A Troubled Body of Knowledge: The Durability of Racial Science in Human Anatomy Research in South Africa

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Published in Comparative Education Review, 26 January 2022


This article examines the durability of racial science in the field of anatomy at one of South Africa’s oldest universities and its resonance with race essentialist research in other national and transnational contexts. We present a critical assessment of more than 70 published and unpublished papers in anatomy through the lens of the politics of knowledge; in this perspective, scientific knowledge is viewed as socially constructed, value-laden, and acting in the service of power. The study finds that racial science thinking in medical science research persists after apartheid, that “race” is a poor proxy for explaining complex patterns of disease, and that by medicalizing health maladies scientists fail to account for their links to racialized inequalities in the broader society. Research on the workings of racial science in the health sciences suggests promising new lines of inquiry into the study of “racial projects” in comparative and international education.

Read the full paper: https://doi.org/10.1086/717451

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