Does Genomics Challenge the Social Construction of Race?

Ann Morning

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Shiao, Bode, Beyer, and Selvig argue that the theory of race as a social construct should be revisited in light of recent genetic research, which they interpret as demonstrating that human biological variation is patterned in "clinal classes" that are homologous to races. In this reply, I examine both their claims and the genetics literature they cite, concluding that not only does constructivist theory already accommodate the contemporary study of human biology, but few geneticists portray their work as bearing on race. Equally important, methods for statistically identifying DNA-based clusters within the human species are shaped by several design features that offer opportunities for the incorporation of cultural assumptions about difference. As a result, Shiao et al.'s theoretical distinction between social race and biological "clinal class" is empirically jeopardized by the fact that even our best attempts at objectively recording "natural" human groupings are socially conditioned.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)189-207
    Number of pages19
    JournalSociological Theory
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 11 2014


    • classification
    • ethnicity
    • genetics
    • race
    • science

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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