our land beautiful

Best Canadian Documentary, Hot Docs 2016

konelineTRANSCENDENT… epic spectacle. […]She lets the camera hunt for art in every frame, mining veins of abstract beauty rather than sharp nuggets of political narrative”  Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s

ASTONISHING, stunningly beautiful. […] Equal parts sigh, song and cry.”  Linda Barnard, Toronto Star

BREATHTAKING, gripping. […] Finds beauty in unexpected places.” David Perri, The Northern Miner

WINNER of the Best Canadian Film of 2016 at the HOT DOCS Intl’ Film Festival, KONELĪNE: our land beautiful brings its sensual and visceral ride to UC Santa Cruz:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Humanities 2, room 259  4:30PM

KONELĪNE Trailer: https://vimeo.com/180675200

Celebrated for using art to seek beauty and complexity where you least expect to find them, KONELĪNE (pronounced Ko-na- lee´-na)  is garnering rave reviews for its fair-minded and cinematically stunning exploration of northwest British Columbia and the extraordinary people who move across that land.  Set deep in the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation, KONELĪNE captures an epic canvas of beauty and complexity as one of Canada’s vast wildernesses undergoes irrevocable change.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Nettie Wild, KONELĪNE delights in exploding stereotypes with scenes of breathtaking spectacle. Heidi Gutfrucht, both a big-game hunter and fierce environmentalist, swims her 17 horses across the unforgiving Stikine River. A Tahltan First Nation diamond driller bores deep into the same territory his elders are fighting to protect.  And a white hunter carries a bow and arrow while a Tahltan elder shoots moose with a high-powered rifle.

Cameraman Van Royko won the 2016 Award for Best Documentary Cinematography from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers for KONELĪNE, which is shot and projected in wide screen with surround sound.

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a cinematic poem that cuts through the rhetorical roar of our times. It’s turning heads and changing minds. Don’t miss it.  96 mins with conversation to follow.

 

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a Canada Wild production, produced in association with Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program; Super Channel; Canal D, a division of Bell Media Inc.; Knowledge Network; The Canada Media Fund; developed in association with The National Film Board and Creative BC; produced with the participation of Rogers Documentary Fund; the Shaw Media/Hot Docs Completion Fund; the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit; and the Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC.

May 20, 2015 | Kim TallBear – Cultivating Indigenous Scientists

Kim TallBear (University of Texas, Austin) discusses how genomics forms along with notions of race and indigeneity (the topic of her 2013 monograph, Native American DNA) and the novel roles that Native geneticists are playing in intervening in these processes to create a more just and democratic approach to genomics.

Co-Sponsored by the UCSC Genomics Institute and the Center for Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering.

To view the video documentation of this event, click this link.  Or — listen to the event below: