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Webinar — 17.03.21

The return of race science with Angela Saini

Back by popular demand, science journalist Angela Saini joins us in March to talk about her latest book, the critically acclaimed Superior. She will explore the murky history of race science and the ways in which it is being resurrected in the 21st century. Combining science, history and politics, her work explains how race maps out biologically and how those on the far-right are attempting to repackage racism.

A warm, engaging and ferociously intelligent speaker, Angela is an award-winning science journalist, author and broadcaster.  She presents radio and television programmes for the BBC, and her writing has appeared across the world, including in New Scientist, Prospect, The Sunday Times, Wired, and National Geographic. Superior was named book of the year by The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times and many more.

"This is an essential book on an urgent topic by one of our most authoritative science writers." Sathnam Sanghera

Our 10 key takeaways:

1. We have fallen into the trap of categorising for too long. We are used to tickboxes on forms and are quickly colour-coded, or categorised in a broad-brush sense because of our colour.

2. There is no racial gene. For example, black skin can be from almost anywhere -  there is not one gene that connects anyone with black skin. We are who we are because of our life experiences, cultural upbringing and what surrounds us - not because of our race.

3. We care where we are from because of a need for a sense of belonging, or a psychological need to have a kin; not because of science or our genetic make-up.

4. It is easy to jump to genetics to find answers to questions - for example, the suggestion that black and Asian people are more at risk from covid. This is lazy science! Really this is true only because of social and economic situations; NOT because of genetic make-up.


5. Race is a social construct: almost all genetic differences are at the individual level, which is one reason why labelling groups is fraught. We're not all the same within our groups!

6. For some, it is easier to believe in inequality being natural because it provides an excuse for failings rather than tackling the problem itself. This is an issue with gender too. When we use positive or negative stereotypes about women, we forget how different women are, and the talents unique to them as individuals. Shouldn't women be allowed to succeed or indeed fail like men are? We shouldn't hold women to higher standards, or expect more from them as a condition for extending them the same rights and privileges.

7. Politics are embedded in science and intellectual racists can manipulate data to suit their cause and desire for a certain political outcome.  

8. Race and gender are not binary but it would be far easier for science if they were. We cannot always categorise gender in a straitforward way and this is becoming more realised today as people start to identify as non-binary.  

9. Race science has never gone away. But the internet provides a platform for those far right people to connect and drum up support; which is why we saw what we saw in the Capitol earlier this year. The internet, and social media, are the wild west! We need vigilance online to stop the continuing resurgence in far right groups.


10. Students today are being challenged to think about science in a way not seen before - this can only be seen as a positive thing!   



Online Event


Wednesday 17th March 2021

5pm to 6pm


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Angela Saini

BBC Science Journalist

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