Citizen scientific racism: White nationalist appropriations of genetic research
UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, Public Policy, and Sociology
This talk presents research from a study about white nationalists and their efforts to appropriate genetics research for their own ideological and identity projects. Using historical sources and online data and interpretive methods, I show that ideas from genetics have been prominent in public pronouncements and in online discussions among white nationalists. For example, they discuss genetic ancestry tests to demonstrate pure European/white ancestry, population genetics to “prove” the biological reality of race, genetic anthropology to argue for the preservation of white “biodiversity,” and behavior genetics to claim the intellectual and behavioral superiority of whites. Through the 20th century there was a cadre of professional scientists eager to promulgate racist interpretations of genetics research, but facing effective scientific and ethical opposition by other researchers, their ranks and authority greatly attenuated in the 21st. White nationalists have relied on these scientists for scientific racist ideas, but with their decline, white nationalists have crafted themselves into a loose citizen science movement. I show that their activities include gathering and promulgating the claims of academic scientific racists, reinterpreting ostensibly non-racist genetics in racist ways, and using publicly available statistics and data to generate novel racist analyses, and exploiting the affordances of “open science” to mimic the institutional form of disciplinary science. This movement’s bid for authority is based on their claim that they represent the true spirit of scientific objectivity and a willingness to pursue data and arguments that have been suppressed by the academy, which has been overcome by political correctness.