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Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2008 Dec;39(4):437-50. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2008.09.006. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

When is 'race' a race? 1946-2003.

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Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, 69978, Israel.


There has been a widely perceived sense of a contemporary resurgence of the category of race in western genetics, epidemiology and medicine. In what follows, some important American and British journals in these fields are surveyed for their content from 1946-2003, with the aim of comparatively tracing the use of the race category among American, British and Israeli authors. Three crucial stages are delineated along this time line, and the correlations between the use of the race category and developments in genetics, as well as the changing guidelines for researchers in the USA, are examined. Concepts of individuality and collectivity in the three fields are analysed in relation to the use of 'race' in the surveyed journals; there follows also a discussion of some recent critical reflections on that use. It is concluded that there has been both continuity in, and reconstruction of, the roles of 'race' within the genetic/medical discourse.

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