Thus Spake Zuska

Applying Interdisciplinary Meanings of Race

Since Jim Watson’s recent self-destruction, there’s been a lot of talk about pseudo-scientific racism versus actual “scientific” studies of race. Earlier this summer, Lennard J. Davis had an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled A Grand Unified Theory of Interdisciplinarity in which he had this to say about race and ethnicity in the sciences/medicine versus the humanities/social science:

A truly interdisciplinary approach is potentially dangerous: Some kinds of knowledge might refute or negate other kinds of knowledge. For example, if we took the advances the humanities have made over the past 20 years in developing complex ideas about race and applied them to medical research, much of the work already done on disease and ethnicity might have to change dramatically. That is because the current research standard in medicine and medical research for assessing race is based on the simple fact of self-reporting. But the interrogation of race in the humanities and social sciences indicates that race is a complex and multifaceted social construction, not easily translated to a check-off box.