Why Sociology Matters to Race and Biosocial Science

Posted: 14 Aug 2020

See all articles by Dorothy E. Roberts

Dorothy E. Roberts

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Oliver Rollins

University of Louisville

Date Written: July 2020


Recent developments in genetics and neuroscience have led to increasing interest in biosocial approaches to social life. While today's biosocial paradigms seek to examine more fully the inextricable relationships between the biological and the social, they have also renewed concerns about the scientific study of race. Our review describes the innovative ways sociologists have designed biosocial models to capture embodied impacts of racism, but also analyzes the potential for these models normatively to reinforce existing racial inequities. First, we examine how concepts and measurements of difference in the postgenomic era have affected scientific knowledges and social practices of racial identity. Next, we assess sociological investigations of racial inequality in the biosocial era, including the implications of the biological disciplines’ move to embrace the social. We conclude with a discussion of the growing interest in social algorithms and their potential to embed past racial injustices in their predictions of the future.

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Dorothy E. and Rollins, Oliver, Why Sociology Matters to Race and Biosocial Science (July 2020). Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 46, pp. 195-214, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3670076 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-121919-054903

Dorothy E. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Oliver Rollins

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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