Dr. Ruha Benjamin's teaching and research interests are in the areas of science, medicine and biotechnology; the construction and naturalization of racial and gender taxonomies; science policy, public health and social theory. She is currently completing a book, People's Science: Bodies & Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013), which examines ethnoracial, gender, class, and disability politics as a constitutive feature of stem cell research. Professor Benjamin joins BU from a two year fellowship in the Center for Society and Genetics at UCLA. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and UC Berkeley Townsend Center for the Humanities. These talks are supported by the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Nursing & Health Sciences.
Public Talk: Science as Story-telling: culturing race, power, and biology in the petri dish
5:30-7:30 PM, Wed. April 2, Lakeside Hall, ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center
In this talk, I ask what the humanities and social sciences can contribute to our understanding of the life sciences. I consider how the sciences are a form of storytelling that incorporate metaphors which can help us see (and not see) particular aspects of the world we inhabit. I draw upon my stem cell ethnographic work in California and my more recent work on South African and Indian genomic science. These empirical sites serve as a window on to the larger process of how scientific objectivity is often racialized; ultimately, I argue that without more deliberate consideration of how scientific initiatives can and should reflect a wider array of social concerns, cutting-edge life sciences still risk excluding and exploiting many.
Faculty Workshop: Provincializing Science: Putting race, caste, and whiteness under the microscope
9:00-11:00 AM, Wed. April 2, Livak Ballroom, Davis Center
In this talk, I question how the sociological truism, "race is a social construct", is challenged by recent advances in the life sciences. Far from diminishing the significance of race or eliminating the salience of nationalism, as proponents of genomic science had initially forecast after the completion of the Human Genome Project, genomic science draws upon and reinvigorates racial and nationalist understandings of human difference in often-unexpected ways. I describe how the invention of biopolitical entities such as "African DNA", "Mexican DNA", and "Indian DNA" are connected to the pharmaceutical drug marketing, and discuss how the life sciences reflect and resuscitate political struggles around national development and social equity. Ultimately, I encourage humanists and social scientists to engage directly with these developments instead of casting them to the side with a constructivist wave of the hand.
Last modified January 27 2014 04:27 PM