Article ID: CBB294943438

Race in the Microbiome (2020)


Microbiome science asserts humans are made up of more microbial cells and genes than human ones, and that each person harbors their own unique microbial population. Human microbiome studies gesture toward the post-racial aspirations of personalized medicine—characterizing states of human health and illness microbially. By viewing humans as “supraorganisms” made up of millions of microbial partners, some microbiome science seems to disrupt binding historical categories often grounded in racist biology, allowing interspeciality to supersede race. But inevitably, unexamined categories of race and ethnicity surface in a myriad of studies on microbiota. This paper approaches race as a ghost variable across microbiome research and asks, what is race doing in studies of the microbiome? Why is it there, and how is it functioning? I examine this research to argue that social scientists must work with biological scientists to help put microbial differences into perspective—to investigate how microbiomes and race are entangled embodiments of the social, environmental, and biological. Ultimately, transdisciplinary collaboration is required to address racial health disparities in microbiome research without reifying race as a straightforward biological or social designation.

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Article Katrina Karkazis; Rebecca Jordan-Young (2020) Sensing Race as a Ghost Variable in Science, Technology, and Medicine. Science, Technology, and Human Values (pp. 763-778). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Aronova, Elena
Baker, Karen S.
Crowley, Stephen
Gaynor, Andrea
Gissis, Snait B.
Gonnerman, Chad
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Environmental History
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Kluwer Academic
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
Rutgers University Press
The MIT Press
University of Minnesota Press
Multispecies studies; interspecies studies
Research methods
Microbiome; microbiota
Science and technology studies (STS)
Personalized medicine
Imanishi, Kinji
Revelle, Roger
Venter, J. Craig
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, late
19th century
European Union
United States
International Geophysical Year (IGY)
International Biological Program

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