Skip over navigation
Brown Home Brown Home Brown University Cogut Center for the Humanities Brown Home Brown Home Brown University

Lecture Series: "The History of Race in Medicine and Public Health"

Presented by: Program in Science and Technology Studies
Convener: Lundy Braun, Associate Professor
Pathology and Africana Studies

Abstract: The announcement of the sequencing of a draft of the human genome in June 2000 triggered an intense debate over the category of race and its relevance to disease. Barely a week passes without a featured article on some aspect of the sometimes bitter controversy in national print media. Do racial categories represent a natural ordering of human kind? Or is race a social concept that changes over time? How does the experience of racism shape biology? What are the consequences of analyzing health through the lens of race? Indeed, many would argue that recent studies in population genetics, literature on racial disparities in health and the marketing of BiDil, a supposedly race-specific drug have ushered in a period in which race is being reified and re-naturalized, often with the best of intentions. In general, debates have centered on scientific methodology and ethical considerations related to genetic explanations for racial disparities and implications of such explanations for medical and public health policy. While important and illuminating, the debate as currently configured largely ignores the history of the concept of race.

This lecture series will feature three talks on race in the history of medicine and public health, highlighting the ways in which various meanings of race intersect with questions of particular social concern at different moments in time. Two lectures will be held in the fall and one in the spring.

Lecture One:
"How Cancer Crossed the Color Line: Race and Disease in America"
Keith Wailoo, Rutgers University
Department of History and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research
Thursday, November 9
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106

Lecture Two:
"Race and Science: New Challenges to an Old Problem"
Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University
History of Science and of African and African-American Studies Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity
Thursday, February 1
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106

Lecture Three:
Almost Perfect Machinery: Racial and Sexual Politics in the American Medical Association, 1850-1900"
Douglas Haynes
, University of California/Irvine
Associate Professor of History
Thursday, March 1
Smith Buonanno Hall, Room 106