'Race', ethnicity and haemoglobin disorders




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Peer reviewed


The new genetics has brought forth concerns that such developments as screening for genetic diseases will accentuate the oppression of minority ethnic groups [Bradby (1996) Genetics and racism. In The Troubled Helix: social and psychological aspects of the new human genetics, ed. T. Marteau and M. Richards, pp. 295±316. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge]. Haemoglobin disorders primarily a€ect minority ethnic groups in the U.K. but have been the subject of protest regarding lack of services as much as the unwelcome advent of them. This paper examines various conceptions of "race", from biological reductionism, through notions of ethnicity, racialized groups, sociological conceptions of "race", political and analytical uses of the term "Black" and so-called "new ethnicities" such as situa- tional and plastic ethnicity in order to examine the consequences of these competing conceptions of race for a social analysis of sickle cell anaemia and beta-thalassaemia. The paper concludes that any group of people associated with the haemoglobin disorders are subject both to constraints upon their actions and opportunities for re-interpreting their social world. In conclusion it is proposed that no nomenclature classifies the phenomenon unproblematically. The notion of race as a political construct [Goldberg (1993) Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning. Blackwell, Oxford] is used to suggest that attempts to construct all-embracing definitions themselves signal the potential abuses which may be attendant upon programmatic or mechanistic conceptions of the relationship between race and haemoglobin disorders.



race, genetics, racism, sickle cell, haemoglobin disorders, thalassaemia, political blackness, ethnicity, RAE 2001


Dyson, S. (1998) 'Race', ethnicity and haemoglobin disorders. Social science and medicine, 47 (1), pp. 121-131.


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research