Electronic Theses and Dissertations




Jordan Liz



Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Mary Beth Mader

Committee Member

Verena Erlnbusch

Committee Member

Anderson Luvell

Committee Member

Bill Lawson


In 2000, after the majority of the Human Genome Project had been completed, President Clinton proudly announced that all humans are 99.9% similar in our genetic makeup. Initially, this conclusion seemed decisive in finally debunking the myth of biological races. However, in the years to follow, a new biological conception of race began to emerge. On this new account, not only do racial groups constitute unique genetic clusters, but some races are genetically more susceptible to certain diseases than others: African American women to breast cancer, African American men to prostate cancer and Mexicans to type-2 diabetes. These claims entail that, independent of social conditions, some races are more likely to be diagnosed with a certain disease given their race’s genetic make-up. The reintroduction of a biological conception of race into biomedical research has sparked intense debates concerning the potential ethical, political, epistemological and metaphysical implications of these accounts. In light of these discussions, the purpose of this dissertation is twofold: first, I will attempt to unearth what presuppositions this new account of race assumes by virtue of which it is made epistemically possible. And, second, I seek to determine to what extent this contemporary biological account of race follows the accounts produced during the race sciences of the 20th century. To be clear, the goal here is not to compare and contrast the explicit accounts given by biologists from each period; rather, I intend to analyze the underlying knowledge that makes each possible within their respective historical periods, and then compare how similar those presuppositions are to one another. Doing so will allow us, first, to gain a deeper understanding of how these accounts are constructed; and second to determine whether contemporary biological accounts race harbor racist or problematic assumptions.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.