Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints

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The study of human variation is central to both social and biomedical sciences; however, despite agreeing that variation is integral to the human experience, social and biomedical scientists diverge in how variation is theorized and operationalized. Race becomes especially problematic because it is a cultural concept that contains implicit and explicit understandings of how collective bodies differ. In this paper, we propose an operationalization of race that is attentive to both racial experience and human biological diversity—placing them within the same ontological sphere. Furthermore, we argue that this approach can more effectively advance antiracist pedagogy and politics.

We argue that human biological diversity does not have to be in opposition to constructivist notions of race. Rather, racial experience is emphasized as an embodied experience that is as real and as valid as biological variation. By focusing on both racial experience and biological diversity, it becomes more feasible to operationalize race and to more fruitfully inform the pedagogy and politics of anti-racism. In such an operationalization, racial experience must be more broadly conceived, that is, it should not always equate to negative outcomes. With the recognition that racial experience has the potential to be something other than damaging, an antiracist anthropology can more effectively address issues pertaining to racial health disparities.