We often think of scientific racism as a pseudo-science of a bygone age, yet in both academic population genetics and popular ancestry testing, the specter of race continues to inflect our senses of biology and being. In Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science
(Stanford University Press, 2018), Professor Terence Keel
explains this persistence with a new account of the origins of race science, one that illustrates the continuities through four centuries of research into human variation. With trenchant analyses of Christian intellectual history and the founding figures of ethnology, Keel documents an infrastructure of thought – about universalism, the supercession of knowledge, creation, and human dispersion – that shaped and still shapes the science of race. And through case studies of 20th century public health and genomics, Divine Variations
shows how these intellectual patterns reemerge time and again. Rather than exclusive spheres, Keel’s book illuminates modern science’s intellectual debts to theology and in doing so presents new ways understand science as historically and socially situated.
Lance C. Thurner recently completed a PhD in History at Rutgers University with a dissertation addressing the production of medical knowledge, political subjectivities, and racial and national identities in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Mexico. He is broadly interested in the methods and politics of applying a global perspective to the history of science and medicine and the role of the humanities in the age of the Anthropocene.