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Yudell, Michael

Race Unmasked

Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century

Foreword by Venter, J. Craig


    39,95 € / $44.99 / £31.99*

    eBook (PDF)
    Publication Date:
    September 2014
    Copyright year:
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    Aims and Scope

    Race, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, is an idea with a measurable past, an identifiable present, and an uncertain future. The concept of race has been at the center of both triumphs and tragedies in American history and has had a profound effect on the human experience. Race Unmasked revisits the origins of commonly held beliefs about the scientific nature of racial differences, examines the roots of the modern idea of race, and explains why race continues to generate controversy as a tool of classification even in our genomic age.

    Surveying the work of some of the twentieth century's most notable scientists, Race Unmasked reveals how genetics and related biological disciplines formed and preserved ideas of race and, at times, racism. A gripping history of science and scientists, Race Unmasked elucidates the limitations of a racial worldview and throws the contours of our current and evolving understanding of human diversity into sharp relief.


    304 pages
    Professional and scholarly;

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    Michael Yudell is an associate professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health, where he directs the Program in Public Health Ethics and History. He is author of the blog The Public's Health for the Philadelphia Inquirer and his prior books include Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future and The Genomic Revolution: Unveiling the Unity of Life. He is currently writing a history of autism spectrum disorders.


    W. Malcolm Byrnes:
    Yudell fills a critical gap in scholarly discourse on the history of eugenics and race.

    Michael Root:
    A fine history of how biologists shaped thinking about race in America in the twentieth century and how social values and attitudes shaped the way biologists thought about race.

    Gregory Michael Dorr:
    [Race Unmasked] is an important achievement worthy of a wide readership.

    Terence Keel:
    A welcomed contribution to understanding the history of the present.

    Warwick Anderson:
    This impressive book proceeds to challenge the standard narrative of race science's postwar decline and fall.... Yudell follows in the footsteps of historians such as Richard Hofstadter and Charles E. Rosenberg—scholars who have uncovered the interdependence of biology and American social thought.

    Barbara Mann Wall:
    This engaging book is a must-read for nurses, physicians, scientists, academics, and all who continue to try to understand diversity in our society today.

    John B. Jenkins:
    [Race Unmasked] is an important, thought-provoking book and deserves to be widely read by people in all disciplines, but especially by the next generation of geneticists who might need to more fully understand the deep historical roots of their discipline.

    An interesting, thorough, and informative review of the early history of eugenics.... well written and highly readable.

    Race Unmasked proves itself of enormous importance not only for those who wish to understand the evolution of race as a concept but also for those studying the place of science in American culture.

    Lundy Braun:
    A timely, readable and engaging contribution to the growing literature on race and science.

    Race Unmasked is worth reading.... Yudell shows clearly the interplay between science, society, and the changing definitions of race that were central to 20th-century history.

    Bryan Bello:
    Yudell, a historian of public health, argues that the complicated interaction of science and race visible in the eugenics movement is still playing out.

    This intensely deliberative book unearths many subtle and not-so-subtle examples of this complex historic relationship.

    A detailed history of the concept of race and its evolution throughout the 20th century.

    A challenging, well-researched work that clearly shows the interconnectedness of scientific and social thought.

    Keith Wailoo, Princeton University:
    Michael Yudell has given us a fascinating and perceptive study of 'man's most dangerous myth.' This insightful book on race should be read widely by anyone concerned with the multiple uses, misuses, tangled history, and persistent confusions over this vexed and potent concept.

    Arthur L. Caplan, New York University Langone Medical Center:
    Race matters. All over the world we sort each other into groups by skin color, hair texture, and other physical characteristics, yet as Michael Yudell reminds us in this masterful, engaging, and important book, we barely have a clue about the biological basis for what we are doing. Race Unmasked is just the right remedy for those seeking to better understand the horrors and wrongs of racism.

    Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College, author of Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy:
    We have needed a reassessment and an intelligent book on how racial categorizing grows within twentieth- and twenty-first-century science without using the simple labels of 'racism' or 'racist.' Race Unmasked is a terrific guide to the often invisible, intertwined terrain of science and politics around race. Re-reading the past with an eye toward nuance and clarity, Michael Yudell understands how 'race' comes to be unintentionally hidden yet still can be uncovered and critiqued. This book should find its way into classrooms across the curriculum.

    David Rosner, Columbia University:
    How can a concept that has been so debunked as a biological reality keep rising from the dead? Race Unmasked helps answer this by illustrating the troubling story of the sustained, strained, and stained history of the concept of race in scientific thought and practice.

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